An MOT test (Ministry of Transport test) is a yearly examination of your car undertaken by a certified mechanic that’ll decide whether it’s safe to drive or if any repair work needs doing. Your car must have an MOT test once it’s three years old.
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What is an MOT?
An MOT is a yearly examination of your car that’ll make sure everything’s in safe working order and nothing presents a danger to you, your passengers or other road users. Your car’s emissions are also checked to make sure it’s not pumping out high levels of poisonous pollutants.
These tests must be performed by certified professionals – usually at a dedicated MOT testing centre – and are a legal requirement for most vehicles in the UK once they’re more than three years old.
What happens during an MOT test?
During an MOT test, your car will be scrutinised from top to bottom to make sure it’s safe to drive and it meets a host of legal requirements.
The Vehicle Identification Number – often called the VIN – will be checked, alongside the front and rear number plates to make sure they’re clearly visible and not cracked or broken. The headlights must be in good condition, provide a good level of light and must be aimed so they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
The windscreen must not have any chips or cracks larger than 10mm ahead of the driver, or larger than 40mm elsewhere. The wipers and washers will also be tested to make sure they clean and clear the windscreen thoroughly.
Many steering and suspension components will be checked for condition, operation and alignment. Poorly fitted items, worn joints or excessive corrosion could result in your car failing its MOT.
All seatbelts will be checked to make sure they aren’t torn, ripped or damaged while the mounts that fix them to the car’s chassis will be checked for corrosion. The seats themselves will also be checked.
The doors will be examined to make sure they close securely and can be opened from the inside and outside. The mirrors mustn’t be cracked, discoloured or poorly fitted and the horn will be tested to make sure it’s neither too loud nor too quiet.
All tyres must be in good condition and have tread deeper than 1.6mm while the wheels must be fixed to the car using appropriate bolts or nuts – any missing parts could result in a test failure.
The car’s brakes will be tested on a rolling road – a system that simulates the effects of a car accelerating and pulling to a stop. The brakes must apply an equal force to wheels on the left and right side of the car while the handbrake must have enough reserve travel to prevent the car from rolling down steep inclines.
The car’s bodywork and its chassis will be scrutinised for any cracks, sharp edges or rust. Specific structural areas, including around the suspension, doors, engine mounts and crumple zones, will need to be in better condition than less strained components, such as the bumpers.
Certain warning lights on the dashboard or large aftermarket body kits that prevent an MOT tester examining certain aspects of your car could mean it fails, too.
What cars are MOT Exempt?
Any car that was first registered before 1 January 1960 is exempt from MOT testing. In England, Scotland and Wales, most cars that are less than three years old are exempt, too. Once your car is older than these specified limits, you’ll have to have it inspected every year.
Different age limits apply for different vehicles. For example, taxis and ambulances must be tested every year from the date they are first registered while cars registered in Northern Ireland won’t require an MOT until they’re four years old.
What if I drive a car with no MOT?
Driving a car on the road without a valid MOT certificate is illegal and carries a fine of as much as £1,000. Usually, a £60 fixed penalty notice will be issued, however. You may only drive such a car on UK roads if you’re travelling to a pre-booked MOT appointment or to a garage to have your car repaired.
If your car is clearly not in roadworthy condition – even if it has a valid MOT – you could be fined as much as £2,500 and could receive points on your license, too.
When do I need to renew my car’s MOT?
MOTs must be renewed yearly and can be done up to a month before the original certificate expires. For example, if your car’s MOT expires on 5 July, you can have it re-tested as early as 6 June and not need to renew it until 5 July the following year.
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