The Mot test. - Sterling Garage

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The Mot test.

About your car

Your MOT Test record

When your vehicle is tested at a testing station your test record will be entered on to a secure central database. You will then be given either an A4 size Mot (pass) certificate or notification of failure. The certificate is your receipt for the MOT test and shows the information that’s held on the database.

The MOT certificate only relates to the condition of testable items at the time of the test and should not be regarded as:
evidence of their condition at any other time.
The test confirms that the vehicle fully complies with all aspects of the law on vehicle construction and use and at the time of test complies with the minimum standards as required for lawful use on the road.

The certificate provided is no longer proof of an MOT and should not be relied upon as such. Only the computer record held on the DVSA secure database can prove a vehicle has a valid MOT.
On the certificate, pass or fail, will also be added any Advisory Notices for items which are not a reason for refusal but require attention and which items may fail in the near future.

When you can MOT your vehicle

You can renew your MOT up to one month before it expires without affecting your annual expiry date. You can find out when the earliest date to MOT your vehicle is by checking the front of the pass certificate. A vehicle presented for test prior to this date, will not benefit from the extended expiry date.


Why you need an MOT certificate

It is generally an offence to use, on a public road, a vehicle of testable age that doesn’t have a current test certificate, except when:
...taking it to a test station for an MOT test booked in advance
...bringing it away from a test station after it has failed the MOT test, to a place of repair
...taking it to a place, by previous arrangement, where problems that caused the vehicle to fail its MOT test, can be repaired
...bringing it away from a place where the problems with the vehicle have been repaired

Even in the above circumstances you may still be prosecuted for driving an unroadworthy vehicle if it doesn’t comply with various regulations affecting its construction and use. Your car insurance may also be invalid.

The police are unlikely today ask to see the certificate for a vehicle that needs to have one as they do have via Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), instant access to the computerised records for Road tax, Insurance and  MOT test results.

Conduct of the test

The following is a list of the checks your vehicle will undergo during its MOT Test. While this list groups the checks under each component, the Tester will carry out the checks in a specific sequence designed to save time, Testing all under-vehicle items or under-bonnet items at the same time for example.
Bear in mind that a Tester may not fail an item if it is within the limits set by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Authority (DVSA was VOSA) – if it is close to failing but still within limits the Tester must still pass it, but will give the vehicle an 'Advisory' notice. You are urged to take notice and act on any Advisory items you may find on your certificate, for your own and other road users' safety.
The Tester may not dismantle using tools, any parts – he therefore can not check wheel nuts for example, if the hub caps are still in place. (Remove your hub caps before the Test if you want them to be inspected as part of the Test although nut or bolt torque testing or setting is not allowed). You should remove items from the windscreen which may obscure the driver's view of the road before presenting the vehicle for test. Mirror hanging car fresheners, sat nav brackets etc. These are failure items and in certain circumstances can not be removed by the examiner. This applies mainly to items fixed to the windscreen.


MOT Testing Check List
MOT Test of Registration Plates and VIN
* Required on all vehicles first used on or after 1st August 1980.
NOTE: Revised Registration Plate Testing and Tow Bar Testing (see below) were effective from April 09.
see current Number Plate Regs graphic.
For registered vehicles the registration plate must be:
not faded, dirty or obscured
Letters and digits must conform to the approved font design with correct spacing
Front plates must be black digits on white background, rear must be black on yellow
Honeycomb background is not allowed.
Vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1973 may have registration plates displaying white, grey or silver characters on a black background. A three-wheeled vehicle, which has a motorcycle derived front end, does not require a front number plate.


MOT Registration Plate Specifications
Character height... 79mm
Character width (except for the figure 1 or letter I)... 50mm
Stroke width...14mm
Space between two characters in group... 11mm
Vertical space between groups of characters...19mm
Horizontal space between groups of characters...33mm

The VIN number* must be:
permanently displayed
*Required on all vehicles first used on or after 1st August 1980.


MOT Test of Tow Bar (Towing Hook)
Reason for Rejection:

  • A towbar component insecure, fractured or excessively worn, corroded, or damaged.

  • The towbar assembly is attached to the vehicle structure using a mounting, support or fixing which is obviously of an inappropriate size or type.

  • A retaining device missing or insecure

  • A locking device missing, insecure, inadequate or damaged to the extent that its operation is impaired.

  • Excessive play between a detachable tow ball and its receiver socket

  • A quick release mechanism that does not secure the tow ball arm as intended.  

