Ten Simple checks you can do yourself

The reason for the MOT test is quite simply to check that your vehicle meets the required road safety and environmental standards, so that it can be driven safely on the road. It is a legal requirement once the vehicle is three years old and then every year after that. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) “Around 1.5 million vehicles fail their MOT due to simple things such as faulty bulbs, too little tyre tread, or even empty windscreen washer fluid bottles”.

MOT Test station

You really don’t need to be a mechanic to carry out a few basic checks before the MOT and they should only take you ten to fifteen minutes. Once you’ve completed these checks, you will have a much better chance of passing the MOT test first time round and not failing on something silly such as a faulty bulb or blocked washer jet. Apart from these simple checks, one of the most important things you can do is to have your vehicle serviced regularly. At least once a year and ideally just before the MOT is due. That should then pick up on any major problems which could lead to an MOT failure and will also help it to pass the emissions tests.

  1. Lights – by far the main reason for MOT failures, yet one of the easiest to fix! Check all the lights are working correctly, especially the headlamps dipped and main beams. Don’t forget to check the fog lights and their respective warning lights on the dashboard. When checking the brake lights, it’s much easier if you can get someone to help. If not you can always reverse up to a garage door or similar, so you can see the reflection when sitting in the drivers seat. TIP: If there’s a light out which comes back on when you bang it, don’t trust it. It’s probably a faulty bulb or a bad connection and is certain to let you down in the middle of the MOT. So get it fixed!
  2. Tyres – another major cause for failed MOT’s. Visually check the tyres for excessive wear or damage, making sure to check the inside tyre walls which are more difficult to spot. The minimum legal tyre tread depth is 1.6mm , this should be in a continuous band around the circumference of the tyre and cover three quarters the width of the tread. Of course the deeper the tread the safer the tyre, especially when driving in winter. Make sure the tyre pressures are correct and at the same time, it’s a good idea to check that all the wheel nuts are secure. TIP: Correct tyre pressures prevent excessive and uneven wear, and can actually save you money on fuel costs!
  3. Windscreen and Mirrors – windscreens must be free from cracks and other damage within the driver’s field of vision, although small stone chips are acceptable. Rear view mirrors both internal and external, should be secure with no damage to the glass and capable of being adjusted. Make sure that you have a clear view through the windscreen with no obstructions or distractions such as objects hanging from the rear view mirror.
  4. Windscreen wipers, washer fluid and washer jets should all be inspected. Wipers should be in good condition, with no damage or splitting. We recommended that wiper blades are changed every twelve months, so if they are showing any signs of wear, replace them or they could damage the screen. TIP: Sometimes, wiper blades can be a bit tricky to change, don’t worry as we offer free fitting at our store in Warrington! Make sure to check the washer jets are working correctly and clean them out with a pin if necessary. Top up the windscreen washer bottle with a good quality seasonal screen wash.
  5. Seat belts and seats should be checked for signs of wear or damage. Check that they operate correctly and that the seat belts are secured correctly and showing no signs of fraying along the edges. Make sure the seats are secure and slide freely on their runners.
  6. Warning lights and the horn should all be checked from inside the car with the ignition on. Check the ABS and Air Bag warning light operation by checking that they illuminate when the ignition is on, then go out and remain out when the engine is running. This method can also be used for most of the other warning lights on the instrument panel.
  7. Check the condition of the front and rear number plates. They must be in good condition and fixed securely. Make sure there are no cracks or splitting that will allow water ingress which will lead to failure of the plate and then failure of the MOT! Also check that the spacing of the letters and numbers on the plates are correct and that the BS standard is clearly shown. DRB Car Spares are approved number plate suppliers registered with the DVLA, so if you need any help or advice, just ask us.
  8. Brake Fluid – make sure you switch of the engine, then open the bonnet. Refer to the owners handbook if necessary, then check the brake fluid reservoir level. Top up as required. TIP: If the level is unusually low or you have to top it up frequently, it may be that you have a leak. This could prove to be very dangerous so should be checked out immediately.
  9. Fluid leaks – while the bonnet is up and the engine switched off, it’s a good idea to check around the engine bay for any fluid leaks. If you see any fluids or leaks that obviously shouldn’t be there, make sure you investigate further and fix the problem.
  10. With the engine running, check the exhaust system for any leaks (noisy or blowing). Give the engine a rev and check the exhaust  outlet for excessive smoke which could lead to a failure with the emission test. If you’re not sure, then many additives are available in store which will help to reduce emissions. We will be glad to advise on the most suitable products for your particular needs. Finally now would be a good time to visually check under the vehicle, especially under the engine/gearbox, for any other fluid leaks not visible from above.

Failing an MOT test can be both frustrating and inconvenient but most of all it can be costly! So follow these 10 simple steps and pass that MOT first time!

Happy Motoring!

For more information about the MOT test:

For more motoring advice and tips check out the ‘Motoring Advice’ section on our website:

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