The MOT test explained
It is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is examined every 12 months. Without an MOT certificate, you will be unable to renew your road tax. Having a current MOT certificate is also a legal requirement in the UK.
MOT nominated testers are qualified to assess your vehicle against specific safety criteria and to pass it as acceptable and safe, or not. The acceptable standards are as recorded in the current Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) vehicle inspection manual.
The assessment is based on the state of the vehicle on the day. The Nominated Tester cannot fail a vehicle on the basis that its condition will get worse and not be acceptable in the near future.
An individual part of the vehicle may be considered to be beyond its serviceable life by a motor mechanic, but still be deemed safe and therefore acceptable to pass the MOT test by a nominated tester, applying the test criteria.
You can book an MOT up to 28 days in advance of its due date. In fact, it is not widely known that the expiry date on your new MOT is 12 months from the expiry of your old one. This means you could have an MOT that lasts 13 months.
One test is to check that your lights are working properly. The nominated tester will be looking for the correct operation of your lights, their condition and that they are the correct colour.
The nominated tester will check sidelights, headlights, stop lights, number plate lights, two rear reflectors and indicator lights. Hazard warning lights will be checked with the ignition on and off.
As well as checking their appearance, they will test that there is an audible or visual signal that can be seen or heard from the driver's seat for the indicators, hazard warning lights and rear fog lamps.
The age of your vehicle determines whether you need certain lights or not. Hazard warning lights and side repeater lights are mandatory on vehicles registered from April 1st 1986. A rear fog light is required on vehicles registered from April 1st 1980 but will not be tested if fitted to an older vehicle.
Steering & Suspension
Another check is on steering and suspension. The nominated tester will start inside the vehicle by checking the condition and movement of the steering wheel and steering column.
They will then look under the vehicle and bonnet and check the condition and security of steering and suspension mountings and joints. They will be looking for corrosion and cracking and for any nuts and bolts that are loose or are missing a locking device where required.
Your vehicle will then be jacked-up so that the Nominated Tester can check each wheel for excessive wear in steering and suspension joints and mounting. The Nominated Tester will also make sure that shock absorbers are secure and are providing an acceptable level of dampening effect.
The nominated tester will be checking that the seatbelts are mounted securely and that the locking/release mechanism is working properly. The seatbelts must not be excessively frayed or cut.
Your car must have rear seatbelts if it was registered after April 1st 1987. If it was registered before that date then seatbelts are not required to be fitted.
The general section includes a check on the windscreen. Any chip, crack or sticker contained within the prescribed area larger than 10mm will fail. Any chip, crack or sticker within the swept area larger than 40mm will also cause the vehicle to fail. Washers and wipers are checked to make sure they are in good condition and clear the windscreen.
The nominated tester will then check the function of the vehicle's horn making sure that it is loud enough and emits a constant tone.
They will move on to the exhaust system to ensure that it is complete and in a good condition. The nominated tester will be checking that there are no major leaks and that the exhaust is not too noisy.
Emissions checks are an important part of the MOT. The nominated tester will use a meter to check the amount of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emitted by the car's exhaust. If a catalytic converter is fitted, he/she will also be looking for the air/fuel ratio readings.
Diesel engines are checked with different specialist equipment and need to be tested at very high engine speeds. The nominated tester should check that engine oil level and cam belt are OK to cope with high test speeds.
Finally, the tominated tester will look at the physical state of the inside and outside of the vehicle. He/She will check the body of the vehicle as well as doors, boot lids, seats, mirrors, tow bar, if fitted, and fuel caps. In particular, he/she will be looking for excessive corrosion or welding repairs that make the vehicle unsafe.
Number Plate regulations changed on the 1st of October 2007. There are now 30 reasons for a number plate to fail the inspection. Number plates must be clean, not faded and securely fixed. They should have numbers and letters that are correct in shape and that can be read from 20 metres. For further information visit the Directgov website which explains how to display your registration number correctly.
