MOT Checklist – Everything You Need to Know About Your MOT

A mechanic working on the underneath of car

July 23, 2021

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is an annual vehicle check that's performed by MOT station technicians and it involves examining the vehicle’s safety, roadworthiness, and exhaust emissions as per UK law.

An MOT test is legally required in the UK for most vehicles over three years old with the exception of any vehicle built before 1960.

MOT test results are stored on a secure central database connected to all MOT testing sites, and the police can use their ANPR technology to detect any vehicles that do not have a valid certificate.

You can check the status of your vehicle’s MOT to ensure legal compliance by visiting MOT status check: failure to maintain a valid MOT Certificate will affect your ability to obtain car tax and could invalidate your car insurance.

Want to know if your car will pass its next MOT? Visit Will It Pass to get a free check:

Will It Pass?

Alternatively, read on for all you need to know about MOTs.

What do they check on an MOT?

Both the interior and exterior of your vehicle will be inspected for functionality, safety, and proper working order during its MOT check.

The process is comprehensive and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete depending on the vehicle and if there are any issues.

Here’s a checklist of what you can expect from your MOT test:

Exterior Inspection

  • Bodywork & frame – Corrosion or damage
  • Suspension & brakes – Wear & tear safety
  • Wheels and tyres – Correct size, pressure & tread
  • Battery, power steering and brake fluid inspection
  • Exhaust system – Emissions, fuel noise level & secure attachment
  • Windscreen – Chips, cracks or scratches & wiper functionality
  • Registration plate – Visibility & security
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Lights, reflectors, mirrors & doors – Functionality
  • Gas cap – Secure fit to prevent evaporation
  • Tow bar - if applicable

Interior Inspection

  • Electronic system check
  • Speedometer - Functionality
  • Seatbelts - Functionality
  • Lights, mirrors, seats & door - Functionality
  • Electronic parking brake & stability control check
  • Steering column inspection for absent or dysfunctional steering locks
  • Lighting - modifications
  • Airbag - Functionality
  • Tow bar - Modifications
  • Horn

More checks may be carried out on top of those listed above, but these are the main parts that are examined during an MOT test. See our MOT checklist below for a list of checks you can carry out yourself prior to your vehicle’s MOT.

You might like: A complete guide to getting your car serviced

How often do you need an MOT?

If you have recently bought a brand-new car, it won’t need an MOT until it is three years old. After this, it must undergo an MOT check every year without fail.

It’s important to set yourself a reminder a month or so before your current certificate is due to expire so that you leave plenty of time to book it in, as driving without a valid MOT certificate is illegal and potentially dangerous to others.

If you’re not sure when your MOT is due, you can find out by looking at your previous test certificate. If you can’t find this, you’ll need to use the GOV.UK website to check the MOT status and expiry date. 

To be extra sure, you might want to sign up to a handy reminder feature to get notified beforehand; Halfords offers this - all you need to do is enter your registration number and provide your email address.

What happens if my car fails the MOT test?

Once your MOT test has been completed, you will be provided with a printed receipt. If your vehicle fails any portion of the test, you will see a listing of any remedial work that needs to be carried out to ensure it is safe and roadworthy for UK roads.

This will also include a listing of potential ‘advisory’ problems that are not yet severe enough to cause failure of the test, but should be addressed.

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You will have the option of completing any necessary repairs at the garage that administered the MOT test or at any location away from the test centre. You are further given a free retest if you complete the repairs through the test centre. Also if they’re completed away from the test centre, providing that the retest is completed within 24 hours of failure.

If you disagree with your results, discuss them first with the test station, and if necessary report your experience to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) office by calling 0845 600 5977.

If your car fails its MOT, you can only drive it if you are taking it to be fixed or to another pre-booked MOT test appointment. For any other journeys, it must be completely roadworthy and have a valid MOT certificate.

Is there a penalty for having no MOT?

