There are some quick things you can do as a driver to give your vehicle the best chance of passing its MOT.
Pre MOT Checks with RAC
Keep your car clean, inside and out. A boot full of clutter and an excessively dirty car could lead to an examiner refusing to carry out the MOT.
Give number plates a clean as they need to be readable to pass the MOT.
Check the windscreen wipers are in good condition, with no tears.
Check all lights are in working order. Ask a friend or family member to stand outside the car and confirm lights function properly.
Check tyre tread using the 20p test, and tyre pressure too
Top up all fluid levels - screenwash, brake fluid and oil.
Check that the horn works - give it a quick honk!
All of your mirrors should be intact and secure to ensure you can use them safely.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in your car’s V5C logbook should match that marked on your car’s bodywork.
Along with your tyres, your brakes are the most safety-critical components of all, and they must work properly to pass the MOT.
Testers usually put the car on rollers to check the brakes decelerate it effectively, and that they’re correctly balanced – i.e. that it stops in a straight line. The pedal rubber must not be worn to excess and the ABS warning light must work if anti-lock brakes are fitted. The handbrake/parking brake must work and hold the car firmly, even on a steep incline.
Brake condition is also assessed by examining the discs, pads and callipers, plus the relevant pipes and cables. Under the bonnet, the brake servo and master cylinder will be examined, too.
Sharp edges on the bodywork caused by corrosion or accident damage are not permitted, as they could injure pedestrians.
Rust is an MOT issue more generally, particularly for older cars. Excessive corrosion on safety-related parts, such as the steering and brakes, is a no-no, while rust within 30cm of these components may also result in a fail.
Doors and openings
Testers will check that the doors can be opened from inside and outside the car and that all openings – including the bonnet and tailgate – can be shut securely.
Exhaust and emissions
For fuel-powered vehicles, emissions are tested using specialist equipment connected to your car’s exhaust. The legal limit varies depending on the age of the vehicle, with much stricter standards for newer cars.
Visible smoke from the tailpipe may mean an MOT fail – as can excessive noise so boy racers should beware.
The tester will also check both the exhaust system and fuel filler cap are fixed securely to prevent possible leaks.
A simple one: the horn must work, and be loud enough to be audible to other vehicles. Also, ‘novelty’ car horns that play multiple notes or tunes are not allowed.
All lamps must be working correctly, including headlights, tail lights, indicators (inc. hazard lights), sidelights, brake lights and rear fog lights. The latter are only required on cars built post-1986 and must activate a tell-tale symbol on the dashboard to alert the driver when they’re switched on.
The alignment of the headlights is also checked – and adjusted if necessary – to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. All cars built after 1 April 1980 must have two red rear reflectors.
Seats and seatbelts
Seats should be securely fixed, with seatbelts a legal requirement for all post-1965 cars (and strongly advisable on those built earlier). Belts need to be securely fixed – including the clip/locking mechanism – and in good condition.
Inertia-reel belts should also retract properly to fit around the driver.
Steering faults are not easy to check or fix yourself. The tester will ensure the steering wheel and column are in good condition and fixed properly, and that there isn’t excessive ‘free play’ in the system.
The steering bearings are inspected for wear, while all bolts, clamps, gaiters and universal joints should also be checked. The operation of power steering (fitted to virtually all modern cars) is tested with the engine running. The wheels must not foul the bodywork on full lock.
If your car has a tow bar fitted (for pulling a trailer or caravan, for example), it must be secure and not damaged or corroded.
Your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – also known as the chassis number and found on the V5 registration document – must also be displayed and legible. It’s often found at the base of the windscreen, or on a stamped metal panel under the bonnet.
Wheels and tyres
It goes without saying that all four wheels need to be securely attached to the car, with no bolts missing. Rims will also be examined for damage, including distortion or cracks, and the condition of the wheel bearings is assessed.
With regard to tyres, the law states that tread-depth must be: “At least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central three-quarters of the breadth of tread around the entire outer circumference of the tyre”. If your tyres are close to this limit, you may be given an advisory warning that new rubber is required soon.
Testers will also check the tyres for cuts or bulges, and ensure that the same-size tyres are fitted on each axle. The spare wheel is not part of the MOT test, but it must be mounted securely if outside the car
Windows and mirrors
Windscreen damage is a common cause of MOT failure. Chips or cracks must measure less than 10mm across if within the area swept by the windscreen wipers. Outside this area, up to 40mm is allowed.
The wipers must operate correctly and the rubber blades must be in good condition. Likewise, rear-view mirrors must be secure and not damaged to an extent that could impair the driver’s vision.