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MOT checks – what do I need to know?

Let’s get the basics over with first though… what does the acronym  MOT stand for? Well, it’s from the now defunct Ministry of Transport, the Department of Transport being its modern equivalent.

MOT: checklist

  • MOT is annual health check for your car
  • Test is for cars over three years old
  • Checks ensure brakes, steering, wheels and tyres, fuel system etc are in good working order
  • Price for MOT is capped
  • Five possible outcomes of MOT test: Pass, Advisory, Minor defect, Major defect and Dangerous defect
  • You can sign up for free MOT reminder service so you don’t forget
  • Check MOT history checker if you are buying a used car

What is checked?

As its acronymic name hints at, the purpose of an MOT is to ensure your car is roadworthy or safe to drive. It’s not a safeguard against mechanical failure of, say, the engine or gearbox, but it will ensure things like the steering and brakes are safe, and in good working order as a result. The MOT also covers your car’s fuel system, exhaust, tyres, wheels, body structure, lights and windscreen. But also safety features such as your car’s wipers, seatbelts and some warning lights. Remember, though, the test is only a snapshot of your car’s health on a given day. You should carry our regular checks throughout the year to make sure your brakes and tyres and in good working order and within legal limits, and that the car’s fluids are at the correct levels.

When’s my MOT due?

Your car will be subject to an MOT three years after it was first registered – so if the car was registered on 1 February 2019 its first MOT will fall on 1 February 2022. Forgetting a date three years in the future is easy to do so it’s worth signing up to the Government’s free reminder service – it’ll text or email you a month in advance of an impending MOT test.

Cost of an MOT?

The cost of an MOT depends on the garage you take your car to – the good news is that the price can’t exceed a Government cap of £54.85 and many garages will charge you less than half that.

Types of MOT passes and fails?

There are five possible outcomes of taking your car for an MOT – it’ll either get a Pass, be given an Advisory, a Minor defect, a Major defect or a Dangerous defect. A Pass is self-explanatory – your car is deemed safe and no further action is required until the vehicle’s next MOT in 12 months time. Even if your car picks up an Advisory or a Minor, it’s still legally drivable. The former means there’s a problem you need to keep an eye on, maybe the tread on a tyre is close to the legal limit. Minor faults should be fixed ASAP – a Minor could mean something like one of your three brake lights is broken.

Major defects are, well, more major – your car can’t legally be driven unless the fault’s been fixed or (if your present MOT hasn’t expired) you’re driving to a garage to get it fixed. A Major defect means the car presents a potential safety risk to its occupants or others. That said, a Major defect can be picked up for something as innocuous-sounding – and as cheap to fix – as a faulty wiper blade. That leaves Dangerous defects – get one of those and the car can’t be driven on the road even if the current MOT hasn’t expired or you’re driving to a garage for repair. Complete brake light failure would fall under this category.

How long does the MOT take?

The actual MOT test shouldn’t take longer than 60 minutes – but that doesn’t mean the process will be that quick for you. Most garages will request you drop the car off in the morning and pick it up later that day. If you work 9-5 it’ll probably be easier to get the car at the end of the day. Of course, that only counts if your car passes with a clean bill of health. If it fails and your old MOT has expired, your car can only be driven directly to a repair centre – drive anywhere else and you risk prosecution and invalidating the car’s insurance policy. Dangerous fails mean the car can’t be driven until the problem is fixed.

Getting the MOT history of a car

While MOTs can be a pain when you’re a car owner – the history they rack up can be very revealing if you’re in the market to buy a used car and it can be accessed using the Government MOT History Checker. Simply input the number plate of the car you’re looking to buy and it’ll bring up its MOT history – allowing you to see things like major repairs completed or if the car has outstanding Minor defects that’ll need attention. For more helpful tips on buying and owning a car, sign up to the carwow newsletter at the top of your screen.