Yes,

  • using a vehicle without a test certificate being in force carries a maximum fine of £1,000
  • if the vehicle is adapted to carry more than eight passengers the maximum fine increases to £2,500
  • failing to produce a test certificate to a police officer also carries a fine of up to £1,000

Convictions for any of these offences will not result in penalty points being placed on a driving licence.

Driving around without a valid MOT certificate not only risks the safety of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians, but it also means you’ll be driving around without valid insurance, which will be costly should you ever be involved in an accident, will affect your future car insurance premiums and potentially incur an IN10 conviction.

Read more: The penalties and fines for driving without insurance

MOT checklist - 7 things to do before your MOT test

According to the AA, as many as 1.5 million cars fail their MOT test due to minor issues like a dirty number plate or faulty bulb; these are simple things that can be checked and rectified before the MOT check by the driver.

There are several checks you can carry out yourself prior to taking your vehicle in for its MOT, which can help you identify any potential problems beforehand and save on costs and time.

These include:

1. Headlights and indicators

Make sure that all of the lights on the car work correctly – this includes all headlights, sidelights, hazard lights, rear lights, licence plate lights, brake lights and indicators.

2. Number plate

The vehicle’s number plate should be clean and easy to read, so if there’s any dirt or residue on it, give it a quick wipe.

3. Wheels/tyres

The wheels and tyres are very important for safe driving, so checking them is a key part of an MOT. The wheels should not be damaged and all tyres should conform to the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm - if the depth is less than this, your vehicle will not pass its MOT.

4. Seats

Check that the drivers seat can easily be adjusted forwards and backwards without any issues – if you are the only driver of the vehicle, you may not realise a fault, so it can pay to check before your MOT.

You should also make sure that all seatbelts are working correctly by tugging them sharply to see if they lock. Check them over for any tears or fraying, make sure the attachment to the floor or seat is all secure and that they clip and unclip as normal.

5. Windscreen

Cracks and other damage to windscreens can cause your vehicle to fail its MOT if they are larger than 40mm (or larger than 10mm in the driver's view area) – so make sure you address any damage to windscreens before your MOT.

Also, check the windscreen wipers to make sure they wipe the windows properly and make sure the screenwash works, because if these do not function adequately then they can cause the vehicle to fail the MOT, too.

6. Horn

This shouldn’t take long to check! Just give it a quick blast and make sure it works as normal.

7. Fuel and oil

Top up the car with fuel and oil, as garages have been known to turn vehicles away from their MOT if they don’t hold suitable levels of fuel and oil. These are needed to run the car and check emission levels, so if there aren’t adequate levels then the MOT cannot be completed.

Before you check your oil levels and/or top them up, ensure that the engine has been off for a while so that it’s cool.

For drivers with diesel cars that use AdBlue, this will also need to be checked in the MOT, so make sure this is topped up, too.

What documents do I need to take with me?

You don’t need to take much with you when you take your car to have an MOT test. All you’ll really need is your previous MOT test certificate and V5C vehicle registration document.

Where is the best place to get an MOT?

This depends on convenience and price. There are a few places where you can book your vehicle in for an MOT:

  • Franchised car dealership: Usually the more expensive option
  • Independent garage: Make sure you choose one that’s been approved by the Motor Ombudsman
  • Fast fit centres: Kwik Fit, Halfords, etc.
  • Council test centres: Designed for council vehicles and cannot repair faults, so you can be certain that any fails will be issued for real reasons, not simply to get more money out of you.

Prices will differ from place to place, and it’s worth bearing in mind that while many places offer cheap MOTs, they need to make their money back somehow - this is where repairs and re-tests will come in.

It’s also a good idea to read reviews online, such as Google reviews and Trustpilot if possible, as this will give you a good idea as to the costs and service you can expect to receive.

To make sure your vehicle is prepared for its MOT and to avoid any potential costs, it’s always worth doing the 7 steps as listed above beforehand.

For more related advice, be sure to check out our handy guides below. To see if your car will pass its MOT test, visit Will It Pass? now:

Will It Pass?

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