When cars get to three years old they must take the government’s annual MOT roadworthiness test. Every year around four in every 10 cars fail this, yet the government claims around half of all failures could be easily prevented. Although garages frequently don’t charge for retests when it’s just a minor fault, having garages fix problems that drivers could frequently rectify themselves can cause unnecessary cost. Here we investigate the top four most common failure points and what drivers should be looking out for to prevent them.
Lighting the way
The most popular reason cars fail their MOT is because lights or turn indicators don’t work. It’s easy to check these. Simply turn the lights on and walk around the car while it’s parked, checking all the lights including fog lights if the car has them. Then turn the ignition on and check the indicators. Finally – and you’ll need an assistant for this – with the car’s parking brake on and the brake pedal pressed, start the engine and put it in reverse gear. Then ask your assistant to check that the brake and reverse lights are all working.
Why it’s a money saver
On some cars it can be simple to change blown bulbs yourself. And it’s frequently cheaper to buy bulbs from a motor retailer than to have them supplied by the garage. What’s more, some garages will fit new bulbs for free.
Tyres don’t have to be tiresome
Approximately eight per cent of MOT failures are to do with tyres. Check that all your tyres have the correct air pressure and buy a simple tread depth gauge. You then need to verify that all your tyres have the minimum 1.6mm of tread depth. Safety experts recommend that you change tyres once the tread depth falls below 3mm. Inspect your tyres closely. You’re looking for cuts, bulges, and foreign bodies stuck in the tyres. And don’t forget to check the spare wheel too.
Why it’s a money saver
Shopping around for tyres can save you big money. And frequently you can buy tyres online and have them sent to the garage for fitting.
Put the brakes on an MOT failure
One in 10 MOT failures are because of dodgy brakes. First of all, open the bonnet and check that the brake fluid reservoir is filled to the correct level. Then go for a drive. On a straight road and when it’s safe to do so, brake heavily. Make sure there are no strange noises and that the car doesn’t pull to one side as it comes to a halt. If it does, alert the garage before the MOT test.
You can see clearly now
Around 7 per cent of MOT failures are because drivers can’t see the road clearly. First check that there aren’t any stickers, toys or air fresheners obscuring your view out from the driver’s seat. Then look carefully at the windscreen. Are there any chips or cracks? If these are in the driver’s field of vision, it could result in an MOT failure. Check the wipers too. The blades should be replaced if they’re damaged in any way. And top up your washer bottle with the correct fluid. Also make sure the rear-view mirrors are in good condition and can be adjusted.
While you can’t fail your MOT for having a dirty car, imagine things from an MOT tester’s point of view for a moment. If a car turns up and it’s filthy, it shows the driver probably doesn’t care about it. If they can’t be bothered to wash it, a tester is instantly going to ask what else they can’t be bothered doing. And of course, it’s common courtesy: just because someone works in a garage, it doesn’t mean they enjoy getting dirty!
James is an award-winning motoring journalist with more than 20 years’ experience on national publications. He writes a popular consumer column for the Daily Telegraph Motoring section and contributes features to MSN Cars. James was motoring editor for the News of the World for seven years and has held senior editorial staff roles on Auto Express, Autosport and AutoClassic magazines.