MOT Test: Everything You Need to Know

Your MOT test is a legal requirement designed to guarantee the safety of you, your family and other road users. Yet, there are still many common misconceptions about MOT tests and the process can often be confusing. With that in mind, here is an extensive guide to answer any questions you might have about your MOT test.

First things first, what does MOT stand for?

Simply, a Ministry of Transport Test. The Department of Transport, (formerly the Ministry of Transport) is responsible for running and maintaining the public transport network in the UK, as well as ensuring the safety of drivers through the MOT test, which was first created in the 1960s.

What is an MOT test?

An MOT test is a yearly inspection of cars aged over three years old, (four in Northern Ireland), designed to ensure they are still safe and road legal, involving dozens of checks on your car. These range from the brakes and fuel system, through the lights, mirrors, seatbelts, windscreen wipers, and exhaust system. However, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t cover the condition of the engine, clutch, and gearbox. There are over 21,000 authorised MOT test centres nationwide, which you’ll instantly recognise by looking for an official blue sign featuring three white triangles.

Does this mean that every car needs an MOT test?

Classic car owners, breathe a sigh of relief. As long as your car was manufactured or registered more than forty years ago and hasn’t been ‘substantially changed’ in the last thirty years, it is exempt from an MOT. The same goes for cars manufactured or registered less than three years ago. However, if you’re unsure whether your car meets these criteria, it’s worth reading the Department of Transport guidelines.

Why is an MOT test important?

From 2019, new regulations have come into force regarding the severity of car faults found during an MOT test. These new categories are Minor, Advisories and Major faults. A mechanic finding one or more of these faults can have different repercussions for your vehicle – and your wallet! 

Minor

These are problems that don’t have a significant effect on the vehicle’s safety or an impact on the environment. The good news is you can still pass your MOT with only minor faults found. However, it is still recommended to repair them as soon as possible.

Advisories

These are notes about issues with your car which haven’t caused an MOT fail but could lead to problems in the future. They are given entirely at the discretion of the MOT tester but don’t be alarmed if there are a lot of advisory notes included with your MOT certificate. They are designed to make your car safer and avoid future MOT failures or expensive repairs. So, don’t ignore any advisory notes you are given.

Major

These are problems that pose an instant and direct risk to driver’s safety, other road users’ safety or harm to the environment. A major fault needs to be repaired immediately before your vehicle can be driven on public roads. If a mechanic finds a major fault on your vehicle, it will immediately fail its MOT. 

If you’re at all concerned about any problems your car might have leading up to its MOT you can contact your local garage or click here for helpful advice from the Government.

What is checked during an MOT test and is there anything I can do that will help my car pass?

An MOT test will check the following on your car.

  • Lights – front, rear, fog, brake, indicators and licence plate
  • Horn
  • Electrics
  • Towbar (if applicable)
  • Battery
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Tyres and wheels
  • Seatbelts
  • Body, boot, and bonnet
  • Licence plates
  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
  • Speedometer
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel system
  • Emissions
  • Mirrors and Wipers
  • Windscreen

If you want to find out more about the list, you can click here.

The list can seem quite daunting, but there are some simple things you can do at home which will improve your chances of passing your MOT. Here are five of the easiest and why they’re important:

Test your lights 

Simply enough, do they work? Check your headlights, rear brake lights, fog lights, and indicators. You might need someone else to help you check them all, (so long as you promise not to blind them). However, if there are any which aren’t working properly, replacing the bulb yourself could save you additional costs during your test. 

Top-up your screen wash and oil

Not having any screenwash in your tank constitutes an MOT fault and it’s extremely quick and easy to check. As long as the engine is on a flat level surface and isn’t boiling hot, you can change your screenwash while you wait for the kettle to boil or during an ad break. All you need to do is unscrew the screenwash cap and check the level within the cylinder. If it is below, or close to, the minimum level, top it up to the maximum and close the bonnet.  If, when you open your bonnet, your screenwash tank isn’t obvious, check your owner manual which will have a handy diagram within it. 

Checking that the engine oil is of a sufficient level is equally as easy. All you need is a piece of cloth to wipe the oil dipstick clean. Once it’s oil-free, dip it back in all the way and then check the level of oil. If it’s close to, or below, the minimum oil line, top it up to reach the maximum. Most experts recommend checking your oil level regularly, especially if your car does a lot of long journeys.

