Your complete MOT checklist

Find out what you need to pass an MOT.

During an MOT, a mechanic will inspect your vehicle to determine whether it’s legally roadworthy. To do that, they’ll use what’s known as an MOT checklist. 

Simply, this is a list of the parts of your car that need to be checked in order for the car to pass your MOT. If anything fails, that part will need to be fixed or replaced before you can drive your car again. 

Read on to find out what’s on an MOT checklist, what happens if you fail an MOT, and everything else you need to know about keeping your car roadworthy.

What does an MOT involve?

An MOT is a test that your car needs to pass for it to be deemed roadworthy. That means you need to pass the test to be able to drive your car on a public road. 

If you’ve just bought a new car, you don’t need to take it for an MOT for the first three years. But then, once the vehicle’s three years old (or four years old in Northern Ireland), it needs to pass an MOT every year

You’ll need to take your car to an authorised test centre to get your MOT done. At the time of writing, an MOT costs a maximum of £54.85 for cars and £29.65 for motorbikes. But that’s just a maximum and you can get it done more cheaply — so it’s worth shopping around. 

The test takes up to an hour, during which the mechanic will use the MOT checklist to tick off all the parts of your vehicle that pass, plus any faults that need attention. 

Faults can be classed as dangerous, major, or minor. If you have any dangerous or major faults, you will fail the MOT unless you can get these issues fixed. If you’re told that a part has any minor faults, you will pass the MOT — but it still might be a good idea to get them fixed nonetheless. 

What gets checked on an MOT 2023?

The MOT checklist includes everything in your vehicle that needs to be inspected for you to pass your MOT. If any one part fails, it will need to be fixed before your vehicle passes the test as a whole. 

The items on the checklist (which you can see in full in the next section) are broken down into four main parts: 

  • Interior checks, including things like seatbelts and warning lights
  • Exterior checks, including headlamps, mirrors, and more
  • Under bonnet checks, including braking and exhaust systems
  • Under vehicle checks, including suspension and wheels

Then there are separate checks on your brakes. One tests your brakes’ braking efficiency, meaning how well they can bring the vehicle to a stop. The other tests braking imbalance, and refers to whether all brakes function at the same level. 

What the MOT doesn’t include are any checks to your gearbox, clutch, or engine. That’s because MOTs are tests of a vehicle’s safety, and these components aren’t deemed safety critical. 

That means, if you want to keep your vehicle in good working order, you’ll need to book it in for a service alongside an MOT.

What’s on the MOT test checklist? The full list

The UK Government supplies a full list of items that need to be checked during the MOT test. It includes:

  • Interior checks
    • Seats and seat belts
    • Warning lamps
    • Switches (position lamp, headlamp, hazards) 
    • View to front, wipers and washers
    • Brake controls, servo operation
    • Steering wheel and column
    • Doors, mirrors, horn
    • Speedometer, driver controls
  • Exterior checks
    • Registration plates
    • Lamps, registration plate lamps 
    • Indicators, hazards
    • Headlamps & aim
    • Stop lamps, fog lamps, reflectors 
    • Wheels, tyres
    • Shock absorbers
    • Mirrors, wiper blades, fuel tank cap 
    • Glazing 
    • Doors, boot lid, loading doors, bonnet 
    • Towbars
    • General condition of body
  • Under bonnet checks
    • Vehicle structure
    • Braking systems
    • Exhaust systems, fuel system
    • Speed limiter (if applicable)
    • Steering & power steering components 
    • Suspension components
  • Under vehicle checks
    • Steering including power steering
    • Drive shafts (if applicable)
    • Suspension, shock absorbers
    • Wheel bearings
    • Wheels & tyres
    • Brake systems & mechanical components 
    • Exhaust system
    • Fuel system & fuel tank
    • Structure, general vehicle condition

What can fail you on an MOT?

If you have major faults on any of the above vehicle components, you can fail your MOT. 

It’s easy to do. According to official data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, over 28% of vehicles initially failed their MOT in the year 2022/23. 

