MOT Guide & Information

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What is the MOT?

The MOT is an annual test that must be taken by all car's in the UK that are older than 3 years. The test is designed to make sure that a car meets the minimum legal safety and environmental standards that makes the legally eligible to drive on UK roads. Cars must pass the MOT test every year to be legally driven in the UK and driving a car without an MOT certificate is against the law.

MOT standards for Ministry of Transport, the name of the Government agency responsible for administering the test when it was first introduced in 1960. Now the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) administer the test and set the legal standards that deem vehicles roadworthy.

What's the difference between an MOT and a service?

An MOT and a car service are not the same. The crucial difference is that an MOT tests that a vehicle meets legal standards, whilst a service tests the mechanical condition of a car. You cannot fail a car service, whereas you can fail an MOT and you are not able to drive a car that has an invalid MOT certificate.

You're not bound by law to service your car every year, but servicing your car every year is important and your car manufacturer will undoubtedly recommend you do so. Where an MOT will check that your car is safe to drive and meets environmental standards, a car service will check the mechanical condition of your car against recommendations from the manufacturer and industry standards.

What's checked during an MOT test?

There are 21 categories that are tested as part of the MOT. From tow bars, exhaust emissions and the fuel system, to seatbelts, brakes and tyres.

  • Body & vehicle structure
  • Towbars
  • Fuel & Exhaust system
  • Seatbelts
  • Mirrors
  • Brakes
  • Tyres & wheels
  • registration plates
  • ...view more on the Government website

Changes to the MOT test...

In 2018 new rules were introduced for the MOT test, which included new categories for faults and stricter regulations for diesel engines. As of 2018, the test categorised faults as either dangerous, major or minor according to their severity. A single dangerous or major fault now results in the immediate failure of the test.

What are the most common MOT fails and how can you avoid them?

Although the MOT checks various elements and components, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of vehicles fail their MOT for little things that could have been checked and fixed on their owner’s driveway.

According to the DVSA, the most common MOT fails are:

  • Lights: 19%

    It may come as somewhat of a surprise to know that nearly a fifth of all MOT fails are due to a problem with the car’s lights, which is often as simple as a blown bulb.

    By switching on all your lights, walking around your car and checking that they all work, you could save yourself both time and money.

  • Registration Plate: 14%

    A large percentage of MOT fails are due to an issue with the car’s registration plate, whether that’s a failure of a bulb, with the spacing of letters or simply that it cannot clearly be read.

    A quick check of your car’s registration plates is all you need to do to avoid this being an MOT fail.

  • Suspension: 13%

    Although not quite as easy to check as some of the others, a quick visual check of your car will highlight any potential issues with your suspension, such as your car sitting lower on one corner than another.

    If it looks to be sitting level, you should be alright, but any clear sinking on a corner could be a sign that you have problems with your suspension.

  • Windscreen: 11%

    Something that causes 11% of all MOT failures are issues with the car’s windscreen and the driver’s view of the road.

    Check your windscreen for chips or cracks, make sure your wipers aren’t damaged and that you have nothing obscuring your view of the road.

  • Brakes: 10%

    One in every ten cars fails its MOT due to issues with brakes. When you’re driving, if you hear any unusual grinding or squealing noises when you apply your brakes, have your local garage check your brakes for faults.

    Don’t forget to check your handbrake as well. Park your car on a hill and apply the handbrake. If your car rolls backwards at all, your handbrake has a fault.

  • Tyres: 8%

    It will probably be unsurprising to find out that issues with tyres cause around 8% of all MOT failures, given how vital a part they play in keeping your car safe on the road.

    If you notice that your car loses grip when cornering, or it makes strange noises as you’re driving, it may be a sign that your tyres need your attention.

    When your car is parked, have a feel around the tyres for any lumps, bumps or tears that could cause a blowout if left untreated. Also look for any uneven wear to the tyres, as this could be a sign of poor inflation or incorrect alignment.

    Finally, take a 20p piece and insert it in one of the tread grooves in each tyre. If you can still see the outer band of the coin, your tread may be below the legal limit of 1.6mm.

  • Exhaust: 8%

    The tougher MOT guidelines introduced on 20th May 2018 included much stricter checks on emissions, especially from diesel cars with diesel particulate filters.

    If the MOT tester can see smoke of any colour coming from your exhaust, or find any evidence to suggest that your car’s DPF has been tampered with, your car will be given a major fault and will immediately fail its MOT.

    Check to see if any smoke can be seen coming from your exhaust and listen for any additional noise, as this could also be a sign of a problem.

  • Steering: 7%

    If your car pulls to one side as you drive, or you feel a lot of vibrations through the steering wheel, it could be a sign that you have issues with your steering that could result in an MOT fail.

    Doing some simple pre-MOT checks could help your car avoid some of these common MOT fails.

What happens if my car fails its MOT?

Your car will fail the MOT test if it records a major or dangerous fault. Note that recording a minor fault will not cause your car to fail the test.

If your car fails its MOT on a dangerous fault, you might not be allowed to drive it away until the fault has been repaired. This is why it’s important to take your car to a trusted MOT testing station, which may not necessarily be the one with the cheapest MOT offer, as they may not be able to offer the repairs required.

In terms of MOT retest fees, it depends on the circumstances. There will be no retest fee if you leave your car at the test centre to be repaired and it’s retested within 10 days.

If you choose to take your car somewhere else to be repaired and return to the original test centre for a partial retest before the end of the next working day, there will again be no retest fee.

However, if you take your car to be repaired elsewhere and return to the original test centre after 10 working days then you will be charged a partial retest fee.

The documents you need to bring to your MOT

When you’ve booked your MOT and you’re getting ready for your appointment, it would be helpful to have both your current MOT certificate and V5C Vehicle Registration Document with you.

Please don’t worry if you don’t have either of those documents to hand, we should be able to find your details without any trouble. We would recommend ordering a new V5C if you have misplaced yours.

How do you find out when your MOT is due?

You can easily find when your MOT is due by visiting and entering your vehicle’s registration. Most vehicles are due their first MOT on the third anniversary of their first registration. For example, if your car was first registered on 1st March 2018 then its first MOT will be due on 1st March 2021.

You don’t have to wait until the date it expires to have your MOT, you can actually have the test done at any time. It’s important to bear in mind that, should your car fail this MOT, your existing certificate is still valid until it expires and you can drive it as long as the new test did not uncover any problems deemed to be “dangerous”.

Another thing to be aware of is that your MOT will also run from this new date, not from when the previous one expired. You can avoid this and actually have a 13-month MOT by having your test done up to one month and one day before your current MOT expires. For example, if your current MOT expires on 4th May, you can have your MOT test done as early as the 5th April and enjoy an MOT that’s valid for over a year.

How long does an MOT take?

Typically an MOT test takes between 45 and 60 minutes to complete. You will then be notified of the outcome and if any work is required as a result. Any repair work required as a result of a failed MOT will obviously take additional time.

How much does an MOT cost?

An MOT can cost no more than £54.85 for a car and £29.65 for a standard motorcycle. You will pay no VAT on the MOT fees. Our MOT costs just £49.95 or £39.95 when booked together with any car service.

MOTs from £39.95...