Seven Simple Checks That Could Save You from an MOT Fail

Many of us dread our car’s annual MOT. More than a third of cars failed the test first time round last year, so it’s no surprise we get anxious about potential problems and their associated costs.

The thing is, most MOT failures are entirely predictable, and can be prevented with some simple checks a day or two before your car gets put through its paces. We think you can do this all in 5 minutes - and potentially save yourself a hefty bill.

1. Tyres

Have a good look around at all four tyres, and check for any obvious damage – screws or tears in the sidewalls, for instance. Also check the tread; if it’s more than 5,000 miles since you last had them changed, do the ‘20p test’ right the way across each tyre.

To do this, insert a 20p piece into each groove of the tread; if you can see any of the rim of the coin, it’s likely the tyre needs replacing.

2. Windscreen

Look out for any cracks or chips in the windscreen. Anything larger than 1cm in the driver’s field of vision, or 4cm anywhere else, is an automatic fail. You’ll need a whole new windscreen if the problem’s serious, but you might be able to get a cheap repair and prevent a costly crack if you catch it sooner.

You should also remove anything attached to the windscreen on the inside – stickers in the corners are fine, but a phone cradle in the middle definitely isn’t.

3. Fluids

Ensure the engine has enough oil (use the dipstick) and make sure there’s some windscreen washer in. Part of the test checks that the windscreen washer pump works, but they can’t do that if the reservoir is empty – and they won’t fill it up for you.

4. Bulbs

Try to ensure every lightbulb on the car’s exterior works, so enlist the help of a friend to see if they’re functioning. All of these must work:

  • Front headlights (dipped and full beam)
  • Side (parking) lights
  • Rear brake lights (including centre repeater, if it has one)
  • Rear headlights
  • Front and side indicators
  • Rear fog light (central or driver’s side)
  • Numberplate lights

A note on front fog lights: while they don’t necessarily need to work, you must at least be able to turn them off. So, if they’re jammed for some reason, a broken button is no excuse.

5. Seats

Your driver’s seat must move forwards and backwards. So remove any rubbish (like plastic drinks bottles) that might be trapped under the seat, inhibiting the sliding mechanism.

6. Number plate

Both need to be clearly legible from 20 metres away. If one is damaged/broken, deteriorated (by water damage) or simply filthy, it’s a fail. At the very least, give them a good clean. If they’re damaged, replacements are easily available from Halfords and cost less than £20 each.

7. Wipers

Your front windscreen wipers must work, and be in good enough condition to clear the windscreen – so dirty the screen a little and give them a test. Don’t worry if your rear windscreen wiper isn’t working, it’s not part of the test.

Book a free Body and Safety Check with Inchcape today

If your car is due for its test and you want to ensure it passes first time, make an appointment at your nearest Inchcape outlet for a free 33-part car health check. Our professionals can give their expert opinion on anything likely to fall foul of the rules, with a traffic light system highlighting anything that needs immediate attention (red) or indicates work is needed in the near future (amber).