Five top tips for preparing your car for its MOT

Your car's MOT is the car version of an annual health check-up, making sure everything's functioning properly so you'll be safe driving for the next 12 months. But lots of drivers send their car for its MOT without carrying out some basic checks first which increases it's chance of failing.

A mechanic

According to government data, in 2015 there was a 38.3% initial MOT failure rate for cars, vans, and small passenger vehicles. Of these tests, 18.4% had a problem with lighting and signalling, while 7.4% had issues with their tyres — two categories that contain small, fixable problems that can often be overlooked.

With a little bit of knowledge and elbow grease, you can solve many simple faults that will fail your vehicle before you have even got to the garage. This will save you money on repairs and reduce the hassle of having to re-book the test once the work is done. To help you out, we've compiled our top five tips for preparing your car for its MOT.

Check your car's lights

Faults with vehicle lighting are the most common cause of MOT failure, so it should be one of the first stops on your inspection. Take the time to check:

  • Your headlights in both main beam and dipped
  • Sidelights
  • Indicators on the side, rear, and front
  • Brake lights
  • Number plate light
  • Rear fog lights
  • Your hazard lights (worth testing separate from indicators)

If you don't have anyone on hand to walk around and check, park near a wall or garage door. Should any of your bulbs not work, take a look in your car manual to see if you can replace them yourself without the mark-up of a mechanic doing it for you. The Telegraph have a handy 60 second tutorial video which will have you changing your own bulbs in no time.

Check your tyres

Your tyres keep you on the road and also make sure that you're able to drive safely in poor weather conditions. They're also a common cause of MOT failure, particularly when they don't give the level of grip required by law.

To check them, take a moment to ensure they're not damaged in any way. Then, use a tyre tread gauge to see whether the depth of the tread is above the legal requirement of 1.6mm — any less than this measurement in the MOT results in an immediate fail. Or, you can use the “20p coin test” as outlined in this tread depth guide from Tyre Safe to check the tread on the go. Tyres also need to be inflated to the right pressure, as stated in your car's user manual — this can be topped up at most petrol stations.

Top up engine oil and fuel

A mechanic won't be able to carry out the MOT exam unless your car has enough fuel and engine oil to run throughout the test. It's best policy to fill everything up to the maximum level to be completely sure that your vehicle makes it through the test. It's pretty obvious how you should re-fill your fuel, but topping up engine oil can often pose a challenge to anyone who isn't naturally mechanically minded. Take a moment to read Autosessive's complete guide to engine oil to familiarise yourself with how to top it up, as well as many other essential tasks.

Check and test your seatbelts

Seatbelts are another vital part in your car's safety system, and they will be tested to see if they work properly. You can check your seatbelts before the MOT in a number of ways, the first should be a visual inspection to see if there's any fraying or tearing in the material. Next, check whether each one engages and disengages properly — the latter should only happen when the release button is pressed.

You can carry out more tests by tugging sharply on each belt. It should lock into place quickly and firmly, allowing no more forward movement until released. Both the belt and locking mechanism attachment should be mounted safely with no danger of becoming loose.

Clean your car

It's amazing what condition some people will leave their car in when submitting it for an MOT test, and a mechanic has every right to refuse to examine a vehicle that's in poor condition or unhygienic.

Take the time to clear out the interior of your car before the exam and take it to a car wash for an inexpensive exterior clean. This way you can be sure that the mechanic will be more than happy to give your vehicle its test.

Keep these tips in mind to give your vehicle the best possible chance to pass its MOT test the first time.

All information is correct at time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

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