Prepare for your next MOT with this checklist

Prepare for your next MOT with this checklist
Image source: Getty Images

Got a car that’s over three years old? Then you need a valid MOT certificate to drive it on UK roads. But what exactly is an MOT, and how do you get your car ready? Here’s the lowdown on all things MOT-related, and an MOT checklist to help you prepare. 

The MOT explained

Your Ministry of Transport test (MOT) is essentially a vehicle safety check. It confirms whether your vehicle is roadworthy and safe to drive. Vehicles including cars, motorbikes and motor caravans must be tested annually.

If you pass, you get an MOT certificate confirming your vehicle is good to go. If you fail, you’ll need to fix what’s wrong with the car and get it retested. 

Since an MOT is a safety inspection, the tester won’t check everything. They won’t check your:

  • Engine 
  • Clutch
  • Gearbox 

They’ll check your vehicle’s safety components including:

  • Lights
  • Brakes
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Seatbelts 
  • Horn 
  • Suspension
  • Tyres

Going through a standard MOT checklist takes anything up to 60 minutes. But how much does it cost?

Test centres can’t charge more than the DVSA’s maximum rate for MOT testing. In 2020, it’s £54.85 for cars and motor caravans, and £29.65 for motorbikes. If you shop around for a test centre, you’ll often pay less. 

Driving your car without an MOT

Forgot to book your MOT and now it’s overdue? There’s only one place you’re allowed to drive, and that’s to an MOT test centre.

  • If you can’t book an MOT immediately, you should probably SORN your car (i.e. declare it off the road). You can do that here.
  • Your car insurance is invalid if you don’t have a valid MOT certificate. 

If you’re caught driving to anywhere other than a pre-booked MOT appointment, you could be fined £1000.

Difference between MOT and servicing

You’ve probably noticed that the MOT sounds similar to a car service. So are they just different names for the same thing? No, but this is a common misconception. 

  • An MOT is a legal requirement. 
  • Services are optional. However, they keep your car in good working order. They usually include things like an oil change and a tyre inflation check. 

It’s a good idea to book your car in for a service once a year. 

Check if you need an MOT

Not sure if you need an MOT? Just type in your vehicle registration online and you’ll find out.

  • Most vehicles need an MOT on or around their third birthday (i.e. three years after the date of registration).
  • You’ll need an MOT every year after that. The MOT certificate tells you when it’s due.

MOT checklist 

Just to be clear, there’s no foolproof way to guarantee you’ll pass the MOT first time. That said, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting a pass. So, here’s a quick MOT checklist to run through before you head to the test centre.

1. Check indicators and headlights

According to the RAC, almost a fifth of cars fail the MOT fail because there’s a problem with their lights.

Check hazard lights, indicators, headlights and brake lights. Get the bulbs changed before the MOT if they don’t work.

2. Check the wipers

Look for broken wiper blades or missing rubber. These are easy to check and doing so could save you a fortune.

3. Look for window cracks

You could fail if there are cracks on your windscreen or windows. Have a look and repair any chips before the test.

4. Test the brakes

Do your brakes squeal when you touch the pedal? Chances are, there’s a problem with your discs or brake pads. This should be checked ahead of the test.

The same goes for the handbrake – if it’s loose or broken, you could fail. 

5. Inspect tyres

Tyres must have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm. How do you check this? Place a 20p coin into the tyre grooves. Do this at a few spots per tyre. If you can see the coin’s outer rim, the tread is too low. 

6. Top up screen wash

If there’s not enough fluid to clean the windscreen, you might fail. Top this up before the test as part of your MOT checklist.

7. Test the seatbelts 

Make sure all the seatbelt mechanisms work, and check the belts for wear and tear.

8. Check fuel and oil levels

If there’s not enough oil or fuel in the car, the tester might not perform the MOT. This could mean you need to book another test. 

Don’t know how to check your oil? Get a service first.

9. Do a visual inspection

Look for obvious problems. Do the doors shut properly? Are the number plates attached properly? Do a walk round and check. 

If you fail the MOT

Here’s what happens if your car fails:

  • Unless your current MOT is still in date, you can’t drive the vehicle away from the test centre. 
  • If you book a retest within 10 working days, and leave the car with the garage, it’s free. Otherwise, you’ll pay the full price again. 

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