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Here's a simple checklist to prepare your car for an MOT, no tools needed. Some simple preparation can be all it takes to avoid the hassle of an MOT failure.

Every car needs an MOT once a year, three years after the date it was first registered. The little bit of time spent preparing your car for an MOT will guard against failing for something small such as a dead bulb. You’ll also avoid the trouble and possible extra cost of bringing the car back for an MOT re-test.
Below are some simple things you can do to give your car a once-over before an MOT. Chances are it will greatly increase the likelihood of your car passing.

TIP: “Get your car serviced just before an MOT so any faults get picked up beforehand. A well serviced engine is more likely to pass the emissions test too.”


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Just under twenty percent of MOT failures are caused by a dead bulb. Run through the list below to ensure you’ve checked all your bulbs. If you don’t have anyone to help you check your bulbs, park up close to a wall or garage door. It's worth mentioning that some indicator and brake light bulbs have a colour coating which starts to peel as they get old. As the colour peels off, the bulb shines white and is a test failure, even though the bulb itself is working. Check the colours are correct at the same time as making sure they all work. Check all light fittings are secure and there and no cracks or damage.

MODIFICATION: Products applied to any light source on the vehicle that change the colour or brightness of the light will cause a vehicle to fail, for instance lens tinting spray.

TELL-TALE: The dashboard 'tell-tale' light that warns the driver that high beam is on, must be operational.


  • Headlights: Main beam and dipped
  • Sidelights: Front & rear
  • Indicators: Front, rear & side
  • Brake lights
  • Number plate lights (only on the rear plate!)
  • Reverse lights (not actually part of an MOT but worth checking)
  • Rear fog light (front fogs not checked)
  • Hazard lights (check seperately from indicators to make sure circuit works)
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2. WHEELS & TYRES Learn more about wheels & tyres

The minimum legal tread depth for a tyre is 1.6mm in a continous band around the tyre for ¾ of the tyre’s width.
Check for damage on the tyres such as splits in the tread, bulges or cuts in the sidewalls as these could cause the tyre to fail.
Take a look at the tyre sizes to make sure the front tyres are the same size and the rear tyres are be the same size. (They can be different sizes front to back but not on the same axle.)
Check there are no missing wheels nuts or any large areas of damage to the wheels themselves.
A spare wheel is not actually a requirement for an MOT and is will not be checked unless it is being used on the car at the time. Note: A car will not pass an MOT with a temporary spare wheel (also known as a ‘space saver’) fitted as a road wheel..


Check over the windscreen for any chips and cracks. Chips over 10mm in the driver’s line of sight (roughly the width of the steering wheel) or over 40mm in the area swept by the wipers will cause the car to fail the MOT. See example
Any sort of heavy scratching that limits the drivers vision will also cause the car to a fail the test.
You can avoid small stone chips turning into cracks by getting them repaired as soon as possible. This will stop them spreading any further and potentially avoid fitting a new windscreen.


Wiper blades should clear the screen across their entire length. Check the rubber by lifting them up and look for splits or perishing. Give them a and that they are securely attached to the wiper arm.


Top up the screen wash before taking the car for an MOT and test the jets to make sure they operate correctly. Blocked nozzles can be easily cleared with a pin.


POWER STEERING & LOCK: The steering system isn’t something you’ll be able to check easily apart from making sure the wheels can turn freely from lock to lock and the power steering is working correctly if you have it.

LEAKS: Shock absorbers leaking fluid or insecure are a fail.

DAMPING: Shock absorbers must also damp the car correctly. You can test this yourself by pushing on a corner of the car and letting go. The car should return upwards and then settle to its resting position. If the car continues to bounce up and down, the shock absorbers are not working as designed.


The fuel cap needs to lock securely in place and the seal inside the cap shouldn’t be split or perished.


SECURED: The exhaust needs to be held on securely and not have any holes (apart from the obvious one at the end!).

EXHAUST BLOW: If your car exhaust is sounding louder than normal there’s a good chance it has a hole in it. You might be able to tell by getting your ear low to the ground on the driver’s side and listening carefully as you blip the accelerator (when the car is parked).

MOUNTINGS: If you go over a bump and the exhaust clunks on the underside of the car, the rubber mounts may be worn and in need of replacement.

CATALYTIC CONVERTER: If a catalytic converter was fitted to the car as original equipment, is must be present for the car to pass an MOT.

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The horn needs to work and be loud enough to attract the attention of pedestrians or other motorists. Musical air horns are a guaranteed fail!


The mirrors need to be in place and secure, i.e. not held to the car with sticky tape and string. The glass shouldn’t be cracked or smashed.

11. BODY

The car’s bodywork must be free from heavy corrosion, not be badly damaged or have sharp edges sticking out. The front doors should work from inside and outside and the rear doors will need to work so other parts of the test can be completed such as seat belt checks. The boot and bonnet need to close securely.


Most checks on the braking system require specialist knowledge but there are some easy things you can test.

PEDALS: Make sure the rubber on all the pedals isn’t worn away.

