How to fail your MOT

There’s no denying it – How to fail your MOTowning a car comes with a lot of bills to consider: road tax, insurance and fuel costs. All of this comes out of your pocket even if the vehicle gives you no trouble at all! With all of these considerations it can be frustrating to have to pay up for the yearly renewal of your vehicle’s MOT certificate on top of everything else, but it’s something you really don’t want to forget or risk ignoring. Here’s why…

What is an MOT?

An MOT is a yearly check on the mechanical health of your vehicle. Any approved garage can perform it at a cost of £54.85 for cars, motor caravans and other vehicles with up to eight seats. For motorcycles, it’s £29.65. Certainly, it’s a little annoying to have to pay that cost every year even if your vehicle is in tip-top condition but the cost of not doing it can quickly outstrip this relatively minor expense.

Driving without a valid MOT certificate is against the law and if you’re stopped by the police, you could be prosecuted for it. That’s likely to run up a bill much larger than 50 quid, not to mention the hassle factor and unpleasantness of going to court. Also, if you don’t get checked, your car or bike might suffer a parts failure that could have been discovered and solved earlier in a much cheaper and more convenient way.

What is checked on my MOT?

The MOT is a comprehensive examination of your vehicle’s safety and road-worthiness levels. Like any test, its severity will depend quite a bit on the tester themselves. The test is standard but some mechanics will pick through your car with a fine-tooth comb whereas others will be more lenient. There is, however, a standard checklist that any MOT tester will follow to pass or fail your vehicle. They’ll be checking over 100 items, including:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Registration number
  • Lights
  • Brakes
  • Fuel system
  • Steering and suspension
  • Seat belts and safety features
  • Tyres and wheels (including pressure monitoring system, if fitted)
  • Exhaust and emissions (including diesel particulate filter, if fitted)
  • Windscreen
  • Wipers and washers
  • Mirrors and horn
  • Underneath the vehicle and its general condition

How to fail your MOT

So, we’ve established that it’s better all round to have an MOT each year to stay legal and verify the mechanical health of your vehicle. The MOT test is relatively inexpensive; however, if the mechanic finds something wrong, you’ll need to have the faulty part repaired or replaced, which can quickly drive up costs. So if you blindly drive into the garage with nothing but hope in your back pocket, there’s a higher chance you’re going to fail the test when you could have made some simple checks that might have got your car through.

The following are the cardinal errors made by motorists who are destined to fail, so bear them in mind before MOT time and you can improve your chances of passing, even if you’re not a spanner-wielding mechanical genius:

Registration and VIN discrepancies: Fish out the vehicle’s logbook to check that your number plate and VIN details match. This is an easy check but if there’s any discrepancy, your vehicle can be failed for it.

Broken lights: Methodically check that all of the lights are in good working order. Work through the headlights, brake lights, fog lamps, rear lights and indicator lights to see if there are any blown bulbs. If you have the time and inclination, it’s cheaper to replace any blown bulbs yourself, rather than letting the mechanic do it (they charge for their time and the parts). Consult the car’s manual and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that it’s usually a quick and easy task.

Tyres worn below legal tread depth: A constant source of MOT failures, worn tyres are a strict no-go. If any of them are under the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, it’s an instant fail. Routinely checking your tyres makes vital safety and economic sense. Make sure that if the tyres are directional, the arrow on them points the right way as that will be an MOT failure too. Never replace tyres with ‘part worns’ as you don’t know their history. Get the wheels balanced and tracking checked at the same time.

Chipped windscreen and non-functioning wipers: Any chips in the windscreen should be immediately apparent and it’s always best to sort them out before they become a crack and an MOT failure. Also give your wipers a quick check to see if they’re worn. They can be cheaply and easily replaced so there’s no need to leave it to the mechanic. Give the screen wash fluid a top up too, just to keep the extra-strict testers happy.

Worn or broken seat belts: Modern car seat belts are well designed and extremely durable but if you have a very old vehicle or if its seen a lot of use, then the seat belts could be worn or might buckle ineffectively, making them an instant source of failure. You know the drill by now: if they need replacing, it’s cheaper to do it yourself.

Failing due to minor faults: Check the horn sounds correctly, your mirrors are adjustable and undamaged and the petrol cap fits properly around the seal. Give the screen wash fluid a top up too. All of these minor checks are worth making if it means the difference between passing and failing.

Messiness: While you’re not going to be failed outright for not keeping a clean car, appearances matter and this is especially true for an inspection. A dirty car might raise eyebrows as it could suggest that you’re negligent with your vehicle. As such, the tester may be extra strict and rigorous if they think you’re not a careful motorist. So, spruce up the wagon a bit and give it a thorough clean inside and out to give the right first impression.

So there you have it – passing your MOT doesn’t have to be a yearly drama involving extra costs and replacement work. If you’re willing to put in a little time, consideration and a touch of hands-on preparation, you can drive out of the garage first time, all set for another year of driving.

A little MOT history

The MOT test was first established in 1960 by the (now-defunct) Ministry of Transport, which is where we get the name. The Department of Transport is the ministry’s successor but the MOT check has kept the same name to avoid confusion.


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