Some parts of the vehicle are more likely to cause you to fail your MOT than others. For example, here are five of the most common reasons for failing, from the data above:

  • Lamps, reflectors, and electrical equipment: 25.64%
  • Suspension: 18.7%
  • Brakes: 16.41% 
  • Tyres: 12.42%
  • Visibility: 8.63%

For many of these parts, it’s possible that you won’t know that there’s a problem until you take the test itself. However, there are some things you can do before the test to increase the chance that you’ll pass.

How to pass an MOT

If you really want to pass your MOT first time, you could check, fix, or replace all the components in the vehicle yourself. But you may not have the skills, time, or energy to do that. 

Instead, there are some simple things that you can do to increase your chances of passing. 

1. Check your tyre tread

All your car tyres need a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. If they don’t have that, your vehicle can be dangerous to drive and will fail. 

It’s simple to check whether your tyres will pass. Take a 20p coin and insert it into the grooves in your tyres. You should be able to insert it so that the outer rim of the coin is completely covered. Do this at different places around each tyre’s circumference.

If you can’t push the coin in deeply enough, it probably means you need to replace your tyres. Similarly, if you see any cracks or bulges in your tyres, you’ll likely need a replacement.

2. Get someone to help you check your lights

Your car includes lots of different lights, both inside and outside. To ensure you pass, you could check all of these before your test. 

It’s helpful to get someone else to help you with this. Sit inside your car and turn on all of the external lights, including brakes, headlamps, dipped lights, and more (refer to the “external checks” list to make sure you test them all). The person helping you can tell you whether they work or not.

If they don’t work, have them fixed or replaced before you go for your test.

3. Look for damage to your windscreen or wipers

One of the common causes of MOT failure is impaired visibility. This is usually due to problems with your windscreen. 

Check for any cracks in the glass. If there’s damage larger than 1cm in the driver’s view, you’ll likely fail your test. The same is true if there’s any damage larger than 4cm in any part of the windscreen. 

Faulty windscreen wipers can also cause you to fail your MOT — for instance, if there are any tears or holes in the rubber. If they don’t clean your windscreen any more, they may need to be replaced. 

Don’t impair your visibility with stickers on the windscreen either. If you want to have stickers, keep them outside of the area that the wipers clean.

4. Regularly service your vehicle

As we said above, you won’t be able to fix everything in your car in preparation for an MOT, especially not the more complex systems like your brakes or suspension. 

Instead, it can be really helpful to keep your vehicle well maintained by taking it to a mechanic regularly for a service. This will help you to identify and solve any problems before you fail your MOT. 

What happens if you fail your MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, whoever performs the test will give you a VT30 certificate that tells you why (here’s what a VT30 looks like). 

However, if you’re getting your MOT done at a garage, before they give you a VT30, the mechanic will likely ask if you want them to fix any issues. Obviously, this will come at an additional cost. But in many cases, it’s the easiest way to have the issue fixed and ensure you pass. 

Otherwise, you could find yourself in one of two possible circumstances:

  • You have a dangerous fault. In this case, you won’t be able to drive the car away from wherever it’s being tested. If you’re getting tested at a garage, they will likely be able to fix it, but you could call around for quotes.
  • You have a major fault. You may be able to drive it away, if your previous MOT has not yet expired. However, you will need to get the problem fixed. 

If you do drive with a fault — or with an expired MOT — you will be breaking the law. If you’re caught, you can be fined, banned from driving, or have three points added to your licence. 

Read more: Driving without an MOT: what you need to know

To sum up: What’s on the MOT checklist?

An MOT is a legal requirement once your vehicle is over three years old. You’ll need to get it done every year.

The MOT checklist tells you which parts of the vehicle will be inspected for you to pass the test. It can be useful to run through some basic checks of your car before you take it for a test. Your windscreen, your tyres, and your lights are all easily checked. 

Remember, if you do fail your MOT, you won’t be able to drive your car. 

Find out more about car maintenance, road safety, and motor insurance, at the Howden blog

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