Check it over before checking it in

Brits are wasting the cost of almost a tank of fuel paying for their car to be MOTd before they have given it a once-over examination themselves. As a consequence they are paying for a re-test when a quick bulb change or windscreen wiper blade replacement could have meant that their car passed first time.

Pre-MOT checks should include sitting in the driver’s seat and testing the handbrake, footbrake, seat belts, door catches, steering wheel and column for correct operation and excessive play. Look up and check that the windscreen is free of cracks or damage, check that the wiper blades are in good condition and that the lights and horn work.

Check the tyre tread depth – a minimum of 1.6mm over at least three-quarters of the tread width is the current legal requirement (though it’s best to fit new tyres well before the legal limit is reached). Tyres must be free of cuts, tears, lumps or bulges. The tester can refuse to examine a car which is filthy underneath – so a quick wash over may help too.

J Haynes, vice chairman and managing director at Haynes, the car manual specialists, said: "It takes very little time to check a car over before submitting it for an MOT test.

"Basic faults such as lights not working, worn wiper blades and insufficient tyre tread depth can easily be sorted out before the test. This is invariably cheaper than having your car fail the MOT test."

Figures gained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists Trust from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) show that first-time MOT failure rates in the UK are higher than in other European countries. There was a 21.6 per cent MOT failure rate recorded in 2007, with more than 271,000 of those failures due to lighting faults.

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