How to check your engine oil before an MOT test.

Check your visibility

Make sure your mirrors are intact, clean and nothing obstructs your view of the road – air freshener, fluffy dice or similar. Windscreen stickers can also fail you if they’re in the main field of vision, (within the arc of the wipers), as can even the smallest crack. Ensure stickers are removed and cracks repaired before your car goes in for its MOT test.

Checking the interior

You can ensure the car is clear of any mess before going in for its MOT test. Make sure the boot of your car isn’t cluttered and there is nothing obstructing the driver’s controls of the pedals. You can test if the seatbelts fasten securely, the length of the seatbelt extends fully and is damage free. Give the horn a quick blast, (being conscientious of the neighbours), and make sure you can adjust the driver’s seat freely, as well as checking whether the handbrake ratchets to a suitable level correctly. 

Top-up with fuel

If the fuel warning light is on, or the fuel level is quite low, the garage may not be able to carry out the emissions test included within the MOT, especially if you have to drive some way to drop your car off at the garage beforehand. If this is the case, they may refuse to carry out your test. So, top up with fuel the night before to make sure the engine can run normally.

When is my MOT due again?

Everyone’s got a million things to remember nowadays and we understand that when your MOT expires isn’t exactly a priority. Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to find out when your car is due for its next MOT online. You can also find a good deal and book your next one right here, hassle-free. Don’t get caught out like 28% of drivers whose MOT is overdue, according to DVSA statistics. 

How early can I book my car in for its MOT test?

The process is different depending on the age of your car. If you own a new car, designated as being manufactured or registered within the last three years, your first MOT will have to be done no later than three years from the date of registration. Therefore, if your car was registered on the 1st of February 2017, its first MOT will need to be carried out no later than the 1st of February 2020.

If your MOT is up for renewal, you can book it up to one month, minus a day, prior to the expiry of your current MOT certificate. If your MOT is carried out within this time frame, you will still preserve the anniversary of the original expiry date. So, for example, if your MOT was due on the 1st of September, you could book an MOT between the 2nd of August and the 1st of September and your new MOT would be valid for thirteen months. Any MOT test carried out more than a month before its renewal date will invalidate the current expiry date. 

If for whatever reason, your car fails its MOT, you can only drive it away from the garage without repair if the previous year’s MOT certificate was still valid. This then allows more time for whatever repairs are needed for it to pass its MOT on a retest.

So what would happen if I missed my MOT or forgot to get my car tested?

Missing your MOT is a criminal offence and there can be serious consequences. If you’re caught driving without a valid MOT, you could face a fine of up to £1,000, unless you can prove you’re on your way to your MOT test.

Aren’t MOT tests really expensive? How much is it going to cost me?

An MOT test doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. The absolute maximum a garage can charge you for an MOT test is £54.85 – but many garages will charge a lot less and some will even charge just a penny if you book a major service with them as well! 

So, how long does an MOT test take?

A garage must spend a minimum of 45 minutes carrying out an MOT test – just enough time to meet a friend for coffee or do your weekly food shop. However, there’s no guarantee this will always be the case. You should always be prepared to be without your car for a whole day – or possibly even longer if there’s a serious fault. 

I can’t go a whole day without my car; is there anything that can be done to help me out?

Don’t be alarmed, if it’s impossible for you to go car-less for a whole day, (be it to do with your kids, your work, or something else), you can be offered a loan car from some garages to use whilst your MOT is being carried out. Similarly, others offer a collect-and-deliver service. If you book on a workday, the garage can collect your car from your place of work and drop it back before the end of the day – although it’s worth having an alternative way to get home, just in case your car fails its MOT.  We’ll always tell you, straight up, what options a garage offers in our directory, so there won’t be any nasty surprises on the day.


It’s easy to become confused about your MOT test or get lost amongst the sheer number of garages fighting for your business. Here at BookMyGarage, we aim to help you cut through the chaos as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you think your MOT is due or are tired of overpaying for your MOT year on year, why not use our simple booking tool to compare and save? Find a local garage for free today.– you’ll see that many will charge as little as £10 for an MOT when booked with a full service.

Here are some garages we recommend:

Mandy Weston

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.

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