MOT Test of Steering
Steering: Inside the car MOT checks for the

Steering wheel and steering column:

  • steering wheel is in acceptable condition

  • steering wheel is securely attached to the steering shaft

  • upper bearings of the steering column are inspected for wear

  • Steering shaft is checked for excessive end float

  • The clamping bolts are all checked for security

  • split pins and locking nuts are also checked.

  • 'free play' in the steering is checked*

  • All flexible couplings and universal joints are checked.

*Free play allowed depends on type of steering: 75mm for non-rack and pinion, 13mm for rack and pinion steering. Where there are several joints between the steering wheel and the rack, up to 48mm on a 380mm diameter wheel may be accepted.
Reasons for rejection

  • Steering wheel weakened by modification, cracks, fractures, in a condition that hampers proper control or likely to injure the driver’s hands.Note: Cracks or incompleteness of the covering skin of a steering wheel or hub, are not a reason for rejection.

  • an adjustable steering column will not lock in a fixed position

  • movement between the shaft and steering wheel

  • excessive radial movement (play) at the top of the steering column between the column and the shaft indicating a badly worn top bearing.

  • insecurity at the steering column top mounting bracket.

  • Excessive steering shaft end float.

  • Insecurity, excessive play or deterioration of a flexible coupling or universal joint.

  • A retaining or locking device missing or insecure.

Note: Some vehicles have flexible top bearings for the steering column. With these more than average movement is acceptable.
Under bonnet checks

  • This varies vehicle to vehicle; some of these items cannot be observed from under the bonnet on some makes and models.

  • security of the steering rack or steering box and its mountings

  • play in steering joints

  • Inspection of any other swivel joints which form part of the vehicles' steering system which can be readily inspected from under the bonnet.

Under vehicle checks:

  • All the steering joints are inspected by the Tester whilst the steering is loaded by turning the steering wheel from side to side, or by the use of approved wheel play detectors.

  • Power steering systems are checked with the engine running.

  • The security of attachment of the steering rack or steering box is checked both with respect to the tightness of nuts and bolts, and structural cracking or corrosion of the vehicle chassis where it is attached.

  • Whilst the vehicle stands on special swivel plates the wheels are turned from lock to lock and checked for smoothness of operation and to ensure that the wheels and tyres do not foul either the structure of the vehicle or any brake pipes or hoses.

  • with the wheels jacked the wheel bearings are checked.

  • steering rack gaiters and front outer constant velocity joint boots are examined.

  • metal and/or rubber bushes are checked as are split pins, locking nuts and other locking or retaining devices which relate to steering components.

  • On some cars there will be rear wheel steering which is checked from beneath the car.

MOT Test of Horn

  • operation

  • control can be easily reached by the driver

  • loud enough

  • not a sequential multi-tone.

Pre 1906 vehicles can have a gong, bell or siren audible warning, provided they were designed before 1 January 1905 and constructed before 31 December 1905
Reason for Rejection

  • The horn control missing, insecure or not readily accessible to the driver Note: Inform the driver if the horn is insecure

  • The horn is

  • inoperative

  • is not loud enough to be heard by another road user

  • is a gong, bell or siren

  • has more than one tone(see note)

  • fitted to a vehicle first used on or after 1 August 1973, emits a sound which is not a continuous or uniform

  • harsh or grating.

Note: When operated, a two or more tone horn automatically produces a sound which
alternates at regular intervals between fixed notes

MOT Test of Lights
The headlamps are checked for alignment with a Beam Setter. After first aligning the equipment with the vehicle, the left and right headlamp beams are checked to ensure they are correctly set so as not to dazzle other road users.
All required lights are checked for:

  • operation

  • condition

  • security

Side lights and headlamps

  • are the correct type and colour

  • dip and aim.

Stop lights, indicators and hazard lights*

  • are the correct type and colour

  • do not interfere with each other in operation

  • driver's tell-tale works with respect to indicators, or there is an audible warning system.

Rear Fog lamps**

  • must be fitted to the centre or offside of the vehicle

  • tell-tale must work

  • must not be affected by other lamps and not be obscured

  • must be red.

Number plate lamps

  • All lamps fitted must be working.

Rear reflectors

  • There must be two red reflectors fitted reasonably symmetrically, securely attached and not obscured.

* Must be fitted to all vehicles first used on or after 1st April 1986, but if fitted, must be Tested.
** Must be fitted to all vehicles first used on or after 1st April 1980.

MOT Test of Bonnet Catch
Reasons for Failure

  • A bonnet that cannot be safely secured in the closed position

  • An excessively deteriorated, ineffective or insecure (bonnet) retaining device

MOT Test of Doors

  • Both front doors must be openable from the inside and outside and all doors must latch securely.

