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MOT Testing: What to bear in mind

Any car over three years old requires an MOT test to demonstrate that it is roadworthy. In this guide we offers tips and advice on how you can save money on your cars MOT and how to avoid failing on technicalities.


The maximum you can be charged for an MOT is £54.85. Many garages offer cheap MOT’s to get customers in and then make money on expensive repairs. Be aware that a cheap MOT is not always a saving.

Pre-test checks

Increase your chance of passing your MOT first time by completing our simple 4 step checklist. Six out of every 10 cars pass an MOT first time. Make sure you are one of those six.

1. Tyres: The first thing a mechanic will do is examine your tyres. They need to have no damage. Firstly, check that the walls of the tyres have no visible damage, usually this is in the form of a split or tear. Secondly, make sure that each of the tyres have a minimum of 1.6mm of tread left on them. A simple way to do this is to use a coin – if you can see the rim of the coin then you are going to need new a new tyre.

2. Broken Bulbs: The quickest way to check all your lights are in working order is to get someone to help you. Make sure you check every possibility of lights, including fog lights, indicators, break lights, etc. If you do have a fault you can tell the garage to fix it before they perform the MOT or you can take it to a shop such as Halfords who not only will sell the bulb but also offer a fitting service. It depends greatly on the type of car you have but in general changing a car bulb is no longer than a 5 min task. It can be a complicated process involving removing panels and bumpers.

3. Windscreen and wipers: Quite simply if your wipers do not perfectly clear the windscreen on the forward and back wipes and/or leave lines across it you are going to need to replace them. The good news is wipers are cheap and easy to buy from most garages or car shops like Halfords. The packaging will tell you the make and model of cars that it fits. It is far cheaper to fit them yourself than pay £50 to a garage to do it for you. You should also ensure your windscreen washer fluid is topped up.

4. Number plates: Make sure the plates are clean and test to see if you can read it from 20 metres away. If they are dirty just give them a quick wipe.

Other more complicated reasons for failure

It's often obvious when something is wrong with your car. It is always better to get that fixed first.

Handbrake/brakes: Not something you should attempt to fix yourself, but you will feel if your car is not breaking as it should, pulling to one side, handbrake not working on a hill etc. If you think your brakes are not working as they used to or if you have done a good few years without changing then we recommend you discuss it with the garage when you drop your car off.

Suspension: Check the shock absorbers by applying your weight to each corner of the car and then quickly releasing it, the corner of the car should quickly return to its original position. If the car bounces more than twice, this could indicate that the shock absorbers could be faulty and need checking.

Exhaust: Check for leaks by starting the engine in a well ventilated place at normal temperature, then listen out for an unusual noises or abnormal smoke. These indicate a leak and will require a trained mechanic to fix.

If your car fails

If your car does fail the MOT and needs work doing, you’re allowed one free retest as long as your car doesn’t leave the test centre. You may also be able to get a partial retest for free or for a reduced fee, it all depends on whether you leave your car at the test centre for repairs or have the work done elsewhere and have it back for testing within a time limit (usually 10 days).

Cars Experts Top Tip

If you test your car at a main dealership, for example BMW, and your car fails because of tyres. It will always be cheaper to take your car away, buy tyres from a specialist tyre retailer and bring it back for them to check and stamp your MOT.

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