What The MOT Checks (A Handy Checklist)

By: John Tucker

If your car is three years old or older, you need to book an MOT test every year to ensure it is safe enough to be driven on UK roads.

The MOT test was first introduced in 1960 by the then-Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples and has now evolved to include detailed mechanical checks of 22 key vehicle areas contained within a universal MOT checklist.

These checks cover areas such as the vehicle structure, tow bars, fuel system, emissions, mirrors, doors, brakes and lights, with each part of the car being checked thoroughly to ensure its safety and compliance.

To pass the MOT test, your car has to reach the required standards of safety in each area of the MOT checklist. So, to help give you a little insight into each of these 22 separate areas, we’re happy to share our research into why they are inspected and what your technician specifically looks for.

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What areas are checked during your MOT?


Your MOT technician will investigate your vehicle’s structure and body shell, checking for excessive corrosion or damage in specific areas. This includes an inspection is made of the body, chassis, engine mountings, seats and doors. Each component must not have any sharp edges that might cause injury.

Tow bars

If your car is fitted with a tow bar, the technician will test the condition of the electrical socket. It must correctly operate the trailer parking lights, brake lights, indicators and rear fog lights too. Additionally, the tow bar will be checked for:

- Secureness

- Condition

- Any inappropriate repairs or modification

Fuel system

Next up is your car’s fuel system. This will be checked to ensure it’s free from any leaks and that pipes and hoses are in good condition. Plus, the fuel cap must seal properly.

Here’s a top tip: Make sure that the key is available so your technician can open the fuel cap.

Exhaust emissions

Your car’s emissions are becoming an increasingly important factor and this is reflected in the MOT test. The tester will turn on the engine and leave it running while using a gas analyser probe to test the smoke emitted from the exhaust. Carbon monoxide (CO2) and hydrocarbon emissions must fall within the legal limit.

Your tester will also visually check for excessive dense blue or black smoke coming from the exhaust. This can result in an MOT failure. So if your car shows any signs of this prior to the test, you might want to get it checked out.

Here’s a top tip: Make sure your engine is fully warmed up before dropping it off for the MOT test; it will produce less smoke and be safer to test.

Exhaust system

As you’d expect, the car’s exhaust system will be inspected to ensure it is secure and free of any leaks and isn’t too noisy – this if often a sign of future problems. If your car was originally fitted with a catalytic converter, it must still be present.

Here’s a top tip: If you notice your exhaust is uncommonly loud, get it looked at before your MOT test.


Seat belts are a major safety component, so your technician will inspect each seat belt (including the attachment and adjustment fittings), making sure it’s the right type, is in the right condition, and it operates correctly and securely. Plus:

- Seatbelt pretensioners (which remove any slack in the event of a collision)

- Seatbelt load limiters (these release a small amount of belt when it’s too tight)


The car’s seats need to be safe too, so your inspector will check the front seats for the following:

- They are in a good condition

- They work properly

- They are attached securely


Doors are important. They help to keep you and your passengers secure in the car. Your tester will check that the doors open and close correctly and the latch is secure in a closed position.

Front doors should open from both the inside and outside of the vehicle. Rear doors may need to be opened to gain access to testable items like rear seatbelts. Plus, all hinges and catches must be secure and in a good condition.


All mirrors are checked during the MOT test for condition and security. Rear view mirrors and wing mirrors must be secure and give adequate views to the rear and side.

Here’s a top tip: Mirrors are easy to check, so make sure they are all secure and in good condition.

Load security

Your inspector will check to make sure the boot or tailgate can be closed properly.


Almost 10% of all MOT fails are caused by brake issues. The MOT test process looks at the efficiency of the vehicle’s braking performance, including condition and operation. Pedals and levers are checked too, plus the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC).

Tyres and wheels

Another 10% of MOT failures are down to the condition of the car’s tyres. This is a crucial area and your tester will check the follow points:

- The condition

- Wheel condition and tyre security

- Tyre size, type and tread depth

- Run-flat warning lights must function correctly

Here’s a top tip: Remember, your tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Also check for cuts, lumps, bulges, tears or exposed cord.

Registration plates

The car’s front and rear registration plated will be inspected to make sure they are secure, legible and legal. Remember, the spacing and lettering on the number plate should not be altered in any way.


Incredibly, 30% of all MOT fails are caused by the car’s lighting and signalling. The MOT technician checks the condition, operation, security and colour of each light. This includes the front, rear, brake, fog, indicator, registration plate lights, even rear reflectors. Headlamps are checked for correct aim.

Here’s a top tip: Quickly check the condition of your lights to make sure they’re all working and not damaged.


This will be inspected to check whether it closes securely.

Wipers and washers

Visibility is vital for safe driving, so your tester will check your car’s wipers and washers to make sure they work properly and provide a clear view of the road. Your wipers and washers must sweep a wide enough area to give the driver an adequate view of the road. They should also clear water from the screens.

Here’s a top tip: It’s easy to check the general condition of your wipers and whether they’re working correctly. They’re also easy to replace yourself.


Your car could fail its MOT if the windscreen has a chip or crack as small as 10mm in the driver’s line of sight, or 40mm anywhere in the area covered by the wiper blades.

This is a common issue and almost 7% of MOT fails are due to issues with the driver’s view of the road.


Check your horn. The MOT tester certainly will, to ensure it works properly and is suitable for the vehicle. The horn must be loud enough to be heard by other road users and the sound should be a continuous, uniform note.

Steering and suspension

The tester will inspect the steering wheel by pushing the steering in various directions, checking for wear or damage to the components.

The steering wheel’s locking device will be checked, ensuring it only locks when the engine is not running. MILs or dashboard lights must work and your car must have the minimum level of power steering oil too.

Steering and suspension systems are closely linked so this area of the test also incorporates an inspection of your car’s suspension components and shock absorbers; checking for excessive corrosion, distortion and fractures.

Vehicle identification number (VIN)

Every car registered in the UK on or after 1st August 1980 is issued with its own unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This is usually shown on a small metal plate attached to the body or chassis, or engraved into the metal. Your MOT tester will check to make sure that this is secured and legible.


The car’s electrical wiring should be secure and must not be damaged to the point where it is likely to short circuit or become detached. The battery will also be checked.

MOT pass or fail?

At this stage of the MOT test, no maintenance or repairs will be carried out. Instead, the technician will simply confirm whether your car’s systems operate safely, or not. If a component isn’t working correctly or is unsafe, this will be documented as part of the inspection process. It may result in your car failing the MOT Test.

If all the areas inspected are operating safely, your car will ‘Pass’ the MOT Test inspection and be issued with a VT20 ‘pass’ certificate. This is valid for the next 12 months.

If your car fails to pass the test, you’ll be issued with a VT30 failure document and the areas of failure will be highlighted. These areas must be repaired to the required standard before your car can be retested.

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