What Does the MOT Cover?
The MOT test is a general assessment of the state of your car. It’s all about making sure that vehicles on the road are safe, and come up to a minimum standard. But it’s not just the safety critical things like the brakes which are examined during the MOT test. And to complicate matters further, the rules about what components are tested have changed regularly over the years.
The following elements are always tested in a MOT test:
- Exhaust pipes and emissions tests
- Seat belts (both front and rear)
- Windscreen and window wipers
- Catch on the bonnet
- Number plates, both front and rear
- Lights – headlights, tail lights, indicators, hazard warning lights
- Wheels and tyres, including the spare
- Body and structure (inspecting for dangerous rust or other defects)
- Fuel System
The full detail of the latest inspection guideline is a public document. Should you wish, you can download the entire inspection manual which applies to your type of vehicle from the government website. The manual has been written in plain English as far as possible, but you’ll still need a working knowledge of car mechanics to understand what it’s all about. The manual sets out the exact limits which can be accepted in each situation. The mechanic performing the MOT test doesn’t really have any flexibility over whether a car passes or fails. If a component doesn’t meet the standards in the manual, it has to be marked down as a fail.
What’s Not Inspected
Remember that the MOT Check is all about whether your car is safe and roadworthy. It’s not about how efficiently the engine is running, and won’t tell you that it’s time to get it serviced. The inspector won’t care if the car is dirty, or if it has kids’ toys all over the back seat. The MOT inspector won’t check whether the car is insured, or whether you’re the registered keeper.
Passing and Failing
If your car passes the MOT then the next steps are simple. The inspector goes online and enters the details of your test into the online DVLA database. You will also get a simple certificate to show your car has passed. If however it fails, there are two separate scenarios.
If the reason for failure isn’t something which affects the road safety of the car, you can choose to drive it away and have it fixed elsewhere. This might be something like a headlight not working properly, or inefficient windscreen wipers. You could of course choose to allow the same garage to make the repairs, but you don’t have to. The decision will depend on your individual circumstances.
If the fault is classed as “dangerous” in the MOT manual, then you won’t be able to leave the garage with your vehicle. The only option is to leave it at the garage and have the dangerous fault fixed, then retested. Garages will usually be happy to talk you through your options for having things rectified.
What Happens If My MOT Has Expired?
Unlike car tax, the government doesn’t email or send out reminder letters as a matter of course for MOTs. There is a text message reminder service but you have to actively opt in to receive texts. If you don’t sign up, you could easily forget that the MOT is due. Similarly, some garages will keep a record of what customers book MOT tests, and will send an email or text when that time of year is rolling around again. But not all do, and if you change your mobile number or move house, you could easily miss those sorts of notifications anyway. So if life gets on top of you and you realise that your MOT has expired, what should you do?
Get Booked In
The obvious first step is to get your car booked in for its MOT as soon as possible. If you live in a town or city, there are probably dozens of testing stations within striking distance, so hit the internet or call around and find out about availability. The downside to this is that you are unlikely to be able to secure a bargain price, or pick and choose the time slot which is most convenient for you. Larger chain garages are more likely to be open on evenings and weekends than smaller, independent garages. Remember that you’re committing an offence by driving your car on the roads without a valid MOT, so get an appointment as soon as you can, and don’t drive your car on the road.
Don’t Risk a Fine
The law is very clear on the consequences of driving your car without a valid MOT. The penalty for having an expired MOT is a fixed penalty fine of £100, plus three points on your driving licence. Modern technology means you’re more likely than ever to be caught too. In the past, you’d only be caught if you were stopped for another offence and then the police ran your details through the computer. Nowadays, many police cars are equipped with software which automatically flags up any cars which don’t have a MOT, tax or insurance as they drive past. The only exception to this is when you have no option but to drive your car to your MOT appointment. If you’re stopped by the police in this situation, they will want to see proof of your appointment. They won’t just take your word for it.
Forgetting your MOT one year is understandable. Everyone forgets things from time to time. But if you’re landed with a fine for forgetting one year, this should focus the mind a little. Set reminders on your phone, write it on the calendar, or ask the mechanic to contact you a couple of weeks before your next test is due. Remembering to book your test in advance also gives you a lot more control over where and when you have it done. Many garages will offer cheap tests if you’re prepared to take an unpopular time slot, or for booking in advance online.