November 2021

Your car’s MOT can feel a little like going to the dentist for a check-up. You hope that all that brushing has been working and you’re not going to need a new filling... but you can’t be sure until you get in that chair! Unlike with a dentist appointment though, the MOT is a legal requirement for cars older than 3 years, and there are hefty fines and possible insurance invalidation if you’re caught without one.

The MOT test is an important annual examination for your car to make sure it is safe and roadworthy. 3 years of driving is regarded as the length of time it takes for the average car to start showing signs of wear and tear that could effect performance.  The tester will look at a range of things including tyres, brakes, suspension components, exhaust emissions, lights and windscreen wipers to make sure that your car is safe for you and the family.  If you keep on top of your car maintenance the MOT test shouldn't be a frightening prospect, but this blog will look at the test in a bit more detail to help dispel any fears!  

When do I need an MOT?

Your car will need its first MOT test once it reaches its third birthday, and then every year after this time. You can find the date of your car’s first registration (it’s birthday!) on your log book (V5C), which is a document that shows you are the legal owner of the vehicle.

It is a legal requirement to have a current MOT certificate, and you could face a fine from the police if you're found not to have one. The MOT lasts for 12 months from the date it was tested, or if you take it for testing before the 12 months are up, you can get up to an extra month of cover.

What gets checked during an MOT?

The MOT lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. The MOT tester will put your car on a ramp and inspect the underside of the car, making sure there is no rust or corrosion that could cause the chassis to fail. They will look at the suspension to make sure there is no damage, as well as the wheels, tyres and exhaust system. The braking performance will be checked on a rolling road.

The tester will make sure all your lights work and that your headlights are correctly adjusted and will sound the horn. Your windscreen wipers and washers will be checked, and the windscreen will be examined for chips or cracks. Your car's exhaust emissions will be tested with a probe to make sure it isn't emitting too much pollution. The MOT test won't look at the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, but these are usually checked separately in your annual service.

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What happens if it fails?

If the tester finds faults, they will either be listed as an advisory or a fail. An advisory is a notice from the tester that there is a problem which isn't severe enough to fail but will need rectifying soon. Any more serious faults will be determined as a fail. Some of these failures could be down to simple things such as wiper blades or blown bulbs, and the tester can often rectify these for you and then pass the car. However, you might not be allowed to drive your car away if there are any dangerous faults.

If you leave the vehicle to get repaired and get it retested within 10 working days, you can have a free partial retest, where the tester will just check the faulty items again. If you take the car away and bring it back within 10 working days, you'll have to pay for a partial retest. Anything beyond that will need a full retest. This bit can be a little confusing, so there's more information here at Gov.UK if you need it. 

What should I check before the MOT?

There are some simple things you can check to make sure your car passes its MOT with flying colours. For example, nearly 20% of MOT failures are down to faulty lights! So while most of us can't be expected to lie underneath the car checking suspension components, it's well worth taking a few minutes to run through this little MOT test checklist.

  1. Check that all your lights are working (including your rear brake lights which may involve enlisting somebody else’s help to check!)
  2. Make sure there are no large chips or cracks in your windscreen
  3. Check that the wipers clean the screen
  4. Check that you have plenty of washer fluid (if you haven't got washer fluid, the tester can fail the car, believe it or not!)
  5. Your tyres should be in good condition, correctly inflated and have more than 1.6mm of tread across the centre three quarters of the surface.

Read our blog on tyre tread and how to check your tyres are on the legal limit >

These are just a few quick things to check but are easily rectified before you head off to the test. Hopefully the MOT test seems just a little bit less scary now!

One last important thing to remember is that although your MOT lasts for a year, it only shows that the car was roadworthy at the time it was tested. So it's still important to keep on top of your routine checks, especially if you had any ‘advisory’ notices. These mean that although they weren’t dangerous or failures, they could be on the cusp.

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If you'd like to find out more about the MOT test, visit Gov.UK for a guide. You can also check your MOT history and next due date on Gov.UK.

As well as offering MOTs and repairs, here at Thame Cars we also send reminders to customers 4 weeks before your MOT and service is due. So we're happy to help you make sure your car is in tip top condition and ready for the road ahead.