For the majority of time, this is a travel and photography blog. But what is the essential tool that gets you places through your travels and your photo assignments? The car of course! In the UK, and I presume in most places around the world, every car is liable to a yearly inspection, so that you ensure it is safe to use on the public roads. Here, in the UK, this inspection is called an MOT Test (Ministry of Transport Test).
In the next month or so, my car, Chilli, the 1.0 Ford Fiesta, is due an MOT. Since I’ve had it, it has NEVER FAILED an MOT and I thought I would share some of my knowledge with you, so that you too can sail through your inspection. Note that this is mostly intended to my readers in the UK, but these tips also apply to the rest of the world, and will ensure your vehicle is safe to use.
MOT – What Is It?
The MOT Test is a test for vehicles in the UK that ensures a vehicle meets the road safety and environmental standards. This test can be carried out at a variety of service centers and garages, just make sure that the place you are going to displays the blue sign with the three white triangles. Otherwise, if a place advertises MOT’s but doesn’t display that sign, stay clear away of it!
The test should NOT cost more than £54.85 if you are trying to test a regular passenger car (max 8 seats) and you should only take your car in for it if it’s 3 years or older. It covers identification of the vehicle, braking and steering systems, visibility, lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment, axles, wheels, tyres and suspension, body structure and attachments, noise, emissions and safety features, such as seat belts or anti theft devices.
That may seem like a lot, but in reality it isn’t. In most cases the test takes about an hour and there are things you can do to ensure you never fail the MOT.
Tip 1 – Book In Advance
Did you know that you can go through an MOT test up to a month before it’s due to expire? For example, in my case, the MOT expires on the 27th of March every year. But I can go to an MOT center on the 27th of February (or any time thereafter until the 27th of March) to get it done. This means that, if the car fails, I can still drive it around to various garages or enough to give me time to come up with the funds to fix it in order to pass the MOT. This is because even if the car failed, it would come into effect after the current MOT expires.
Now that’s nice and all but how can we avoid getting in a failed MOT scenario in the first place?
As of May 2018, the Government issued updated rules with regards to this. There are 3 types of MOT Passes: Pass (vehicle meets all the rules and regulations and passes), Advisory (vehicle passes but there is an issue which you need to keep an eye on and repair it if it gets worse) and Minor (vehicle passes but has an issue which needs to be corrected ASAP). There are also 2 types of MOT Fails: Dangerous (vehicle fails because of a dangerous fault and cannot be driven until repaired) and Major (vehicle fails due to a major fault and needs to be repaired ASAP).
If you take your car in before the anniversary of your MOT and the car fails with a Dangerous fault, then you won’t be able to drive it, even though your current certificate hasn’t expired yet!
If the car gets a Major fail, and your current MOT certificate is still valid, you may be able to drive the car, UNLESS certain defects it has make it unroadworthy. If you are caught driving a car which has had an MOT Major failure before its current MOT expiry date and is unroadworthy, you will be fined up to £2500, get a driving ban and 3 points on the license!
Tip 2 – Vehicle Health Check
Here’s something I found useful when going to the dealership: they provide a free vehicle health check which covers the majority of items being checked in an actual MOT, free of charge, albeit with the condition that you do the MOT with them. If there is anything that would be flagged up during the actual inspection, they will let you know so you have enough time to make a decision about it. To make things even better, this will not be put on the vehicle’s record, so that in case there was something wrong with it and it would have failed, the records won’t show that the vehicle failed an MOT.
Brilliant! This applies to the majority of dealerships and private service centers. Just go in and ask for a health check or inspection prior to the MOT so that you ensure everything is good to go and you will always get a pass.
If, for some reason you can’t find a place that can offer such a service, there are still a lot of things you could do yourself to ensure the vehicle will always pass, and you won’t believe how silly these things can be!
Tip 3 – Every Day Vehicle Checks
I spend a lot of time on Autotrader, looking at potential cars to upgrade to (I know, I love cars, but forever broke) and when I find one that looks good, I like to do a quick free check online to verify the type of mileage it did and how it was looked after. The government offers this free service where you can just punch in the car’s registration number and it will show you it’s MOT history. I am appalled sometimes to see cars with failed MOT’s for silly reasons such as worn out tyres or insufficient washer fluid.
