• Things to know
• Stuff to do
• Points to remember
Originally introduced in the 1960s for vehicles (cars and vans) more than 10 years old, The 10 Year Test, as it was called, focused on the condition of the vehicle’s lights, brakes and steering. By 1967, after adopting the title the Ministry of Transport test, or MoT for short, the age of which the vehicle had to be tested had been reduced to three years from the date of its original registration and as their popularity and complexity increased, the scope of the test expanded considerably and by the 1990s, it also included the vehicle’s exhaust emissions.
Now many important components are checked to ensure that they meet the legal standards and that the vehicle is safe to drive, with any defects categorised as dangerous, major or minor.
Due to the combination of ongoing technological developments and a reduction in the mechanical aptitude of the typical motorist, vehicle manufacturers now discourage owners from undertaking anything but the most basic checks – generally confined to just tyre pressures and fluid levels. As a result, the MoT has now become the only annual safety check that many motorists have undertaken and therefore the thing they rely on to ensure their vehicle meets the minimum road safety standards.
When your car becomes three years old, you are legally obliged to have an MoT, but if you struggle to remember when it’s due, you can sign up for government reminders by text message or email.
Without a valid MoT, your car is automatically considered not roadworthy, you won’t be able to renew your vehicle insurance, and therefore you are not legally able to drive it.
The MoT does not directly cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, but does look at other key components and, as emissions are tested, your engine will need to be running cleanly, therefore it’s good to keep on top of your car’s maintenance in order for it to pass.
The MoT tester will look at the body structure and general condition, ensuring that it’s free from excessive damage. They’ll also look at tow bars, fuel and exhaust systems, seatbelts, seats, doors, mirrors, load security, brakes, wheels, tyres, vehicle lights, the bonnet, the windscreen, windscreen wipers/washers, the horn, steering, suspension and electrical components. It sounds like a lot, so just how do you make sure all those things are working correctly?
Naturally, there will be things that you can’t check yourself, which is why it is wise to have your vehicle serviced regularly by a reputable professional. However, there are parts you can inspect yourself to make sure are in good condition and working correctly beforehand.
According to the MoT manual, there are three acceptable rear-view mirror positions:
1. An exterior mirror or device that provides a view along the offside of the vehicle
2. An exterior mirror or device that provides a view along the nearside of the vehicle
3. An interior mirror or a device which provides a view to the rear of the vehicle
So, check all your vehicle’s obligatory mirrors are intact, ensuring that none are cracked, have an exposed damaged edge or are impairing your view.
A fault warning on your dashboard shouldn’t be ignored, but will also be picked up in the test and could cause the vehicle to fail. So, to avoid it becoming a potentially dangerous problem, it’s sensible to get the problem resolved by a professional technician as soon as possible.
It’s vital that your vehicle has the correct tread depth across the entire width of each of its tyres (including the spare) because, if they are too shallow or the tread partly worn away, it will affect your safety and the vehicle’s stopping distance, particularly in wet weather.
Tyres worn beyond the legal limit can result in a large fine and three penalty points on your licence for each offending tyre!
The minimum legal tyre tread in the UK is 1.6mm, in a continuous band that wraps around the central three-quarters of the tyre.
You can quickly check the tread with the help of a 20p coin. Simply insert it into the grooves and if they’re legal, you’ll be able to see the outer band of the coin.
All the lights on your vehicle must be working correctly, even the bulbs illuminating the number plate, so check them all, including the condition of the lenses. As checking the brake lights is not easy, it makes life much easier if you get someone to help you. Headlight alignment is also part of the test, so if in doubt, get a professional technician to check and, if necessary, reset the alignment before the test
With the vehicle parked safely on a flat surface and, with a cool engine, open the bonnet and locate the master cylinder reservoir. You’ll see ‘min’ and ‘max’ markings on the side and the fluid within the container needs to be between these two instructions.
Check the level of the engine oil before taking your vehicle for an MoT because if it’s too low, the garage will not be able to run the engine and test its exhaust emissions, which means it will fail.
You can check the oil level with the dipstick. With the vehicle parked safely on a flat surface and with a cool engine, open the bonnet and locate the dipstick, which usually has a yellow or blue coloured ring or handle. Pull it out and, using a rag or paper towel, wipe off any excess oil to ensure it is clean. Replace the dipstick back in its hole, making sure it’s fully home, and remove it again, which should show oil residue somewhere between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ marking on the dipstick. If it is on or below the ‘min’ mark, carefully top up the level with the correct specification oil (this information can be found in your owner’s manual) via the oil filler cap.
Windscreens can be a minefield to assess because some marks will pass an MoT, whilst others won’t.
As long as a mark is not more than 10mm in length or diameter and is not obstructing the driver’s view or on the driver’s side of the windscreen, or if the mark is no larger than 40mm on the rest of the windscreen, then you should be okay. These marks include chips, cracks or significant scratches, but if in doubt, get it checked by a professional.
Whilst you’re checking your windscreen, don’t forgot to check that your washer reservoir has enough liquid (screen wash, not washing-up liquid or soap!) in it and that your wiper blades, including the rear, are in good working order, making sure the rubber in contact with the glass is still flexible and not damaged.
Probably the quickest and easiest test to do, and the chances are that if it didn’t work, you’d already be aware of it and would have had it fixed.
This may seem unnecessary, but it’s a good idea to clean your vehicle before carrying out your pre-MoT checks. Although your vehicle will not fail its MoT if it’s a little on the dirty side, you need to ensure that number plates are dirt-free, so they are easy to read, and that the effectiveness of your lights is not hindered by dirt on their lenses, so keeping it clean makes sense.
Although the need for an MoT may serve as the only reminder that you have to check certain parts of your vehicles, to help maintain its safety and maximise its efficiency, it’s sensible to stay on top of its upkeep all year round. Therefore, regular maintenance by a professional technician not only ensures your vehicle keeps running smoothly, it also helps to maintain is value.
Yes. Just like any other vehicle, once it’s three years old, an electric vehicle must undertake an annual MoT test. The only difference is, that as it has a motor rather than an engine, the emissions level test isn’t required.