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Preparing your vehicle for an MOT
Author: FezzR

Lighting Equipment

Front and rear lamps
Usually covers fog or spot lamps. Make sure these are working if fitted, and in good condition.


If the waterproof seal is letting condensation into the headlamp, it will fail. You will need to get a new one if this happens. Keep a spare one in the garage, they are non-sided so you can replace either one.

Headlamp aim

The lamps must not face into oncoming traffic, instead they should aim towards the nearside kerb. Ideally they should be adjusted by your local garage but you can usually make an educated guess and have a go yourself. Those of you with Euro spec lights for LHD cars will need to replace these for the test with ones intended for use in this country, or use black tape on the area marked on the lens.

Brake Lights

These should both work (the same brightness) and should come on when the pedal is pressed lightly, and not halfway through the pedal travel.

Rear reflectors

If your car needs rear reflectors (i.e. if you have tinted rear clusters or no fog lamps) these should be in clear view and in good condition.

Indicators & hazard lamps

Always check the hazards AND the indicators work, as either one or both could fail. Cars built to UK spec after 1986 must have side repeaters. Also, indicator stalks must be intact and cancel properly.

Steering and Suspension

Steering control

The cover on your steering wheel must be secure, whether it be foam or leather etc..

Steering mechanism/system

There should be equal turns of the wheel from centre to each lock. Also, there mustn’t be any play in the steering column. Gaiters on the steering rack must not be split or leaking, and the bushes must not permit play in the rack itself.

Power steering

Same as above, wheels must travel between locks smoothly with no juddering.

Transmission shafts

The drive shafts must not show any signs of stress or fatigue (cracking) and the CV boots must not be split and/or leaking. excess play could result in falure, if there really bad, but should only be an advisory in most cases

Wheel bearings

With each road wheel lifted off the road, check for play in the bearings by holding the tyre at the top and bottom and rocking. Any movement will fail you here.

Front suspension

This covers the whole suspension system, so check the condition of rubber bushes in the track control arms and that everything is secure. Also check the condition of tie rod ends, these should not be split or leaking.

The springs should not dislocate from the shocks when the car is raised off the ground. This won't happen with lowering springs up to -65mm or properly matched coilover kits, but it can happen with chopped springs.

To check the track rod ends applying similar method to checking for wheel bearing play, but holding the wheel as the side and not top and bottom, the wheel should not move without the rest of the steering system moving too.

Rear suspension

Same as above, check the condition of rubber bushes etc.

Shock absorbers

Check for cracking and shocks for leaking. You can check the condition of each shocker by bouncing each corner of the car and checking that it settles quickly, excess bouncing means that shock absorber is shot. Bouncing 1 and a half times is normal.


ABS warning system/controls

For cars with ABS fitted, the light must come on when the ignition is on, and go out once the car has started. It must also come on when the ABS is activated. The ABS system must activate when the brakes are slammed hard at a substantial road speed.

Condition of service brake system

This means the normal brakes. The pads must not be worn out, and the discs must not be below their legal thickness. Brake hoses must be in good condition, securely fitted and not fouling the chassis or bodywork. The brake pedal must not have any sideways play in it. The calipers must be secure and not leaking, as must the brake lines, corrosion can also fail, depending on extent.

Condition of handbrake system

The handbrake cable must be working and in good condition. Also, make sure it is held in place under the car with all the relevant brackets. The handbrake lever must not have any sideways play in it.

If you have fitted rear discs and have a slack handbrake cable, cutting the wire and rejoining it is acceptable providing it is done to a good enough standard not to break apart.

Brake performance

They will put your car on a set of rollers and test your brakes. The car must not veer off to one side under braking and should bring the vehicle to a stop in a reasonable time and with reasonable effort.

Handbrake performance

The handbrake must hold the car steady when engaged, and not allow it to roll forwards or backwards. 3 to 5 clicks is acceptable

Tyres and Wheels

Tyre size type

Tyre sizes should be consistant across each axle. I.e. 195/50s on the rear and 205/40s on the front is fine.

The wheel or tyre must not protrude outside the arch.

Tyre load/speed ratings

If you have tyre ratings that are too low for the top speed of your car, they could potentially be very dangerous as you could get a blow-out on the motorway.

Tyre condition

Check for nails in the tread and also deep gouging in the tyre walls. The legal Tread depth is 1.6mm over 3/4s of the tyres width. also check for slices, nicks or cuts in the inner and outer sideways cuts were the tyre has begun to bulge or u can see the cords, will fail.

Road wheels

The wheels must not be buckled as this can cause a weak point for a tyre fitted to it. Also, you are not required to have a spare wheel, but if you do it must fit your car and the tyre must be of legal tread (although it doesn’t need to be inflated).



The webbing on the seatbelts must not be frayed and should definitely not be worn through at any point. You must not be able to see light through it. The fixing points must also be secure. Harnesses must only be secured at the rear where the lap belt secures under the rear bench, or to a suitable additional anchor point such as a roll cage or rear strut brace.


Drivers view of the road

Windscreen must be free from cracks and large chips. Any furry dice or similar ornaments hung from the rear view mirror will (or should) fail you as well. Or stickers/sunvisors that incroach the sweep of the wipers will fail


Must be working.

Exhaust system

Exhaust hangers must be in reasonable condition, and no holes in the exhaust itself. Any perforation, no matter how small will fail, except in flexi pipes where pinholes may be accepted.

Exhaust emissions

This can be either too high, or for catalyst cars (those registered after 1990), too low. Beware of hydrocarbon levels if you have fitted an uprated camshaft, to bring this in line the CO needs to be turned up above normal but don’t forget to set it back to 1.0-1.5%.

General vehicle condition

If the tester sees anything that is not on this list that he deems unsafe or unroadworthy, he may fail you such as a dodgy bonnet lock (could fly open when you are driving).


You must have an internal rear view mirror, and at least one external one. Cracked mirrors will fail if they are one of the required ones.

A cracked passenger mirror can pass if the driver and internal mirrors are fine.

Fuel system

The main points to worry about here is that the fuel pipes under the car are secured in their brackets and not hanging down where they could catch on something. As brake lines corroded fuel lines can fail

Registration plates and VIN numbers

The letters must be of the standard legal typeface and with the specified character spacings. They must be clearly visible and legible (no screws where they shouldn’t be to make numbers look like letters). Also, you must have number plate lighting (if more than one light, they must both work). Your car must also have an unmodified and legible VIN plate, usually located in the engine bay on the chassis somewhere.

There must be no significant rust anywhere on the car really but the key areas that need to be carefull of are within ?30cm? of any structural or safety mounting, ie seat belt mountings

Final Thought

Be wary of test stations that only do MOT’s as they are more likely to fail you on something if they think you will book the car in with them for the work to be done. Garages that specialise in bodywork or engine tuning, for example, but do MOT’s on the side may be more lenient and let you off but advise you of things that may need attention.

If your car has mods such as a roll cage that prevents the original seat belts being used, or harnesses with aircraft fixings which are not strictly road legal then it's worth taking it to a Motorsport preparation outfit as they are clued up with such things.
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