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Part and parcel of owning a car is dealing with all of the government laws and regulations. Taxing your car and insuring it isn’t an optional extra; it’s a legal requirement for all vehicles on the road. The same is true for the MOT test. MOT stands for “Ministry of Transport”, and is a roadworthiness test for all cars on the road which are at least three years old.
Types of Vehicles Requiring a MOT Test
As soon as your car turns three it will need its first MOT test, and then another test every year it remains in the road. The age of your car is determined from the date of its first registration with the authorities. This isn’t necessarily the same as the date you first bought it. Over in Northern Ireland, the rules are different. Cars there don’t start having a MOT test until they are 4 years old. At the other end of the scale, cars which are classed as “vintage”, or over 40 years old, don’t need any more MOT tests although you do have to ensure that they are roadworthy. There’s a handy tool on the DVLA website which lets you input the car’s registration number to see when your MOT expires.
Finding a Test Centre
With a network of 21,000 MOT test centres across the UK, you won’t have to travel far to find one close to you. Not all garages are registered to provide the service, but those which are will have the distinctive sign with three triangles outside. There’s no difference between the MOT service at a small local garage or a large, national chain. Book your MOT test before your existing test certificate runs out to ensure that you get a slot which suits you.
It should take an inspector around an hour to work through the MOT test checklist and return your car to you. The law states that you are free to remain in the garage and observe – but not ask questions – if you like. If your car passes, then pay the test fee, pick up the paperwork and drive home. If on the other hand the car fails the MOT, they’ll usually give you a ring or text you to let you know. The mechanic will then explain why your car has failed, and what work needs done to rectify the faults.
All MOT test fees are set by the government. Or more accurately, the government sets the maximum charges for tests in each category. If garages want to charge less than the maximum, then they are free to do so. Lots of garages choose to reduce MOT fees to entice customers in at quiet times. Another option is using a Council-run MOT test centre, which does tests only and doesn’t offer repairs. If you’re sure your car will pass, this is cost-effective. However, if it needs repairs, you’ll then have to go elsewhere to get the car fixed, then re-tested.
If your car sails through its MOT with no problems, you can just file away the paperwork and forget about it all for another year. If on the other hand your car fails its MOT, then the next steps will depend on the reasons for failing,
In Spring 2018, the law was changed when it comes to MOT failures. There are now two different categories of failure.
- Dangerous – This means the inspector has detected an issue with your car which makes it unsafe to be on the road. If this is the case, then driving it will be illegal. Your options are having it fixed by the garage which did the MOT, or arranging a tow truck to take it elsewhere. There is a wide range of faults which could be dangerous, such as leaking brake fluid, missing wheel nuts or brake lights which aren’t working.
- Major – a major fault is still a fail, but doesn’t necessarily mean your car is unsafe. You might still choose to let the MOT test centre do the repairs, but you also have the freedom to take it elsewhere.
A retest is free of charge if you get the repairs done at the same garage which did the initial test, then immediately retested. They won’t re-run the entire inspection, just look at the components which failed first time round. If instead you’ve chosen to take it somewhere else to get fixed, you have 10 days to go back for a retest at a reduced rate. Any longer than that, and you’ll have to pay for a completely new inspection.
Faults when a Pass is Given?
The old MOT system used to have advisories – a list of minor things which the inspector had noticed but which weren’t serious enough to warrant a fail. Advisory meant that you were advised to have the car looked at. This system has now changed, with two new categories of fault potentially listed on the certificate. Remember that seeing either of these still means your car has passed its MOT.
- Minor – a Minor fault is something which the inspector has picked up, and which needs to be fixed before you bring your car back for a MOT next year.
- Advisory – A less important issue. These things usually don’t need immediate attention. It’s up to you whether you get them fixed or not, and even if you don’t get them fixed, your car may still pass its MOT in a year’s time.
It’s a legal requirement to have a valid MOT for any vehicle you take on the public roads. It’s your job to keep up to date with when the MOT is due, and to get it booked into the garage in plenty of time. Driving a car with an expired MOT is just the same as driving a car which has failed its MOT. If you’re stopped by the police, you can expect a fine and points on your driving licence too. Sign up to the text reminder service on the government website to get reminders 30 days before your car’s MOT expires.