What Is Tested in an MOT?

As a garage, we get many customers confused as to what an MOT test checks. Many people assume because a car has had an MOT it means it should have no problems or issues, when this is not always the case. In this post, we will clarify what is and what is not tested in an MOT.


Vehicle Identification Number

  • MOT testers will check whether the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is present and legibly displayed on the vehicle.


Registration Plate

  • The condition, security, legibility of the registration plate will all be checked to make sure they meet the MOT standard. The format of the letters & numbers, spacing & lettering and colouring should meet current regulations & not be altered.



  • The operation, security, condition and colour will all be checked.
  • Common failure points include; headlamp aim being incorrect, indicator bulbs too white (unless registered before 1965), headlights too dim or bulb not working. Some classics have slow flashing indicators which may be improved when the engine is running – flashing too slow can be a fail.


Steering and Suspension

  • The current condition and operation of the steering and suspension is checked to make sure it meets MOT standards.
  • They will be inspected to check their condition, steering oil level, correct operation, for inappropriate repairs or modification including corrosion to power steering pipes or hoses and that the steering lock mechanism works properly.
  • Common failures include worn ball joints, split bushes or gaiters, worn kingpins and steering rack play.


Wipers and Washer Bottle

  • These are checked to make sure they work correctly and give the driver a clear view of the road.
  • Common failure points are wipers not working at all or being misplaced so as to cause scratches to the windscreen, which impairs a driver’s visibility. If the washer jets are not working (even if the reason is because you didn’t fill up the water bottle) this will mean a fail.



  • The windscreen is checked for chips/cracks and delamination. The maximum size of damage is 10mm for the driver’s line of vision and 40mm elsewhere. Again, if scratched by damaged wiper blades this could also mean failure.



  • The horn is checked for its effectiveness and suitability.
  • Common failures can be down to poor connections, horn unit failure due to its vulnerable location or horn push faults.



  • The type, condition and security of the seatbelts are all checked to make sure they are in correct operation. The MOT tester will also check that all compulsory seatbelts are in place.
  • Common failure points include fraying of material, loose or incorrectly fitted bolts or buckles not securing the belt.
  • The dashboard warning lights will also be checked for the air bags, seatbelt pretensioners and seatbelt load limiters. If any of these lights show your vehicle may fail.
  • In some classic cars, seatbelts are not required. This is because they are manufactured before 1966 and therefore they are not required to be fitted by law, if they are they must work.



  • The security of the seats is checked.
  • The driver’s seat will be checked to see if it can be adjusted.
  • Seat backs will also be checked to make sure they can be fixed in the upright position.
  • A failure point would be if the seat was loose and not securely fixed to the floor.


Fuel System

  • The fuel system is checked for leaks and the MOT tester will also check the fuel cap fastens and seals securely.
  • If a fuel leak is discovered this would equal a failure.
  • Make sure the key to the fuel cap is available to the tester as it will need to be opened.



  • Emissions are checked to make sure they are within the specified guidelines. Most classics are measure visually by the tester.
  • The exhaust is also checked to make sure it is complete and secure with no serious leaks and that the silencer works correctly. They will also check that a catalyst isn’t missing where one was fitted as standard.
  • For examples on the guidelines for emissions on an MOT test check out this website https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/in-service-exhaust-emission-standards-for-road-vehicles



  • The structure and bodyshell is checked for excessive corrosion or damage in specific areas of the vehicle. Any sharp edges can also equal failure.
  • Common failure points, especially in classic cars, include heavy corrosion within 30cm of a structural point or poor inadequate repairs.


Doors, Bonnet and Boot

  • The doors are checked to make sure they open and close correctly.
  • The latch is checked to make sure it is secure in the closed position
  • The front doors should open from both the inside and outside of the vehicle.
  • Rear doors must open from the outside and may need to be opened for the tester to be able to check items such as rear seatbelts
  • The bonnet will be inspected to check it closes securely.
  • The boot or tailgate will be tested to check it can be closed properly.



  • The condition and security of the mirrors are checked to ensure they meet MOT standards.
  • Indirect vision devices will also be inspected.



  • The efficiency and braking performance of the brakes are tested
  • The condition and operation are checked to ensure the brakes and braking system is working correctly.
  • Brakes are usually tested on a roller brake tester.
  • The anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) (where fitted) will also be checked.
  • Common failure points include excessively worn wheel bearing, rusty brake discs that effect the operation of the vehicle and brake pads not working correctly sometimes causing a slight imbalance. Modern cars must have correctly operating dash warning lights.



  • Visible electrical wiring and the battery will be checked for security.
  • A common failure can be when the battery is not secured properly.



  • Towbars are inspected for secureness, condition and inappropriate repairs or modification.
  • The MOT tester will also check that the 13-pin electrical socket is working correctly, that the speedometer is in good working order and that the engine mountings are secure.


Tyres and Wheels

  • These will be inspected to check for condition, security, tyre size and depth and tread depth. Spare wheels and tyres are not inspected.
  • Vehicles registered on or after 1st January 2012 will be checked to make sure the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) MIL is working.


So, what ISN’T COVERED on an MOT test?


  • Gearbox
  • Clutch
  • Poor bodywork, such as panels made up mainly of filler, or rust inside the body.
  • Water, oil, or coolant levels (hence why your car can fail due to the washer fluid tank being empty, therefore making the washer jets inoperable).
  • Service items such as oil filter or pollen filter, plugs and condition of oil
  • The condition of the engine
  • The condition of gaskets and seals
  • Any problems with the interior e.g., cuts/tears in seats, poor headlining (unless impacting vision)
  • Quality of paintwork (including new paintwork covering up rust or imperfections)
  • Panel or chassis alignment
  • Condition of electrical components and wiring
  • Condition of battery
  • Major oils leaks are usually only advised on
  • Heaters/heater fan
  • Radiator/radiator fan




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