MOT checks: the simple tests you can carry out at home to cut costs and avoid a failure

The basic pre-test maintenance that can make the difference between an MOT pass and fail

MOT failures are costing UK drivers more than £17.5 million a year, half of which could be avoided with some simple checks.

Analysis of DVLA data suggests that of the 7.8 million vehicles that failed their MOT in 2020 more than 46 per cent were for problems that could have been identified and corrected before the test.

By addressing these issues in advance, drivers could save a collective £8m, according to the research by GoCompare. It found that 27 per cent MOT failures were due to issues with lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment. Meanwhile, 11.6 per cent were caused by tyre defects and eight per cent by visibility problems, all of which can be checked easily at home.

Worse still, 6.5 per cent of vehicles that fail miss the 10-day window for a free retest, leaving drivers having to fork out the full cost of another test - an average of £48.32 - and face a potentially long wait for another slot.

Ryan Fulthorpe, motoring expert at GoCompare, commented: “It takes as little as 10 minutes to examine a car for simple defects, such as faulty light bulbs and flat tyres. Yet, over 2.6 million vehicles fail their test due to these kinds of issues every year, and many owners end up having to pay for a retest as a result. We would urge all motorists to inspect their vehicle ahead of time, as neglecting to do so could cost you around £48.”

To help you save time and money, here are some of the basic pre-MOT checks you can carry out at home.

Try your lights

Lights are one of the biggest causes of MOT failures 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 your 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.

Check your tyres

Tyres are vital to your safety on the road and a common cause of MOT failure so inspect the tyres for damage and have them replaced before submitting your car for its test. 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.

Under the bonnet

Your vehicle’s fluid levels will certainly be checked during an MOT, so lifting the bonnet beforehand and making sure everything’s in order is a really easy way of getting prepared. Make sure the fluid level in the brake system’s reservoir is between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ indicators. Check that there’s plenty of screen wash and also that you have enough oil. It’s good practice to carry out these checks on a regular basis, but doing so before an MOT is essential.

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.

At the same time, check your windscreen wipers. Damaged or ineffective blades can lead to a failure on the grounds of impaired visibility but changing a worn-out blade only takes a few minutes.

Other things to check are that your car’s horn and seatbelts all function properly, faults here are easy to spot but also an MOT fail. And make sure your car 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.