How to: avoid expensive MOT costs with regular checks

If your car is more than three years old, it’ll need a yearly MOT test to certify its roadworthy status.

Many motorists turn a blind eye to the condition of their car over the year, submitting it for an MOT test only to be surprised if and when it fails due to a number of overlooked maintenance maladies.

It can be avoided, though. Just a Minute Or Two checking your car over once a week – or even once a month – can see you spot a problem before it develops into an MOT failing fault, improving reliability and saving you money in the process.

Here we’ve put together the top 10 things you need to look out for on you Minute Or Two MOT checklist:

1: HEADLIGHTS AND INDICATORS

Before you book your car in for an MOT, make sure all sidelights, headlights, indicators and hazards are working and there are no broken lenses. This way it’ll save you failing on that alone and having to pay for a retest.

If any lights aren’t working, check bulbs and fuses first if you’re confident – these are the common failures and are cheap and easy to repair. If you’re not so mechanically minded, have a professional check it out for you.

MOT checklist

2: BRAKE LIGHTS 

No prizes for guessing that a car’s brake lights should come on when the relevant pedal is pressed, but it’s still important you check their operation.

Do so by asking a friend to help you, or carefully backing up to a reflective surface, such as a garage door or a window. Make sure all lights – including high-level third brake lights – light up as they should. If they don’t, again try the respective bulbs and fuses, or book your car into a garage that can investigate the problem.

3: WHEELS AND TYRES

Possibly the most important aspect of your car to monitor for wear and tear are its wheels and tyres. They have to deal with braking, steering and acceleration so are under a lot of stress – it’s therefore important to keep them in good condition for safety reasons.

The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the rubber – if caught with tyres below this, you could receive three points on your licence per corner.

4: WINDSCREEN

Windscreen chips can develop into small cracks and small cracks into huge fissures due to vibration and flex over poor road surfaces. If you submit your car for an MOT with a crack greater than 40mm in length or 10mm in width located in the ‘swept’ area of glass in front of the driver, it’ll fail its MOT.

Keeping an eye on your vehicle’s condition can help you spot items like these, allowing you to act on them before they develop into expensive problems. Special resin can be injected into some windscreen cracks to stop the situation worsening, saving you money in shelling out for a new windscreen.

MOT checklist

5: FUEL AND ENGINE OIL

Believe it or not, low levels of fuel or engine oil can result in a refusal to test, never mind an MOT failure. Oil lubricates the engine’s internal parts – not enough can cause expensive damage, meaning an MOT tester will not likely fire up your car if it is at risk of harm.

As part of the MOT, your vehicle’s emissions output will be analysed, meaning the engine needs to be running. Make sure there is enough fuel in the tank to complete this procedure and get you home if your car is successful.

6: HORN

A nice simple one here – the tester will give a short blast of the horn to check its working. Your car’s hooter is primarily a safety device to warn other road users of your presence, so if it doesn’t work, it’ll be a big red cross unfortunately.

7: WINDSCREEN WIPERS

The view through your windscreen is important for a successful MOT result, but so is your car’s ability to maintain that vision. If your windscreen wipers are torn or have holes in the rubber, you risk not only failing the MOT, but damaging the glass, too.

8: SCREENWASH

And just as wipers are important to the screen, screnwash is important to the wipers. It can help maintain a clear view and stop the solution freezing over, splitting the wash bottle or causing damage to the pump.

It sounds stupid, but you could fail if your windscreen washer bottle is empty when you put your car in for its ticket, so make sure the reservoir is topped up come test time.

9: NUMBER PLATE

Your vehicle’s number plate is a way of identifying your car if it’s involved in an accident – not to mention if you’re caught speeding or illegally parked. It’s therefore a requirement to keep it clean.

If it’s not your tester could fail the vehicle, so a quick periodic wipe over with a cloth can save the cost of a retest later down the line. Don’t forget your plate has to conform to the regulation font, size and spacing, too.

MOT checklist

10: SEATS AND SEATBELTS

We take seatbelt for granted, but the modern inertia reel design is a true lifesaver in a crash. That’s why it’s important to make sure the mechanism works properly – locking up quickly from a sharp pull (simulating heavy braking or crash forces) and releasing freely – as well as the belt being in good condition and not frayed.

Your vehicle’s drivers seat also has to adjust forward and back as part of the test, so if there are any obstructions to movement in the seat runners, get it cleared out before you put your car in for its test.

There are plenty of maintenance areas to look out for regularly. Doing so can nip a potential problem in the bud before it blooms.

Best of all, it’ll make your car safer and save you money on expensive repairs. What’s not to like?

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