Tailgates, bootlids etc.

  • All these items, including the tailboards and dropsides of trucks must be securable in the closed position.

MOT Test of Vehicle Structure

(rust, corrosion, bodywork etc)
Body condition and security

  • for vehicles with a separate body, the body must not be so insecure or displaced so that it might lead to loss of control of the vehicle when driven, or be a danger to other road users

  • there must be no dangerous sharp edges or projections caused by corrosion or damage which is dangerous to other road users including pedestrians.

A vehicle can fail with respect to corrosion for:

  • excessive corrosion in a 'prescribed area' — within 30 cms of certain safety related components, e.g. brakes, steering, suspension, seat belt mountings etc.

  • Excessive corrosion not in a 'prescribed area', but which is likely to adversely affect the vehicle's braking or steering. 'Excessive corrosion' can mean a hole or a significantly weakened structure.

MOT Test of Seats

  • The driver's and the front passenger's seats must be secure.

  • All seat backs must be securable in the upright position.

MOT Test of Seat Belts
Test Description

Most vehicles after 1965 must have seat belts. Irrespective of that requirement, all seat belts fitted to any vehicle must be inspected for:

  • security of seat belt mountings and locking stalks  

  • security and operation of the locking/release mechanism

  • condition of webbing

  • retraction of the belt (it is allowed to manually feed it in).

Notes: 1. For technical reasons the inertia locking mechanism is not checked. 2. On some vehicles the belt is attached to the seat, in which case the security of the seat to the vehicle would also constitute part of the seat belt check.

MOT Test of Brakes
Brake efficiency and balace is usually checked on a roller brake tester. In certain cases where a roller brake tester may not be used (for example on certain 4-wheel drive vehicles) it may be necessary to check brake efficiency and balance on a road test, with a portable decelerometer.
Inside the car
Anti-lock braking system (if fitted) warning lamp is checked for:

  • function

  • sequence of operation


  • sufficient reserve travel on the footbrake

  • pedal rubber not worn to excess

  • correct operation of the servo assistance system

Parking brake
This could be hand, foot or electronically operated. Checked for reserve travel so that it doesn't reach the stops on application. The mountings will be checked for security and/or corrosion.
Under bonnet checks

  • master cylinder and servo unit are checked for leaks with the engine on and the brakes applied

  • servo unit will be checked to ensure it is operating correctly

  • visible metal or flexible brake pipes will be checked for corrosion, condition, fouling or leaks

Under vehicle checks

  • flexible brake pipes and any other metal brake pipes visible beneath the car are checked

  • discs and drums (external only) checked for condition and contamination

  • brake back plates and caliper securing devices are checked for condition and security

  • condition of the brake pads will be checked if visible

  • The assistant operates the handbrake and the condition of the linkages and/or cables is checked.

  • on some vehicles there will be a brake compensating valve beneath the car which will need to be inspected for fluid leaks

Brake performance check
The performance of the front and rear brakes and handbrake are checked for efficiency and balance using specialised equipment.

MOT Test of Windscreen

  • Includes all items affecting the driver's view of the road: the condition of the windscreen, the wipers and washers. Satnavs in the windscreen, furry dice, air fresheners or trinkets hanging from the mirror are not allowed.

  • Chips or cracks in the windscreen directly in front of the driver, in the area swept by the wiper blades, are acceptable if they are less than 10mm in diameter. In the rest of the swept area, up to 40mm diameter damage is acceptable.

  • Recent change in policy (Oct 2011) "…it is permissible to have a defect larger than 10mm in the swept area of zone A, as long as it is not in the ‘drivers view of the road’. Should now be "Pass and advise".

  • Official stickers (any used in connection with road enforcement, security or crime prevention matters) that are not readily removable are only a reason for rejection if they restrict the driver's view.

MOT Test of Washers and wipers

  • operation

  • extent of area swept by the wipers

  • condition of the wiper blades.

Reasons for Rejection
Wipers and Washers

  • A wiper or washer control missing or inaccessible to the driver

  • A wiper does not continue to operate automatically when switched on

  • A wiper installed for the use of the driver does not operate over an area of the windscreen large enough to give the driver an adequate view of the road (through the windscreen) to the left and right sides of the vehicle, as well as to the front.

  • A wiper blade insecure, missing, or in such a condition that it does not clear the windscreen effectively to give the driver an adequate view of the road (through the windscreen) to the left and right sides of the vehicle, as well as to the front.

