What is an MOT?

The MOT test is an annual check that a car is roadworthy and safe for its occupants and other road users.

It is only a yearly test and the driver is still responsible for keeping the car in a good, safe, roadworthy condition during that year, but the test is proof that at least once a year it is safe.

New cars are deemed to be roadworthy and so an MOT test is not needed until the car is three years old, from its initial registration.

Its no indication of the health of the engine (although an MOT will check for bad exhaust fumes) and the general well being of the car, but it is aimed at the safety of the car.

What does it check?

Basically anything that will ensure the car can be driven safely on the road, so good examples are tyre’s, brakes, lights, seat belts, suspension, structural bodywork (an MOT doesn’t check for rust on a wing or a boot lid for example as these are not structural, however parts of the body like the rails built into the underside of the car that the suspension or the brakes might be anchored too, will be tested) 

Here is a high level check list of the things normally tested (if they are on the vehicle):

Body, vehicle structure and general items

These will be inspected to check that:

  • They’re free from excessive corrosion or damage in specific areas
  • There are no sharp edges likely to cause injury
  • Towbars (if fitted)
  • Secureness
  • Condition
  • Inappropriate repairs or modification
  • The 13 pin electrical socket is working correctly
  • The speedometer is in good working order
  • The engine mountings are secure

Fuel system

The fuel system will be inspected to check that:

  • There are no leaks
  • The pipes and hoses are secure and in a good condition
  • The fuel cap fastens and seals securely

Exhaust emissions

The vehicle will be inspected, depending on the age and fuel type of the vehicle, to check that it meets the rules for exhaust emissions.

Exhaust system –

The exhaust system will be inspected to check that:

  • Tt’s secure and complete
  • A catalyst isn’t missing where one was fitted as standard
  • It’s without serious leaks and not too noisy

The seat belts

The vehicle will be inspected to check that:

  • The mandatory seatbelts are in place
  • They are suitable for the vehicle
  • They are in a good condition
  • They work properly
  • They are attached securely

The malfunction indicator lamps (MILs) or dashboard warning lights will be checked for the:

  • Airbags
  • Seatbelt pretensioners (which remove the slack from a seatbelt in the event of a collision)
  • Seatbelt load limiters (which release a small amount of belt when it’s too tight)

Seats

These will be inspected to check that:

  • The driver’s seat can be adjusted
  • All seats are securely fitted and that seat backs can be fixed in the upright position

Doors

These will be inspected to check that:

  • the latch is secure in the closed position
  • the front doors open from inside and outside the vehicle
  • the rear doors open from outside the vehicle
  • hinges and catches are secure and in a good condition

Mirrors

The vehicle will be inspected to check for the minimum number of mirrors, their condition and security. Indirect vision devices will also be inspected.

Brakes

These will be inspected to check:

  • Their condition, including inappropriate repairs or modifications
  • Their operation and performance (the efficiency test) – the wheels and trims aren’t removed as part of the test
  • The anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) (where fitted)

The MILs or dashboard warning lights will also be checked for the ABS, ESC, electronic park brake and brake fluid warning lights.

Tyres and Wheels 

These will be inspected to check for:

  • Condition
  • Security
  • Tyre size and type
  • Tread depth

Spare wheels and tyres are not inspected.

Vehicles first used on or after 1 January 2012 will be checked to make sure the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) MIL is working.

Registration plates

These will be inspected to check for:

  • Condition
  • Secure attachment
  • Colour
  • Characters correctly formed and spaced

Lights

These will be inspected to check:

  • Their condition
  • Operation, including high intensity discharge (HID) and light emitting diode (LED)
  • The headlamps for cleaning, self levelling and security
  • Headlamp aim
  • Main beam warning light working

Wipers and washers

These will be inspected to check that they work properly so the driver has a clear view of the road.

Windscreen 

The windscreen will be inspected to check for:

  • Condition
  • The driver’s view of the road

Horn 

This will be inspected to check:

  • That it works properly
  • It’s suitable for the vehicle

Steering and suspension

These will be inspected to check:

  • Their condition
  • Steering oil level
  • They work correctly
  • For inappropriate repairs or modification including corrosion to power steering pipes or hoses
  • That the steering lock mechanism works properly

The MOT is not the same as a vehicle ‘service’, see the separate blog post to see what that involves and why its needed.