The silencer is the part of the exhaust that usually needs attention first. This is because it is the furthest away from the engine and is the most likely to be corroded by acidic moisture. This is because these parts remain relatively cold and give exhaust gases a chance to condense and form pools of corrosive acid inside the system.
You'll know that you have a problem with your silencer because your exhaust starts making a roaring noise.
Other noises to listen out for include hissing, which indicates a crack in the exhaust manifold, exhaust pipe or a leaking gasket. A chugging noise could mean a blockage in the exhaust system.
If you hear rattling under the car it could mean that the exhaust system has become misaligned. And if you can hear a loud metallic vibration, it usually means that something is touching the exhaust pipe or that a clamp, support bracket or mounting is loose. Hangers and brackets hold your exhaust in place. Corroded, fractured or missing hangers or brackets can cause extra stress which can also lead to premature exhaust failure.
Other problems can be identified with a visual check. External rust may not be as serious as it first appears, because it may only be on the surface. But cracks in the pipe or jagged holes around seams and joins between pipes can be signs of bigger problems.
If you hear any strange noises at all coming from your exhaust, the best advice is to bring your car to us where we will be able to help you diagnose the fault.
You then have to make a decision about whether to replace the whole exhaust or just parts of it. Often, if one part is corroded, it is likely that parts of a similar age could be corroded too. Sometimes the different parts of an exhaust fuse together because of heat and they are starting to corrode. That makes separation of the individual parts extremely difficult.
But when they haven't fused together, it's a matter of judgement and consideration based on vehicle usage, driving habits and distances travelled, that will dictate whether individual parts should be replaced or the entire exhaust assembly. Sometimes it can save you time and money to replace more than the corroded part.
There are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for when using your brakes. They include a grinding noise when you apply the brakes or a pull to the left or right. The grinding normally means that brake pads are excessively worn and need to be replaced along with the damaged brake discs. A pull to the left or right is normally indicative of a sticking or seized mechanical or hydraulic component.
You may also feel a continuous "pulsating" from the pedal or a "spongy" feeling. This spongy feeling indicates that there is air in the hydraulic system due to a brake fluid leak. The "pulsating" feel is normally associated with a distorted brake disc or drum.
More obviously, you may notice an illuminated brake warning light on the instrument panel or that your handbrake is pulling up higher than it normally does - in modern cars, more than 6 to 8 clicks.
For safety's sake, it's important to have your vehicle inspected as quickly as possible when you notice any of the above symptoms.
The brakes are checked from inside and outside the vehicle. Inside checks include making sure brake lights work and that the brake pedal has an anti-slip device in good condition. The brake pedal should not reach the floor and the handbrake should hold onto its ratchet when applied.
Outside the vehicle, the nominated tester will be checking for brake fluid leaks, as well as damage to the brake pipes and parking brake cables. Brake pads must have at least 1.5mm of friction material wear left to pass the MOT.
The nNominated tester will check your tyres. They will check that treads on the tyres are at least 1.6mm deep across the central three-quarters of the tread width around the whole circumference of the tyre.
They will then check that tyres fitted on the same axle are the same size, type and structure, that there are no serious bulges or cuts on the tyres.
UK law requires that your vehicle is fitted with the correct type and size of tyres for the vehicle type you are driving and for the purpose it is being used. This means fitting the right tyres, and for safety ensuring that they are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure.
For safety reasons it is recommended that you replace your tyres before the legal limit is reached. Leading motoring organisations recommend 2mm and many vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing at 3mm.
A regular check of your tyres can help you to avoid up to 3 penalty points and £2500 in fines (per tyre) for having tyres worn beyond the legal minimum limit fitted to your vehicle.
It is also a legal requirement to ensure that tyres of different construction types are not fitted to opposite sides of the same axle. The two main tyre types are radial and cross-ply, and these must not be mixed on the same axle.
Mixing brands and patterns of the same construction type is permissible depending on the vehicle type and manufacturers recommendation. Check your vehicles handbook for tyre fitment details and options.