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Do electric cars need servicing and MOTs?

May 20, 2022 by

Those new to or considering an electric may be wondering if they need and MOT test and servicing; our guide explains all

The MOT test is an annual roadworthiness check required on all cars once they turn three years old, and electric cars (EVs) are no exception to this rule – but there are a couple of differences compared to petrol and diesel cars that it’s worth knowing about.

A service describes the periodic maintenance that cars require to keep them in good working order, although there is no legal requirement to get a car serviced. Electric cars require servicing, with intervals comparable to their petrol and diesel counterparts – though again, there are some differences.

This article will talk you through all you need to know about servicing an electric car and putting it through its MOT.

When do electric cars need servicing?

One thing to highlight: while there is no legal requirement to service your car, as well as being wise from a mechanical perspective, if you’ve bought your car using finance, chances are the contract will require you to get it serviced in-line with the manufacturer recommendations

Service regimes come in two main forms: scheduled and variable. Scheduled servicing is done based on a fixed time or mileage period, often every 12 months or 10,000 miles – whichever comes first.

Petrol and diesel cars have different servicing requirements from EVs

Variable servicing utilises a car’s on-board sensors to determine when it needs maintenance. How you drive and the sorts of journeys you undertake will determine when your car needs a service under a variable regime, but they can typically stretch intervals to two years.

Because electric cars have fewer moving parts, many manufacturers set longer service intervals for them than they do their own petrol and diesel models, and opt to set fixed rather than variable regimes for EVs.

A petrol or diesel Volkswagen on a fixed regime, for example, will need an oil change every 12 months or 9,000 miles, whichever comes first, while a variable regime can stretch this to 24 months and 18,000 miles.

By comparison, an electric VW ID.3 needs an inspection every two years, with no mileage limit.

Tesla, meanwhile, says its cars don’t require annual maintenance or regular fluid changes. Specific requirements vary depending on which Tesla you have, but the Model 3 needs its cabin air filter replaced and brake fluid checked every two years.

The Tesla Model 3 has specific service items that need checking at specific times

What is checked during a service?

One of the great things about electric cars is that they have far fewer moving parts than a petrol or diesel car. An engine and gearbox have around 2,000 moving parts, whereas an electric motor has around 20.

EVs don’t have oil and oil filters to change, for example, nor do they have cambelts that need changing, potentially saving you money.

It’s really important to still get an EV serviced, though: the brakes may last longer due to the regenerative braking (where the motor generates friction to slow the car) doing much of the work, but discs and pads do still wear, and so need checking.

Filters and fluids are two commonly changed items come service time

Similarly, it’s a good idea to check how much play there is in the steering and suspension – EV battery packs are heavy, and bushes (rubber sleeves between moving parts like control arms) can wear over time.

Dealers will also typically perform a health check of an electric car’s main battery come service time. And while EVs don’t have radiators and use coolant in the same way internal combustion engines do, their battery packs have cooling systems, and these will typically be checked during a service. The Kia Soul EV’s battery coolant requires changing every three years or 30,000 miles, for example.

What is checked when an EV is serviced can vary from car to car, but in broad terms the following items will be inspected and renewed or repaired if necessary:

  • Brake pads and discs
  • High-voltage cables
  • Cabin and air-conditioning filters
  • Battery coolant
  • Charging cable and port
  • Battery health
  • Steering linkages
  • Drive shafts
EV battery packs will typically be checked during a service

When do electric cars need an MOT?

The MOT requirements for electric cars are the same as those for petrol and diesel cars: from the third anniversary of its first registration, it will need an MOT each and every year. Fail to do this and you are breaking the law, risking a fine of up to £1,000.

You can sign up to get a notification sent to your phone or email account from the Government a month before your MOT is due – simply search for ‘MOT reminder service’ online to do this, and head to the Government page, or use our free MOT checker.

What is checked during an MOT?

During an MOT test, inspectors will check multiple aspects of your vehicle to a programme set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Testers will look at everything from whether your windscreen wipers are perished, to if your car has significant structural rust.

A rusty exhaust should be okay, but structural rust can see a car fail its MOT

There are too many individual areas to list, but think of an MOT as giving a 360-degree onceover to all aspects of your car, with the brakes, tyres, electrics, headlights, horn, mirrors, seatbelts – and more besides – being looked over.

Your car will automatically fail its MOT if warning lights for the electronic stability control, airbags, anti-lock brakes and tyre pressure monitoring systems are illuminated.

There is one key area where MOT tests electric cars differs from the tests petrol and diesel cars must go through: emissions.

Cars with internal combustion engines have a probe inserted into their exhausts at MOT time, and testers measure the level of pollutants emitted to check they are in-line with maximum legal requirements. Because electric cars do not produce emissions directly, there is nothing to check here.

How much does an electric car service and MOT cost?

Electric car MOT costs

If you use a main dealer, the cost of servicing an electric car is likely to be roughly equivalent to the cost of servicing a petrol or diesel model. This may seem counterintuitive given EVs don’t have an engine to check over, but they do have other aspects, such as the battery and motor control systems, that require inspection, while the suspension, steering and braking systems also need looking over, just as they do with all cars.

Buyers of new EVs will often be offered a monthly or annual service plan package, which will cover the cost of servicing over a fixed period of time (sometimes the length of the financial contract), for a fixed monthly or annual fee.

As an example, Volkswagen offer a service plan for their ID range of electric vehicles (the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.5), and this costs £338 a year, covering the cars’ annual services, MOT tests, plus brake fluid and pollen filter changes.

The VW ID.3 is available with fixed-price servicing

EVs need servicing by technicians who are trained in safely working with their high-voltage systems, so you may find yourself tied to main-dealer servicing. The number of independent garages able to work on EVs is increasing, though you may need to travel a little if you want to use an indy. The Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance’s website can locate your nearest EV-qualified independent garage.

Electric car MOT costs

This is far more straightforward than EV servicing costs: the maximum price garages can charge for an MOT test is £54.85. Some service centres may offer discounted MOT tests on the expectation your car may need work, and they may be the chosen garage to undertake that work, while some service plans (see above) include the cost of an MOT. Many motorists schedule their MOT tests with their annual servicing both for the sake of convenience, and because getting the car serviced can act as a ‘pre-check’ for the MOT, as well as entailing scheduled service work, such as oil changes.

Save on your next electric car

If you’re thinking of buying a new electric car, you can browse our latest offers from our trusted dealers on a wide range of electric vehicles.

carwow is also a great place to sell your existing motor – simply head to our sell my car page, upload some photos and our dealers will bid for your car, leaving you to choose the best price.