Once your car passes its third birthday, it will need to have its roadworthiness checked with an MOT test on an annual basis. You’ll be required to repair any faulty items if they cause your car to fail the test. Many of the items covered on the MOT test are so straightforward that you can easily check them ahead of time before seeking garage services, even if your automotive knowledge is minimal. Identifying potential problems and correcting them in advance will be far less of a hassle than failing your MOT.
Start your car’s ignition and check the following:
- That the horn works.
- That the windscreen wipers work.
- That the wipers’ rubber blades are secure and free of missing pieces. If they are worn, you can easily buy replacements from any good motor retailer and install them yourself.
- That your car has an adequate supply of screen wash.
- Seatbelt mountings must be secure. The belts themselves must be free of all damage, including cuts or serious fraying. Pull sharply on each belt to confirm that the inertia reel can lock and secure the belt.
Windscreen / Mirrors
Your windscreen may pass the test even with minor chips. But these factors are important:
- There cannot be cracks or chips within the area swept by the wipers.
- Any damaged areas must be smaller than 10 mm in diameter
- Mirrors must be secure with no damage to the glass.
Inspect all the vehicles’ tyres. Confirm the following:
- Treads are free of objects lodged in them.
- Sidewalls are free of cuts or bulges.
- Tread depth is over 1.6 mm. Measure this with a proper tread depth gauge. Alternatively, you can use a 20 pence piece. Insert the coin in your tyre tread and compare the raised lip of the coin to the tread. If the lip stands proud of the tread, you need to replace the tyre.
- Tyres should be matched – those on the same axle should always be the same type.
- If your car has a spare tyre, it must meet the same standards.
Lighting problems are the most common causes of MOT test failure. Check all of these points:
- All exterior bulbs must work.
- All lenses must be damage and crack free.
- Lights to check include: headlights (main beam and dipped), side lights front and rear, reversing lights, stop lights, fog lights, indicator lights, and number plate lights.
A comprehensive brake check relies on equipment most drivers don’t have access to. You can still check the following:
- Check the fluid level in your car’s brake system reservoir. This is located beneath the bonnet; your car’s handbook can show you where.
- Pull the handbrake. If it travels farther than you’re used to or clicks a great deal, the tester may advise you to adjust the brake cable.
- Tap the handbrake after it’s engaged. If a simple push can disengage it, the cable will need to be tightened.
This is another area where you can only do so much without specialist equipment. These checks are useful:
- Check your steering wheel for looseness. While driving, note any abnormal wheel movements when you turn. Both of these issues could indicate column support wear.
- Listen for knocking sounds while turning the steering wheel from one extreme to the other. This could indicate problematic wear.
- Listen for a whining noise from the power steering pump while turning. This may also indicate a need for repairs.
Make the following basic checks:
- Confirm that all doors are accessible and openable from the inside and the outside.
- Check that bumpers are secure.
- Look for sharp edges that might pose a danger to pedestrians.
Leaks or imbalances in absorbing capacity in your shock absorbers may be a problem. You can get a rough idea of this by pushing down hard on each corner of the vehicle from the outside. In response, your car should rise to its full height and then slightly settle. If any corner takes longer to settle, your dampers may need to be repaired or replaced.
Your exhaust must be attached securely and free from corrosion. If revving your engine while stationary produces smoke, you could have an emissions problem.