With that in mind, here are some checks you can do yourself.
a). Inside the Car
- make sure the seats don’t knock or move about when they are fixed; make sure they adjust smoothly
- make sure the seat belt doesn’t have any tears or any signs that could mean it’s structural integrity is compromised; make sure it retracts smoothly; when fastened, tug on it abruptly to check if it locks into place; make sure the seat belt anchor is not lose (of course do this for all the seat belts)
- make sure there are no lights on the dashboard after the car has started (e.g. check engine light, abs light etc)
- make sure the instruments are fully functional
- make sure the glass (windshield, side windows, rear window) is clean and provides good visibility out the car; if the windscreen has more than a 10mm crack in front of a driver (the area swept by the wiper blade) you will need to fix it/change the windscreen, otherwise you will fail
- make sure the carpets do not obstruct the operation of the pedals; make sure the breaking system has pressure (with the car off, pump the breaks and the pedal should harden up)
- check spare wheel (if any) for pressure and usage
- and last but not least, make sure you remove any bits and bobs you have lying around in the car and give it a good clean (including the trunk); you would be surprised to find out that testers can fail your car because there was a bottle between the pedals or there was so much junk in the trunk (ahem) that they couldn’t get to the spare wheel; some testers outright refuse to test the car in the first place if it’s really dirty inside!
- turn the steering wheel from lock to lock and listen for obvious grinds or knocks
- in a safe environment, make sure the car stops to a halt without grinding noises or heavy puling to one side
- while driving, listen for various rumbling/grinding/humming noises – it could mean an important safety component needs replacing or the car will fail its MOT
b). Outside the Car
- check ALL the lights – make sure they all work, and that there are no serious scratches or damage to the light fixtures that it affects the beam of light (you risk failing an MOT if one of your bulbs is out – including trivial things like license plate lights!!!). How silly would it be if you just paid 55 quid all joly that your car is only 3 years old and it will fly through it’s first MOT only to find out that it failed because of a 2 pound bulb and now you have to pay 55 again to test it! Ouch!
- make sure your wiper blades don’t smear – again a silly overlook that can cost you an extra MOT fee when all you needed to do was get a new set of wipers
- make sure your windshield washer and rear washer work and that they spray only on the windows; more importantly though, check that you have ENOUGH washer fluid in your reservoir; again painful to think that you have to pay for another MOT because you forgot to fill up the washer fluid reservoir!
- on the same note, make sure you have at least half a tank of fuel; the car will be running stationary for a while while the test is carried out and you don’t want it to run out of juice – if that happens, it’s an instant fail!
- check the tyres: make sure they are worn evenly, that their pressure is correct, that there are no cracks or bulges in them; there might be tread on them but if they are really old, they can have cracks/splits/bulges on the sidewall and that is a serious safety concern, hence you will fail; of course, check the tread depth: there are dimples in every tread of the tyre and if the tyre surface is level with those dimples it’s time to change them or you will fail!
- check that your wheels are not dented or cracked; my first car I ever bought failed it’s MOT because one of the alloys had a dent on the inside lip!
- check for rust on the car – if it’s on the doors or places where you are interacting with the car, it can pose a threat while you are entering/exiting the car
c). The Engine Bay and Underneath
- check inside the engine bay: coolant, break fluid, oil and power steering fluid should all be at the correct levels (this is something that you should normally due once or twice a month anyways)
- look for any obvious signs of leaks
- find a high curb and park the car with one side on it, one side on the road so you can slide under and look for the following:
- major rust (you can break bits of the component with your hands) on important structural components such as the frame/underbody of the car, suspension components, exhaust pipe, break/fuel lines and fuel tank
- look for obvious leaks under the car
- look at the break pads and rotors – if the break pads are completely worn out (no friction material – MOT fail); if the rotor has a thick lip or is scored or cracked – MOT fail!
So there you have it! Print this off on a little sheet of paper and go have a quick look at your car. It only takes about half an hour and you will ensure, to the best of your abilities, that the car will pass it’s MOT. Combine this with a free vehicle check to iron out any issue that only a trained eye can see and you will NEVER FAIL an MOT.
If you want to know more, head to the the government’s website for more information about the MOT.
Alternatively, RAC have a book which outlines more information. You can support My Saturday Drive, by purchasing it from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Td3nnF
I hope you find these little tips valuable and I hope I saved you some money! In any case, how do you feel about the MOT? Will your car pass? Let me know in the comments below!
If you want to know more about my thoughts on the Ford Fiesta, read my review!