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What is the MOT?

What is the MOT?

A valid MOT is needed for vehicles more than three years old to ensure they are roadworthy. You’ll also need proof of a valid MOT when you apply for your annual car tax.

Here’s a look at the checks vehicles must undergo to pass their MOT, including some recent changes to MOT rules.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
posted 29 OCTOBER 2019

What is the MOT?

The MOT is a legally required annual inspection for cars, motorcycles and light goods vehicles. Vehicles more than three years old must be submitted for testing at an authorised MOT centre.

The centre will then carry out various tests, which the vehicle must pass to receive its MOT certificate, and it’s valid for the following 12 months. The maximum MOT fee that centres can charge for a car is £54.85 and £29.65 for a standard motorbike.

It is illegal to drive on UK roads without a valid MOT unless you’re on your way to a pre-booked MOT inspection. You can be fined up to £1,000 for driving a vehicle without a valid MOT.

What are the MOT rule changes?

Although in January 2018 the government decided against extending first MOTs to four years instead of three, five changes to the test were introduced on 20 May 2018.

1. Defects are now categorised as:

  • Dangerous – an immediate risk to road safety or a serious impact on the environment. A dangerous defect will result in a fail. You won’t be allowed to drive the vehicle until it’s been repaired.
  • Major – it may affect road safety, put others at risk or have a serious impact on the environment. A major defect will result in a fail and your vehicle must be repaired immediately.
  • Minor – no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment. A minor defect should result in a pass, but repairs should be carried out as soon as possible.
  • Advisory – a minor problem that could become worse in the future. Your vehicle will pass but you should monitor and repair the problem if necessary.
  • Pass – it meets the minimum legal standard resulting in a pass. You should make sure it continues to meet the standard.

2. Diesel cars with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) will undergo more rigorous controls. If there’s evidence that the DPF has been tampered with, or coloured smoke is emitted from the exhaust, your vehicle will get a major fault resulting in a fail.

3. Further controls have been added to the MOT inspection including more thorough checks of tyres, brake fluid, fluid leaks that could pose a threat to the environment, brake pad warning lights, reversing lights and headlight washers on vehicles first used from 1 September 2009.

4. The design of the MOT certificate has changed. It now lists any defects under the new categories, so they are clearer and easier to understand.

5. Vehicles over 40 years old that haven’t been substantially modified will no longer need their MOT inspection.

What is checked during the MOT?

The MOT is a comprehensive inspection and currently includes the following checks:

Body and structure – to ensure the body of the vehicle isn’t excessively corroded or damaged and that there are no sharp edges likely to cause injury.

Fuel system – to ensure there are no leaks and the fuel cap is secure and sealed.

Exhaust emissions – the vehicle must meet the requirements for exhaust emissions depending on its fuel type and age.

  • Exhaust system – to ensure the exhaust is secure, complete, silences effectively, and there are no signs of serious leaks.
  • Seat belts – all belts both front and rear are checked for condition, operation and security. All compulsory seat belts must be in place.

What else is checked during the MOT?

  • Seats – must be secure and able to be secured in the upright position.
  • Doors – all doors must close securely. Front doors should open from inside and outside the vehicle.
  • Mirrors – the minimum numbers should be on the vehicle, and should be in good condition and securely fixed in position.
  • Brakes – operation and performance will be tested.
  • Tyres – condition and security will be checked including their size, type and thread.
  • Number plates – condition, security and checks that characters have the correct form and spacing.
  • Lights – condition, operation and security. Headlamps are also tested for their aim.
  • Washers and wipers – condition, operation and a check that they leave a clear view of the road.
  • Horn – operates correctly and is of a suitable type.
  • Suspension and steering – condition and operation.
  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) – checked against the registration for vehicles first registered on or after 1 August 1980.

When do I need to book the MOT?

MOTs must be carried out every 12 months for vehicles three years old or over. If your car was brand new when you bought it, it will need its first MOT on its third anniversary.

If you buy a second-hand car, check that it has a valid MOT, and when the next one is due. It’s your responsibility to ensure it has its MOT inspection once a year.

You can put your vehicle in for its MOT test up to 28 days in advance of the expiry date without losing any days on the certificate. So, for example, if the MOT is due on 30 April and you have your car tested on the 15 April, your MOT will run up until 30th April of the following year.

What happens if my car fails its MOT, or the MOT has expired?

If your car fails the MOT for a defect in the dangerous category, you won’t be able to drive it until it’s been repaired. You’ll be issued a ‘refusal of MOT test certificate’ and it will be recorded on the MOT database.

Driving a car that has failed its MOT because of a defect in the dangerous category can result in a fine of up to £2,500, three penalty points on your licence, and even a driving ban.

You can drive your vehicle away to be repaired if no dangerous defects were listed and your current MOT is still valid.

If your MOT has expired, you can still take your vehicle to a pre-arranged MOT test appointment.

Driving without a valid MOT in any other circumstances is illegal and will also invalidate your car insurance.

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