How to prepare your car for its MOT - key checks to save you from an expensive fail

The UK’s MOT extension scheme is due to end any day now, meaning millions of drivers will need to consider their car’s roadworthiness.

The end of the extension means any car with an MOT that expires after July 31, 2020 will have to have the test carried out by the original date and also means that many cars which qualified for the exemption will soon need to have their overdue test.

An MOT checks the overall roadworthiness and safety of a vehicle and driving without one carries a £1,000 fine, as well as potentially putting yourself and others at risk.

While some elements of the test are hard to replicate and some problems are hard to fix at home there are some measures you can take to improve your car’s chances of being given a clean bill of health.

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Overall condition

There are a lot of quick and simple things you can check ahead of time and even if you can’t put them right yourself, you can at least have them addressed before they result in an MOT fail.

Ensure your horn, wipers and windscreen washers are working properly and check your seatbelts all function and are free from damage. Also check your vehicle is clean. If the tester can’t make out your number plate or the lights are heavily obscured, they could fail you on the spot.

Check your tyres

Tyres are vital to your safety on the road and a common cause of MOT failure so follow this advice from the experts at Goodyear:

Walk round your vehicle and inspect the tyres. Look out for bulges or cuts on the sidewalls, as well as for objects stuck in the tread. You should also use a tread depth gauge to ensure that the tread is at least 1.6mm across the breadth of the tyre. This is something that will definitely by tested, so it’s worth checking yourself ahead of time. Finally, any spare tyres that you might have must also be road legal. This can be easily be overlooked, so make sure to check your spare just as thoroughly as the tyres that are on your car.

Some simple maintenance beforehand could save you from an unnecessary MOT failure (Photo: Shutterstock)

Try your lights

Lights are another element that contribute to a large number of MOT fails despite being simple to check. It’s easier if you can get a friend or relative to help but you can also do this on our own. Firstly check all your lenses are clean and free of cracks or other damage. Then test all of the following in turn: headlights (dipped and main beam); front and rear side lights; stop lights; reversing lights; indicators; number plate lights; fog lights and the warning lights on your dash.

If any bulbs have blown, see if you can replace them yourself (not always easy in modern cars) and, if not, it could be cheaper to have a high street autocentre change them before putting it in for the MOT.

Under the bonnet

Your should check your vehicle’s fluid levels regularly anyway but if certain fluids aren’t topped up it could result in an MOT failure. Brake function can be affected by low fluid levels, so check the fluid level in the brake system’s reservoir is between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ indicators. Do the same for the power steering fluid, it must be above the minimum to pass. Also check that there’s plenty of screen wash as your car will fail if its washer system cannot properly clear the screen.

Screens and mirrors

While a small chip in your windscreen won’t necessarily mean an automatic failure, it’s worth being aware that damage to the glass has the potential to cause issues during an MOT. Check that the entire area swept by the wipers has no cracks or chips. If there’s any damage outside this area, it should be no more than 10mm in diameter. Likewise, all mirrors should be securely fixed and the glass in good condition.  There are specialist services that can be used to deal with a chip or a crack, and it’s well worth getting this sorted ahead of your MOT. If any of your screens or mirrors don’t meet these criteria though, be prepared for the garage to question it during your test.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman