MOT Failure: Everything You Need to Know

MOT failure everything you need to know in white over an image of a mechanic holding a clipboard checking a car engine bay

‘MOT failure’ – they’re dreaded words for any driver.

An MOT failure usually means time-consuming, expensive repairs and even more stress on top of the initial test. It’s even worse for newer drivers, who might not know the first thing about an MOT retest or the next steps to take.

37% of UK drivers experience MOT failure every year in the UK. Sometimes, failure can come out of the blue, so you always need to be prepared. By the end of this article, you’ll understand:

  • What causes MOT failure
  • What is an MOT retest is and how to book one
  • And how to get your vehicle back on the road after a failed test. 

 

So, what happens after an MOT failure?

 

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How Do I Know About MOT failure?

You will always know your MOT result as soon as the mechanic finishes the test. If your vehicle passes, the garage will fill out the VT20 pass form, sort out payment and send you on your way. If your vehicle fails its test, you will be issued a ‘refusal’ of an MOT certificate, VT30 form. The mechanic will then explain to you why your car failed. 

There are four types of fault listed on the MOT guidance: Advisory, Minor, Major and Dangerous. Any Major or Dangerous fault leads to an immediate MOT failure. Advisories and Minor faults don’t cause MOT failure, but it’s worth getting them repaired as soon as possible. Here’s what each defect means:

 

Advisories

These are additional problems the tester has noticed, but either aren’t included on the MOT checklist or aren’t serious to warrant a fault. Advisories are entirely discretionary, so you might receive quite a few or none at all. Don’t ignore them and think about booking your vehicle in for repairs as soon as you can. 

A worn shock absorber bushing or a worn tyre with around 1.6mm tread depth (the minimum limit) are examples of advisories.

 

Minor

These are issues with your vehicle as per the MOT checklist, but aren’t severe enough to cause a failure. They are usually simple repairs which will save you a lot of time and money later on. That’s why we recommend repairing them as soon as possible. It might be worth fixing them on the same day as your test itself.

An example of a minor fault would be a wonky bulb on your registration plates. It still illuminates the plates (as required) but isn’t doing it effectively enough.

 

Mechanic holding a clipboard completing an MOT inspection
A mechanic can find any of these four faults during an MOT. Advisories are discretionary but Major or Dangerous faults lead to MOT failure!

 

Major

These pose an instant and direct risk to the safety of yourself or other road users, or are harmful to the environment. Any major fault will cause an MOT failure and you must fix it immediately. 

A broken headlight levelling device or a blown bulb in any of your lights are examples of major faults. 

 

Dangerous

These are the most severe faults and make the vehicle dangerously unsafe. As a result, you are not allowed to drive with a dangerous fault on your vehicle and will need to sort the repairs out immediately. You won’t be able to drive your vehicle before you’ve fixed a dangerous fault.

A torn tyre (rubber separated from rim) or not having working brake lights are examples of dangerous faults. 

 

All causes of MOT failure mean immediate repairs. Without fixing these issues, your vehicle isn’t roadworthy and can’t leave the garage. But do you have to book this appointment separately? And how do you get that MOT certificate you need for the year ahead?

 

How Do I Solve an MOT Failure? 

Fortunately, you don’t need to book another appointment to fix an MOT failure. 

All our garages appreciate the need for an MOT certificate, and begin work on the necessary repairs as soon as you give them the approval to do so. After they inform you why your vehicle has failed, they’ll talk you through what they can do to fix the problem. And, as long as you choose to have the work done with them, you’ll get a free MOT retest as well! 

During an MOT retest, the mechanic will check that the repairs have fixed the original failure. This is free for a wide variety of defects, including those on the wheels, tyres, mirrors, doors, lamps and indicators. In fact, an MOT retest only costs you if carried out more than ten days after the initial test (for a partial fee), or if you take your vehicle to a different garage for the repairs process (for a full fee). 

You don’t need to book an MOT retest separately. Once the garage has completed the necessary work, they’ll complete the retest and then issue you the MOT pass certificate. 

 

Mechanic in dungarees inspecting car during an MOT retest
Any MOT appeal will be completed by an independent tester – your car must pass for you to get any sort of refund.

 

If you feel like you’ve been unfairly treated during your test and believe your MOT failure is unjustified, you can appeal the decision. You can fill out a complaint form on the Government website within 14 days of a failed test, and then have your vehicle retested by an independent MOT tester. Your car must complete this test in the same condition as the original, so you can’t make any repairs beforehand.

You should only begin this process if you’re convinced that your car should have passed its original test. You will have to pay for the second appointment and a successful appeal will only result in a full or partial refund of this retest fee. Plus, if the independent tester feels the MOT failure was justified, you’ll still have to pay for repairs, as well as the original test and potentially two retest fees. 

This process can take some time and you might want to keep using your car during these 14 days. However, there are several reasons why you won’t be able to do this.

 

Can I Still Drive My Vehicle After a Failed MOT?

Usually, no. If a mechanic finds a major or dangerous fault and issues a VT30 form, your car is no longer fit for the road. Even if you have an issue with the MOT failure, you can’t drive as normal while you wait for the appeal process. Driving without a valid MOT is a criminal offence and carries a £1000 fine if you’re stopped by the police. What’s more, if they find the ‘refusal’ certificate in the car’s documents, there’s an additional £2,500 fine for driving an unroadworthy vehicle. You might also face a driving ban or three points on your licence. 

There are two exceptions to this rule. 

If your previous MOT certificate is still valid because you booked your test early, you can still drive your vehicle. However, we strongly discourage this. An MOT failure means the car isn’t safe for the road and driving it would endanger yourself and others.  Get your vehicle fixed early, retested and pass the MOT before driving it again.

The only other time you can drive a vehicle after an MOT failure is if your MOT fails on the same day as your previous certificate expires, but only if you’re driving to a garage for repairs or a pre-arranged MOT appointment. There are some council run MOT test centres, but these can’t complete repairs on site. If your vehicle fails here, you can’t leave until you book an appointment with a local garage and can get your vehicle there immediately. Else, you will need to book a tow truck to move your vehicle. 

 

 

How Can I Avoid MOT Failure?

The best way to deal with MOT failure is to avoid it altogether. There’s a simple MOT checklist every driver can follow, no matter their level of experience. Regularly checking these items can lead to a smoother process on the day of your MOT.

 

 

Recap

MOT failure is never good news. Fortunately, Book My Garage’s network of 9,000 UK garages makes it as stress-free as possible. Here are the three main points to remember about what we do:

  1. You’re always told immediately about why your car failed and how it can be fixed.
  2. All our garages offer free MOT retests and affordable MOT repairs.
  3. You won’t incur any of the MOT fines because everything happens on the same premises. If you need help getting home, consider booking a loan car or vehicle collection and delivery with your appointment. 

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.