  • The windscreen washers do not provide enough liquid to clear the windscreen in conjunction with the wiper(s).

MOT Test of Mirrors
Not all mirrors on all vehicles are subject to Test, depending on the age of the vehicle.
Those mirrors which must be checked must be

  • secure

  • visible from the driver's seat

  • not distorted or damaged so as to seriously impair the driver's view to the rear.

Obligatory mirror options are:

  • an exterior mirror fitted to the offside (right-hand side when seated in the driver’s seat), or

  • an exterior mirror fitted to the nearside (left hand side when seated in the driver’s seat), or

  • an interior mirror.

All goods vehicles must have two mirrors, one of which must be fitted to the offside (right-hand side when seated in the driver’s seat)
Passenger vehicles with no more than 7 passenger seats first used before 1 August 1978 must have any one of the above options.
Reasons For Rejection
An obligatory mirror:

  • is missing or insecure

  • is so damaged or deteriorated that the view to the rear is seriously impaired

  • does not provide a view to the rear of the vehicle

  • is not clearly visible from the driver’s seat, or incapable of being adjusted to be clearly visible from the driver’s seat.

Additional mirrors
Any mirrors additional to the obligatory mirrors are not subject to this inspection.

MOT Test of Suspension
Under bonnet checks

  • upper suspension joints

  • any other suspension components which can be inspected from beneath the bonnet

Under vehicle checks
Applies to the front and rear suspension

  • no split pins or nuts missing, no components broken or excessively damaged

  • road springs are checked for condition

  • all suspension joints are checked for condition

  • shock absorbers must not leak and must be secure (the vehicle will be 'bounced' by the Tester to check that they damp the springs adequately).

The suspension is checked for wear by the assistant applying loads in various ways with the wheels jacked up whilst the Tester observes the result from beneath the vehicle. This may include the use of approved wheel play detectors in some Test Stations.
Note: There are numerous different suspension systems, and the specific nature of any examination will depend to a large extent on the design of the suspension system.

MOT Test of Exhaust and Emissions
The exhaust system will fail the MOT if:

  • Part of the system missing or excessively deteriorated 
  • Mounting are missing or damaged so that the exhaust system is insecure 
  • There is a major leak 
  • The system emits appreciably more noise than a similar vehicle fitted with a standard system in good condition.
  • The DP filter (Diesels) if fitted as new is missing or bypassed.


These are checked using specialised equipment, the details of the check depending on the year that the vehicle was first used on the road. Excessive smoking (checked visually) is a reason for failure.
Diesel smoke emissions are checked by using a smoke meter.

MOT Test of Fuel System

  • Any fuel leak will result in a fail. Checked under the bonnet and throughout the run of the fuel line from the fuel tank to the engine.

  • fuel filler cap must fasten securely

  • the seal in the cap must not be torn, deteriorated or missing (includes self-sealing flaps)

  • no other defect which could cause fuel to leak out

  • the fuel tank must be securely mounted.

MOT Test of Tyres
Tyre condition
The reason for failure with respect to tyre wear is:

  • "The grooves of the tread pattern are not at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising: the central three-quarters of the breadth of tread around the entire outer circumference of the tyre".

Tyres must be correctly matched with regard to:

  • type

  • size

  • structure

NB. type or structure but not both.

  • tyres on the same axle must be of the same structure and size.

Also examined:

  • general condition of tyre

  • condition of valve.

Tyres fail if they have serious cuts, bulges or other damage.
The wear on the tyre is checked with a tyre tread depth gauge to ensure compliance.
The tyres are examined to ensure that there is no fouling with any part of the vehicle.

If fitted, the tyre atomatic pressure monitoring  must not indicate a low pressure
1. Although under-inflation is not in itself a reason for failure, a brake test may be inadvisable because of possible damage, and it may affect headlamp alignment. The condition of the spare tyre is not part of the MOT.
2. From 2012, Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) will form part of the MOT Test. Vehicles on which TPMS was originally fitted will have to have it fully operable. When this test is implemented one faulty sensor will result in a fail.

MOT Test of Wheel condition

  • damage

  • distortion

  • cracks

  • distorted bead rim

  • securely attached to the vehicle

  • no wheel nuts or studs missing.

  • An externally fitted spare wheel or spare wheel carrier must not be so insecure that it is likely to fall off.

The above list may not identify all items which are tested and which may be subjected to further testing not described above. For full information on the Mot test, you are referred to the current "Inspection Manual" available on the DVSA website.

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