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January 27th 2021 info

Once a new car reaches its third birthday, it’s time for a regular MOT. This legally has to happen once a year or owners can face a fine of up to £1,000.

Understandably, MOTs can be a source of stress for car owners. Some will have their car reviewed and inspected in good confidence, but are then met with a list of unexpected repairs.

Preparing for your MOT can help reduce this stress. If you know what the MOT entails and what to do if it fails, your car can be better prepared for success.

Below, we’ll discuss what an MOT is, what to do if your car fails and what you can do to prepare for it.

What does an MOT check?

An MOT is extensive, though it rarely takes over an hour to complete. Of course, repairs will take longer to action, but the test itself is over quickly. Overall, an MOT checks:

  • Electrical performance – headlights, brake lights, indicators and fog lights are tested.
  • Steering – the strength, accuracy and performance of the steering wheel are tested.
  • Suspension – shock absorbers and the suspension are reviewed.
  • Tyres – tyres are looked at in detail, including tread depth and overall condition.
  • Seating & seat belts – safety tests are applied to seat belts, and the seats themselves are given a once-over.
  • Exhaust performance & emissions – the exhaust is tested for overall performance and leaks.
  • Mirrors, glass and wipers – the windscreen, mirrors and car glass are inspected for damage, and wipers and wiper fluid are tested for performance.
  • Brakes – the safety and efficiency of brakes are tested.

All in all, an MOT checks all the most important parts of a vehicle. However, this means that if a part of it fails, then you need it fixed ASAP.

What happens if your car fails an MOT?

Failing an MOT can be a financial annoyance for some car owners, while others see the cost of the repairs too much, and opt to scrap their car instead. While being charged is frustrating, this process must happen to keep you and the roads safe.

It is possible to pass an MOT with minor faults, though they will need to get repaired. Major and dangerous faults will fail the MOT. You won’t be able to drive away with the car in the case of a dangerous fault, while major faults need to be repaired as quickly as possible.

Once a garage has informed you that you need repairs, you have two options:

  • Leave the vehicle with the original garage to carry out repairs. The car can be repaired and re-tested later the same day, while serious repairs can take longer.
  • Take the vehicle elsewhere for repairs, then return to the original garage for a re-test.

Following a failed MOT, you will be handed a refusal of MOT certificate (VT30). You’ll need this bit of paperwork if you wish to have your vehicle re-tested or to form an appeal.

Do note: if your vehicle is re-tested after 10 days from the original test, you will have to pay full price for another MOT. If you have a partial re-test after repairs and it fails, you will also have to pay the full fee.

How to best prepare for an MOT

Many MOT fails could be avoided if owners did routine maintenance checks themselves. The MOT failure list is extensive, but it’s filled with numerous issues and fixes that many at-home mechanics could sort out if caught early enough.

Below are some top tips on how to pass an MOT’s most common fails.


Check your tyres before the MOT. It sounds obvious that your tyres should be fastened properly, but tightening them up and giving them a check can’t hurt.

You want to look for two symptoms of worn-down tyres:

  • Tyre depth
  • Damaged rims

The tyre depth – or tread depth – should be at least 1.6mm continuously around the wheel. If your tyre is less than that, then you need some new rubber or a new tyre.

Perform a quick check for cracks and dents in the rims, too, and proactively replace a tyre if it seems worse for wear.


Give all of your lights a check before the MOT. It helps to have another person to help you with this step.

Simply enter your car, turn the ignition to the first stage and then check all the lights are working. Be sure not to forget your fog lights, sidelights and other easy-to-miss spots.

Check your seatbelts

It’s something we use every time we drive a car, but how often do you review the quality of your seatbelts? Not many people are aware that poor seating and seatbelts can accumulate errors and repairs on your MOT.

Before heading to your MOT, ensure seats are secure and fixed in place and double-check the belt is in good condition.

Ensure the belts retract and click into place properly, and replace any that seem too stiff or damaged. 

Double-check your vehicle identification number

This is an easy step to miss: always ensure your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is on display before the VAT. This is also known as a V5 registration document.

This is usually found by the windscreen or under the bonnet somewhere. Make sure it’s clean, legible and present to avoid running into problems.

Sweat the small stuff

Small issues can turn up as minor repairs on an MOT, potentially costing you more time and money. Be sure to sweat the small stuff before you have your MOT, including:

  • Cleaning the car inside and out.
  • Filling up all the fluid levels in the car.
  • Checking small things like the car horn is working to standard.
  • Ensuring windscreen wipers have no small tears or dents on them.
  • Cleaning your car licence plate, as this needs to be legible to pass.

Overall, focusing on the small parts of your car can pay back dividends when it comes to an MOT.

The first step to a fuss-free MOT? A reliable car

The best way to avoid MOT frustration is to opt for a high-quality car from a trustworthy dealer.

At, we have a range of used cars from dealers around the UK that you can rely on.

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