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How to prepare your car for an MOT

MOT preparation

Every car more than three years old needs an annual MOT test to ensure it is roadworthy. If your car fails the test, it must be repaired to conform to the standards. A lot of these checks are very basic so even if you don’t know much about cars it is possible to do a pre-MOT check to minimise the inconvenience of a failure.


Turn on the ignition and make sure:

  • The horn is working
  • The windscreen washers and wipers are working
  • The screen wash is topped up
  • The rubber blades on the windscreen wipers don’t have any chunks missing from the wiping edge or loose strips. If they do, replacements are easy to source from motor retailers and simple to fit
  • The seat belts must work properly and not be frayed or cut
  • The mountings must be secure and the belts should be free from damage as well as engaging and disengaging cleanly
  • Pull sharply on the belt and the inertia reel should lock


Walk round the vehicle and inspect the tyres. Make sure:

  • There are no bulges or cuts on the sidewalls or objects stuck in the tread
  • The tread is at least 1.6mm deep. You can use a tread depth gauge or the rim of a 20 pence piece. Put this in the grooves that run round the tyre. If the rim round the edge of the coin stands proud, the tyres need replacing
  • Check that each tyre matches the opposite on the same axle for size and construction type
  • If the car has a spare tyre, this must be road-legal as well


Lighting is one of the most frequent failure points. Check:

  • All exterior bulbs are working
  • Each light’s lens is free of cracks or damage
  • Headlights (both dipped and main beam), front and rear side lights, stop lights, reversing lights, front and rear fog lights and all indicators plus number plate lights


There should be no sharp edges to injure pedestrians, bumpers should be secure and you must be able to access the car through all the doors and open them from both inside and outside


Although it’s impossible to check the brakes accurately without specialist equipment there are some things you can do:

  • Look beneath the bonnet and make sure the fluid level in the brake system’s reservoir is between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ indicators. For details on where to find it, check your car’s handbook
  • Pull the handbrake on. If you have to pull the lever up too far through lots of clicking, advise the tester the cable probably needs adjusting
  • Likewise, if the handbrake can be released by tapping on the lever, it will need tightening


As with the brakes, it’s difficult to check the steering without specialist equipment:

  • Your steering wheel should be fairly tight on the column. If it's loose or there are abnormal movements when you turn, there could be wear in the column support
  • Listen for knocks when turning the steering wheel from full lock to full lock, or excessive whining from the power steering pump, both of which could indicate worn components

Shock absorbers

Shock absorbers or dampers can’t have any leaks or difference in absorbing pressure. Get a rough idea if your car’s shock absorbers are faulty by bouncing each corner of the vehicle. The vehicle should go down under pressure then rise back up to full height before settling down slightly. Excessive bouncing indicates faulty or worn out dampers.

Windscreen and mirrors

Small stone chips in your windscreen won’t necessarily mean failure but:

  • The entire area swept by the wipers should have no cracks or chips
  • Damage outside this area must be no bigger than 10mm in diameter
  • Mirrors should be securely fixed and the glass in good condition


  • The exhaust must be secure and free from corrosion
  • Rev the engine with the car stationary, parking brake on and doors open. Any rattles or unusual noises could indicate it’s on its way out
  • Any smoke and your car could fail the emissions part of the test

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