MOT Fundamentals

First introduced in the UK as part of the 1960 Road Traffic Act, the MOT test is an annual occurrence for millions of drivers across the UK.

At present, any car that is over three years-old must legally have an MOT test at an approved testing centre every year. The test is specifically designed to check a wide variety of technical elements of a vehicle. It follows strict criteria set by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to see whether a vehicle is fit for purpose and in a roadworthy condition. It also measures and detects toxic emissions that could harm the environment.

But what actually happens to a vehicle at the MOT testing centre? What does an MOT test involve? And why are they important?

At the approved MOT testing centre

An MOT test can only be carried out by a DVSA-approved examiner at an MOT approved testing centre – look for this sign to ensure the garage or test centre is approved by the Department for Transport. The examiner will assess the vehicle and carry out a detailed inspection to check it is safe and roadworthy. On average, the MOT test will take 45-60 minutes to complete. An MOT test is not the same as having a vehicle serviced and it does not check the mechanical condition.

What does the MOT test involve?

The examiner will focus on checking the following components to ensure each one meets with the standard required by the DVSA.

  • Vehicle Identification Number or VIN

The VIN is a unique code and serial number that is stamped on the vehicle at the time of manufacture. It must be present and legibly displayed on the vehicle.

  • Registration plate

The condition, security, legibility and format of letters and numbers on your registration plate will be checked. The spacing and lettering must not have been altered and must meet current regulations.

  • Lights

All of the lights on your vehicle including fog lamps, daylight running lights and reversing lights are inspected to assess their condition, operation, security and colour. The examiner will also check that the headlamp aim is correct.

  • Steering and suspension

Steering and suspension components are examined to ensure they operate correctly and that they are in the appropriate condition.

  • Wipers and washer bottle

Drivers must have a clear view of the road so your vehicle’s wipers and washers will be looked at to make sure they function effectively.

  • Windscreen

Your windscreen will be examined for any chips or cracks. Maximum damage size in the driver’s sight line is 10mm or 40mm elsewhere in the area covered by the wiper blades.

  • Horn

The examiner will sound the vehicle’s horn for effectiveness and suitability.

  • Seatbelts

The type, condition, correct operation and security are all seatbelts throughout the vehicle will be checked. The examiner will also ascertain whether all compulsory seatbelts are in place.

  • Seats

The front seats of the vehicle will be checked for security.

  • Fuel system

The MOT test will check for any leaks in the fuel system and ensure that the fuel cap fastens and seals securely

  • Emissions

Exhaust emissions are analysed to gauge whether they are in the permitted guidelines and levels for the type of vehicle. The actual exhaust is also inspected to ensure it is complete, secure, without leaks and that it silences effectively.

  • Bodywork

The structure and body shell of the vehicle is examined for excessive corrosion or damage to specific areas. A sharp edge, for example, can result in the vehicle failing its MOT.

  • Doors

Do the doors open and close correctly and does the latch remain secure in a closed position? It is imperative that front doors open from the inside and outside of the vehicle.

  • Mirrors

The condition and security of both the rear view and side mirrors of the vehicle will be checked.

  • Wheels and tyres

Wheels and tyres are assessed on a number of important points. These include their condition, security, tyre size and type and tread depth. The tread-depth must be 1.6mm or more.

  • Brakes

Typically using a roller brake tester, the examiner will check the efficiency of the vehicle’s braking performance, condition and operation.

Why is an MOT important?

It’s the law! If a vehicle is three years old or more, the MOT test is a legal, annual requirement. You must have a valid MOT certificate to ensure the vehicle is legally roadworthy and to tax the vehicle. If you realise your MOT has expired and you haven’t booked it in for an MOT, make an appointment immediately and do not drive your vehicle. You will be prosecuted if you are found driving your vehicle on the road! The only exception to this is if you are actually driving the vehicle to the approved MOT test centre for a pre-booked MOT test.

It’s all about safety

At the end of the day, the MOT test is there is ensure that all vehicles that are being driven in the UK are roadworthy, fit for purpose and, ultimately, safe. As the owner of a vehicle you have a huge responsibility to yourself, your passengers, other road users and pedestrians. Your safety, and theirs, is in your hands, so check your MOT certificate today!