ABS: If your car has ABS, the warning light should go out after the car is started. *New sentence now

HAND BRAKE: The hand brake should hold the car on a hill.


Front and back plates need to be secured properly to the car and not cracked, faded or hidden by dirt. The letters and numbers should be standard and evenly spaced.

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BELTS: All the seat belt buckles should latch and fasten securely and lock when you give them a sharp tug. The belts need to be in good condition, not cut or badly frayed.

SEATS: The seats must be firmly bolted down; grab the base of each seat and try rocking it. Seats will be tested by their ability to move forwards and backwards freely and lock correctly in to multiple positions. This applies to both manual and electric seats.

SAFETY DEVICES: Seat belt pre-tensioners designed to tighten the belt and restrict movement in the event of a serious accident will also be checked. A failure will be caused by a malfunction indicated by a warning light, or where they have deployed. If fitted as standard when the car was built, they must still be in place.

Seat belt load limiters will also be checked for deployment. The most common are an area of webbing on the belt designed to unstitch in a high impact collision and limit any injury that can be caused to the upper body by the belt itself.


The best way to ensure your car passes the emissions test with ease is to have the car serviced prior to its MOT. On top of this, if your car hasn’t been run in a while or is mainly used for short town journeys, take it on a longer motorway type journey where a higher engine speed is sustained for a greater length of time. This helps to clean out sooty deposits from the engine prior to the emissions test.


WASHER & SELF LEVEL: Under new rules, cars fitted with HID (High intensity discharge) or LED (Light emitting diode) headlights must have a working headlight washer system and self-levelling function. This is to prevent other motorists being dazzled, as the output from these lights can be up to three times that of other headlights.

Dirt on the lens can cause diffraction of the light which is why a cleaning system is fitted as standard to cars with these types of headlight. The self levelling function compensates for passengers or a heavy load over the rear of the car that could cause the headlights to aim higher than they otherwise should.

AFTER MARKET FITTMENT: Where a car has been fitted with HID units after manufacture, it must comply with the same rules, therefore it should also have a washer system and self levelling function.


STABILITY CONTROL: For cars fitted with ESC (electronic stability control) the warning light should come on and then extinguish after a few seconds. If it stays on to warn of a fault, the car will fail.

OTHER WARNING LIGHTS: This also applies to warning lights for cars fitted with electric power steering, brake fluid warning lights, tyre pressure monitors, airbag lights and seat belt pre-tensioner warnings.

TRACTION CONTROL: A traction control light should not cause the car to fail but may be an advisory. Traction control and stability control are different systems, with traction control reducing wheel slip when the car is accelarating. Stability control can be activated under accelaration, but also during cornering and braking to help prevent a drive losing control of the vehicle.


HYDRAULIC FLUID: For cars with hydraulic power steering, the reservoir will be check to make sure the fluid level is above the minimum mark. (Cars where the level is not visible without removing the cap will not be checked.)

ELECTRIC ASSISTANCE: For cars with electric power assisted steering (EPAS), the malfunction light on the dashboard should come on and then extinguish after the car is started.

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The car battery must be secure and not cracked and leaking fluid. The wiring should be in good condition and not likely to short circuit.


Dust covers designed to keep road dirt out of joints in the suspension, steering and brakes for all the above items must be in good condition, i.e. not split or missing.


LOCK: The steering lock is the device built into the steering column that locks it in place when the key is removed from the ignition. It is an anti-theft device fitted to most cars, and where fitted as standard, it will be tested for operation.

CONDITION: The steering system will be checked for leaks, heavy corrosion of any pipe work and fouling of components.


Where fitted in place of a manual handbrake, an electronic parking brake will have a warning light to indicate malfunction. If this is illuminated, the vehicle will fail. This also applies to any other electronic safety braking systems.


Dust covers designed to keep road dirt out of joints in the suspension, steering and brakes for all the above items must be in good condition, i.e. not split or missing.


All airbags fitted as original equipment to a vehicle must be present and the airbag warning light should go out after the car is started.


The speedometer must be present and operational. A broken or incomplete dial or one that does not illuminate will cause the car to fail. Being unable to read the mileage is not an MOT failure.



  • Corrosion, excessive wear or damage to the towbar.
  • Towbar is attached to the car using a fixing that is inappropriate i.e. too small or unsuitable materials or has been repaired or modified inappropriately.
  • Retaining and/or locking device missing, insecure or damaged so that function is affected.
  • Excessive play between detachable tow ball and receiving socket.
  • Quick release mechanism does not work/does not secure tow ball arm correctly.
  • Trailer socket insecure, damaged or unable to function as intended.
  • 13 pin Euro socket not controlling lamps as intended. (7 pin sockets excluded from test)
  • Damaged wiring insulation.
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Video guide

Step-by-step checklist

Custom 'fix list'



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EXCLUSIONS: Towing eyes are not tested. Sockets and attachment brackets will still be tested even if the tow ball or pin is not fitted when the vehicle is tested. An exception is made where the attachment brackets have clearly been made unusable.




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