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Running a car

What you need to know about the MOT test

The MOT (Ministry Of Transport) test is an examination that all vehicles over 3 years old must have annually to be legally allowed on British roads.

Sounds simple enough, but the test can cause confusion, so here are some facts you may not know about the MOT:

It’s not the same as a service

It’s easy to assume that, just because your car has passed the MOT, it’s safe and reliable so you don’t need to worry about it for another year. In fact, the MOT is just the most basic safety test.

It’s not the same as a service, where important maintenance on parts and systems like the brakes, transmission and engines can be carried out.

Although the MOT is the only legal requirement, you should also get your car serviced regularly yourself and do basic weekly maintenance checks on your tyres, water and oil level.

There’s a fixed cost

The Government sets the price of the MOT. It's currently £54.85 (correct as of Jan 2014) and you shouldn’t be charged a penny more.

If your car needs work done to pass the test, then you need to understand that this is extra and should discuss the cost in advance with your garage. After the work is done, provided you’ve left your car at the garage or brought it back to the garage before the end of the next working day, you should not be charged again for a retest.

Mods and minor faults will fail you

Small things go wrong on cars over time – especially older ones - and you may not worry about getting them fixed. But what seems like a minor issue can cause you to fail your MOT. For example, if a front door handle is broken on either the inside or outside, that’s a straight fail. If your headlight is angled wrong, that’s a straight fail too. And if your washer fluid doesn’t spray effectively, your car will also fail.

You also need to be very careful about modifying your car – sports exhausts, number plates that are the wrong size or written in the wrong font, headlight modifications and bigger wheels are all common mods likely to cause an MOT failure.

Advisory Notices

Sometimes a car will pass the MOT but the mechanic will include ‘Advisory Notices’. These are problems with the car that may not have caused it to fail the test, but need to be addressed ASAP.

They should not be ignored. These can include any number of things, but worn (but not yet illegal) tyres are common as are issues like fluid leaks or holes in the exhaust. It’s worth getting these addressed as soon as possible because they will quickly become safety issues
and if they aren’t sorted, the car will fail the test next year.

Not all garages can give you an MOT

It’s important to make sure your garage is properly registered, because there’s now a digital database that must be updated when the car passes – a piece of paper isn’t enough. Approved garages also have waiting areas with a viewing window on the car so you can see the work being carried out, which you should take advantage of.

What to do if you lose an MOT certificate

It is important that you keep all your car’s paperwork in a safe place, however if you do find that you have lost your MOT certificate but it’s still valid, you don’t need to get another test. You can simply go to any MOT testing station and ask them to issue a new one, provided you have the car’s V5 registration document. The cost should be around £10.

If your MOT has expired

You could find yourself in a situation where your MOT has expired, for example if you’ve bought a car without an MOT (although we wouldn’t advise doing this!).

If you’re caught driving a car without an MOT on the road you will be prosecuted. The only exception to this is if you’re driving the car to the garage for a pre-booked MOT test. Make sure you’ve made an appointment with the garage, just in case you do get stopped on the way.

What do they test?

Here’s a tick list of what the garage will check during the MOT test. You can check the majority of these yourself before taking your car in.


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Jess passed her test first time at 17 and took to the busy London streets in a battered but beloved 1988 white Fiat Uno. She writes for ingenie's Young Driver's Guide and blog. You can follow Jess on .