Every year around four in 10 cars fail the UK MOT test yet the government claims that around half of all failures could be easily prevented. Although garages frequently don’t charge for retests when it’s just a minor fault, having garages fix problems that drivers could frequently rectify themselves can cause unnecessary cost.
Cars must pass the annual UK MOT roadworthiness test when they get to three years old. And in March 2019, more cars than ever will take the test. That’s because in March 2016, 609,000 new cars were sold – the biggest month for new car sales in 20 years. Now they must take the UK MOT test. Here are the main points drivers should look out for.
The most popular reason cars fail their MOT is because lights or turn indicators don’t work. It’s easy to check these. Simply turn the lights on and walk around the car while it’s safely parked, checking all the lights including fog lights if the car has them. Then turn the ignition on and check the indicators. Finally – and you’ll need an assistant for this – with the car’s parking brake on and the brake pedal pressed, start the engine and put it in reverse gear. Then ask your assistant to check that the brake and reversing lights are all working.
Why it’s a money saver
On some cars it can be simple to change blown bulbs yourself. And it’s frequently cheaper to buy bulbs from a motor retailer than to have them supplied by the garage. What’s more, some garages will fit new bulbs for free.
Around eight per cent of MOT failures are to do with tyres. And according to Continental, drivers have forked out a remarkable £30m over the past three years replacing tyres at MOT time. Check that all your tyres have the correct air pressure and buy a simple tread depth gauge. You then need to verify that all your tyres have the minimum 1.6mm of tread depth. Safety experts recommend that you change tyres once the tread depth falls below 3mm. Finally, inspect your tyres closely. You’re looking for cuts, bulges, and foreign bodies stuck in the tyres. And don’t forget to check the spare wheel too.
Why it’s a money saver
Shopping around for tyres can save you big money. And frequently you can buy tyres online and have them sent to the garage for fitting.
Around one in 10 MOT failures are because of dodgy brakes. First of all, open the bonnet and check that the brake fluid reservoir is filled to the correct level. Then go for a drive. On a straight road and when it’s safe to do so, brake heavily. Make sure there are no strange noises and that the car doesn’t pull to one side as it comes to a halt. If it does, alert the garage before the MOT test.
Driver’s view of the road
Around 7 per cent of UK MOT failures are because drivers can’t see the road clearly. First check that there aren’t any stickers, toys or air fresheners obscuring your view out from the driver’s seat. Then look carefully at the windscreen. Are there any chips or cracks? If these are in the driver’s field of vision, it could result in an MOT failure. Check the wipers too. The blades should be replaced if they’re damaged in any way. And top up your washer bottle with the correct fluid. Also make sure the rear-view mirrors are in good condition and can be adjusted.
While you can’t fail your MOT for having a dirty car, imagine things from an MOT tester’s point of view for a moment. If a car turns up and it’s filthy, it shows the driver doesn’t care about it. If they can’t be bothered to wash it, a tester is instantly going to ask what else they can’t be bothered doing. And of course, it’s common courtesy: just because someone works in a garage it doesn’t mean they enjoy getting dirty!
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.