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Car MOT Test

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A mechanic testing a tyre's tread depth.

In the UK all cars over three years old are legally required to undergo an annual MOT (Ministry Of Transport) Test. There are some exceptions to this, such as taxis, or cars that are used as licensed taxis, which require an MOT Test at one year old, and every year afterwards. Many car owners take advantage of being able to have their car MOT tested one calendar month before the expiry date.

The MOT Test

Important items on a car will be checked and tested to see that they meet the legal minimum road safety and environmental requirements in accordance with Section 45 of the road Traffic Act 1988.

However, the MOT Test Certificate is not a guarantee of the general mechanical condition or of the roadworthiness of a car. It simply means that on the day of the test the car met the legal requirements needed to pass. It does not inform you how long a car will continue to meet the requirements. It should also be noted that a tester is legally obliged to pass the car even if any items are at a minimum for a pass. For instance, tread on car tyres is something that the tester would have to pass even if the tyres are at legal minimum and only have about ten miles left on them.

Although the MOT Test is basically the same on all age cars, there may be some minor differences depending on the year, make and model of a car, and the laws at the time it came off the production line. For instance, although rear seat belts are a legal requirement, older cars that didn't originally have rear seat belts won't be required to have them fitted. However, if rear seat belts are fitted, they must be fitted correctly to the manufacturer's standards, and then become part of the MOT test.

A manual explaining the standard test procedure should be available for you to read should you want to. Also, you can watch the test from a nearby viewing area, however you are not allowed to interrupt the tester while the test is in progress.

The condition of the car's engine, clutch and gearbox is not covered in the test.

Where to Get an MOT Test

With approximately 19,000 approved MOT test stations in garages or local council test stations, which are open to public, carrying out approximately 30 million MOT tests a year, across Britain, it shouldn't be too difficult to find one. Premises which carry out MOTs are officially required to display the blue three triangles logo, which identifies them as approved MOT test stations.

Premises that offer an MOT test service will have purpose-built bays, where the test takes place. These should have a range of specialist and computerised equipment. The maximum fee for a MOT test should also be clearly displayed within the test station. However, some may choose to charge less than the maximum.

A certificate should be on display in the MOT test station certifying that the tester has passed a training course run by VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) or DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency)1.


VOSA, an executive agency of the Department for Transport is responsible for the training of MOT testers, and any subsequent revised training. VOSA is also responsible for setting the standards and conditions for MOT testing stations, employing inspectors to visit stations to ensure these standards and conditions are being adhered to, and all other aspects of a MOT testing station and testers. VOSA is the ideal place to find the latest and most up-to-date information concerning MOT tests and the way they are carried out.

What will be Tested

  • The vehicle structure should be free of excessive damage or corrosion in specific areas, and there should be no sharp edges.

  • The doors should open and close with ease, from both inside and outside the car. The door latch should be secure when the door is shut.

  • The front and rear seats should be securely fitted, and can be secured in upright position.

  • All compulsory fitted seat belts, whether fitted at time of manufacture or fitted later by an owner, will be checked to ensure they are of the correct type, in full working order and securely fitted.

  • The fuel system does not leak, and the petrol cap fits and seals securely. If it is a locking cap, ensure you leave the key with the MOT tester, as it will need to be opened.

  • The exhaust emissions should meet the required emissions for the age of the car and type of fuel used.

  • The exhaust system should be complete and secure with no leaks, and it should silence effectively.

  • The mirrors should be present, securely fitted, and there should be a clear view in them.

  • The condition of the brakes (including the brake lines), their operational performance and efficiency must be up to the required standards.

  • The tyres and wheels must be in good condition, securely fitted of the same and correct type and size, with the legally required tread depth. (Spare tyres are not checked)

  • The registration plates must be securely fitted, with the numbers and digits complete, and correctly sized, spaced and clearly visible.

  • The lights must be of the correct type and colour and in working visible condition. The headlamps will be checked to see that the beam aim is correct.

  • The bonnet latch must be secure when in the closed position.

  • The wipers/washers should operate correctly to enable a clear view to the driver.

  • The windscreen should be in good condition with nothing obscuring the driver's view. Your car may fail the MOT test if you have cracks or chips on the windscreen.

  • The horn should be in working order, and of the correct type.

