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Comprehensive Guide for Your Car’s Car MOT Check

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In Scotland and the rest of the UK, registering your car isn’t enough to make it legal to drive on the road. There is what we call the MOT check that every car owner needs to comply with. But what is MOT? When do you get it? How do you know that you need it?

This is our comprehensive guide to MOT Test.

Unsure if your car needs a MOT, or what that actually involves? This guide covers everything you need to know about getting a MOT test – including where to go, what to pay, what the results mean and what to do if you fail.

MOT Test – Basic Things to Know

A MOT test (Ministry of Transport test) is an annual test of vehicle safety, road-worthiness and emissions. MOT tests are a legal requirement for most cars aged three years and over.

The test’s purpose is to check a car’s safety and road-worthiness, its brakes and emissions. Basically, it’s necessary on a vehicle’s third year anniversary since purchase, and then required for MOT testing annually afterwards.

The MOT test includes an extensive list of internal and external checks. However, unlike thorough car check, this test is a visual check only. Examiners are not allowed to change or remove anything on your car, which is why you still need to keep on top of servicing.

The test is controlled by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), and MOTs must be carried out by a qualified and approved ‘Nominated Tester’ (NT) like the IT Garage.

Booking Your Car for a MOT Test

You have a number of options when it comes to booking a MOT test. These include:

  • Main dealer/franchised: These are associated with a car manufacturer and if you have complicated repairs or problems, they’re the best place to go. You might also get a courtesy car. Labor rates and manufacturer-based services are often the most expensive, but your repair bill won’t always be the biggest.
  • Fast fit: Branded chains have a reputation for being the best choice for quick repairs like exhausts or batteries. Most can also service and repair your car. They usually work out cheaper than a main dealer when it comes to repair work, but still on the more expensive side.
  • Independent: Some independent garages like IT Garage specialize in particular car brands, but even if they don’t, they usually offer the lowest labor rates. However, while some are brilliant, some are not very good at all, so be sure to check in your car only with MOT specialists.

MOT tests ensure your car is roadworthy

If your car needs a valid MOT and doesn’t have one, you face a financial penalty. You’ll also be unable to renew your road tax until it’s complete and will almost certainly invalidate your car insurance, which risks a further six to eight penalty points and invalidates any claims.

Remember, it’s not simply a case of meeting minimum standard in the test. Your car needs to be roadworthy, and it’s in your best interests to get issues fixed where possible.

MOT Test Timing

Standard cars require a MOT once they hit three years old, and every 12 months after that. You’ll need to renew your MOT before it expires – and the earliest you can do that is 1 month before the expiry date.

MOT test inclusions

A standard MOT checks brakes, lights, the fuel system, mirrors, electrical equipment and the exhaust system, amongst many other things. Lately, MOTs also look at daytime running lights, front fog lights and visible smoke from cars fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

A MOT doesn’t cover the engine, clutch or gearbox.

Preparing Your Car for a MOT Test

Taking the time to get your car ready for its MOT test can save you money in the long run. If you want to give your car the best chance of passing the MOT test, follow our pre-MOT instructions.

1. Service history

Check your paperwork (invoices, your diary, dealer stamps in the service book in your car) to check on your car’s MOT or servicing history. When was your car last serviced? When did your car last visit a garage for an inspection or repair?

2. Engine management lights

Do all your car’s engine management lights come on when you start the engine, then go out after a few seconds?

3. Glass, mirrors and lights

With the engine running, turn on your hazard lights, fog lights and headlights, then walk round the car and check they are all working.

If there is no-one available to walk round the car while you are inside, wait for evening light, then park the car near to a wall.

With the engine running, press the brake pedal, and you should be able to see the brake lights reflect on the wall. You can repeat this process for the indicators; turn each indicator on separately, and check they work too.

Check the windscreen and rear-view mirrors for any damage.

4. Tyres

Ensure that all tyres are free from any bulges, lumps or tears, and sit neatly on the wheel rim. See to it, too, that all four wheels are the same size (a ‘space saving’ spare wheel is a failure). Each tyre should be the same size, type of structure and aspect ratio, as the tyre on the opposite side of the car (left to right). Finally, each tyre should have its size marked on the side wall.

5. Drivability and other checks

  • Is there any smoke at any time? Are there any strange smells from the engine, exhaust or around the wheels, especially when hot? Start your car and go for a drive with the radio off.
  • Are there are any loud roars or growling noises from the car when you start the engine, or at any time?
  • Are there any droning noises when cornering, or any loud clunking noises when braking or going over bumps?
  • Have you noticed the car is using more oil or fuel (petrol or diesel) than it used to?
  • When waiting at a junction or at traffic lights, do the car’s revs seem unusually high?

When braking, (especially from high speed):

  • Does the car start to move from one side of the road to another?
  • Can you feel any judder in the pedal, steering wheel or car?
  • Can you hear any noise (especially a metallic noise)?
  • Does the pedal feel spongy, or travel more than it used to?

Are there any other faults you are already aware of on your car, or is there anything wrong with how the car drives, looks or sounds?

Booking a MOT Test Service

1. Book in advance

Book your MOT two to four weeks in advance if you want a pick of time slots, collection and courtesy car. If you book last minute, you’ll have to take what’s available.

You can book a MOT test date up to a month before your current MOT expires. If you need repairs, it gives you time and options. You will not lose any time on your MOT either, as the certificate will renew from the expiry date.

2. Book early in the day

Book an early morning slot. But don’t wait, garages run late, and a 45-minute slot often means a 90-minute wait. For maximum convenience, request collection and delivery from home or work.

If your MOT test is towards the end of the day, a late garage often means repairs running into the following day, inconveniencing you.

3. Book repairs in advance

If you know what will need to be repaired, ask if the garage can get hold of the part before dropping off your car, which will prevent you having to wait for it to be delivered.

MOT: What the results mean

Once the test is completed, you will receive either a Pass or Fail, with a certificate. Just over 60% of vehicles pass annually. When this happens, the driver is issued with a VT20 MOT certificate. In the event of a Fail, the driver receives a VT30 certificate.

But in May 2018, the way MOT tests are carried out changed. The major change was that defects found are now given one of three categories: Dangerous, Major and Minor.

You’ll have to act on the results where necessary, to avoid driving illegally or driving a car with a major defect. To do so is a criminal offence and can result in fines, a driving ban, and three penalty points.

Things to Do if Your Car Fails in a MOT Test

1. If you don’t think your car should have failed

Failures can be disputed by completing a VT17 form within 14 working days of the test. Don’t immediately pay out for the work to be done. Query the garage work, and ask for proof of the issue, to ensure you receive good value.

2. Arrange another test

There are minor repairs that can be retested at the same test center free within 24 hours. Ask your preferred MOT test center/garage to see what can be retested and if the retest is really for free.

Failures are often accompanied by a VT32 form containing comments, known as advisories. These relate to work that will be required soon but is not immediately necessary.

Missing Your MOT Test

It is legal to drive to and from a pre-booked test, but you should carry proof of your appointment in case you are stopped by the police.

Lost MOT Certificate

Duplicate forms can be obtained from any test center, but there is usually a fee. However, you are not required to bring anything with you to a MOT test.

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Gavin Johnston

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