  • The steering and suspension should be in correct condition and in working order.

  • There should be no more than one different vehicle identification number on models first used on or after 1 August, 1980.

Diesel Smoke Emissions

There appears to be some concerns over the testing of smoke emissions in cars with diesel engines. This part of the test has been developed so it does not harm a well-maintained diesel engine. The tester will ask you questions about your car's maintenance and history, particularly the engine. This is to enable the tester to ascertain you car's suitability for this part of the test, and he may refuse to carry out the MOT test if there is a risk of damaging your engine. Test stations are not permitted to ask you to sign a disclaimer.

After the MOT Test

At the end of the test you will be issued a combination of the following forms. The details on the computerised forms should be machine-printed. If you are given one that is hand-written you can arrange to exchange it for a printed version from the Test Station that issued it, free of charge. These are important documents and should be filed away somewhere safe, and not left in your car.

MOT Test Certificate

Form VT20 - MOT Test Certificate. A green sheet with extensive details about your car, the date and time of the MOT test, expiry date and a barcode, as well as the name of tester and address of test station.

An MOT Test pass certificate means your car has met the minimum legal requirements of the test. You will need to produce your MOT Test pass certificate to purchase a road tax disc (road fund licence). It is also useful if you plan to sell you car in the near future. However, the form itself states: 'Warning: A test certificate is not evidence that the vehicle is in a satisfactory condition'.

Advisory Notice

Form VT32 – Advisory Notice. An orange form with minor details of your car, the name of tester and address of test station. This form advises you of items that have only just passed the test, and will need to replaced/repaired in the near future.

An Advisory Notice may be issued along with the MOT Test Certificate. This form will list the items that are at the minimum legal requirement, and therefore in need of attention. Failure to attend to these items may result in you, or anyone else driving your car, driving it illegally and open to prosecution. Also, should you be involved in an accident, it may invalidate your car insurance.

Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate

Form VT30 – Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. A red form with minor details of your car, the name of tester and address of test station. This form lists the items your car failed to pass.

A Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate means one or more items have failed to meet the minimum legal requirements for a pass. The item(s) will be listed on the form. If you intend to use your car on the roads, the item(s) will need to be replaced/repaired urgently. It may be possible to arrange replacement/repair of failed item(s) at the test station premises, to enable your car to achieve an MOT test pass Certificate before you drive the car away.

However, if you intend to drive your car away from the test station with a Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate, there are some stipulations. It is illegal to drive a car of MOT-testable age that does not have a current MOT test certificate on public roads, with the exception of driving it away to a place of repair, which may include your home residence. From there you may be permitted to drive to a pre-booked place of repair, and to a pre-booked MOT test station.

It is not illegal to sell a car with a Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate, however, a buyer may be breaking the law by driving it away, unless the stipulations above are satisfied. Even then it is not guaranteed that you will not be prosecuted for driving an unroadworthy car, and your insurance may be invalidated.

MOT Online

The details on these forms will be held at VOSA's database of MOT Test results. It is this information, rather than the certificates that will be used in any legal matters that may arise.

Using the details on the forms you can check that your details have been registered on VOSA's MOT Computerisation website. This will also confirm that a VOSA approved tester and test station tested your car, and that your certificate is a genuine document.

MOT Retest

If the item(s) on your car are replaced/repaired while the car is left at the test station that carried out the MOT Test, only a partial retest will be required, which you will not be charged for.

If you return your car to the test station within one working day, you may qualify for a free retest if detailed selected items are affected.

A full fee may be charged if the car is driven away and returns for a retest on item(s) not covered by the free retest. Full details can be found on the Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate.

It should be noted that issues surrounding an MOT retest are complex and dependant on which item(s) have been failed.


If you disagree with any aspect of the MOT test - for example, if you feel your car was incorrectly failed - your first option is to discuss it with the tester. If still not satisfied you can request for and complete an appeal form within 14 working days of the MOT test date. You will be offered a retest, usually within five working days and you will be charged for this test. However, you may be entitled to a partial or total refund if the original test is proved to be in error. It is important that you do not allow anyone else to carry out any repairs on your car during this time. In fact, you may be requested to leave your car at the test station until it has a retest.

1VOSA was replaced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in April 2014.

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