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10 Key Checks to Do Before The MOT

Most of us think that the car’s annual MOT is a technical check which can only be performed by a trained mechanic. In part that’s true; lots of thing checks require the car being put up on a ramp and inspected from beneath. Also, you can’t issue MOT pass or fail certificates unless you’ve been through the DVLA training and been approved as an inspector. However, not all things checked during the MOT require such in-depth knowledge. There are some checks which all drivers should be doing before their car has its MOT check which will make passing the MOT more likely and reduce your cost too.
Brake Fluid
Brakes are one of the MOT elements which have been around since the test was first introduced in the 60s. Check your brake fluid by opening the bonnet when the car is cool and parked on an even surface. Look for the master cylinder on the engine. If you don’t know what this looks like, then check your maintenance manual for help. Once you located the cylinder, look for the minimum and maximum levels marking. Your brake fluid level should be somewhere between the two. If it isn’t, deal with the problem before putting your car in for its MOT.
Warning Lights
Any warning light on the dashboard which doesn’t go off within a few seconds of the car starting up is an automatic fail. Don’t ignore any warning lights on your car, even if you think they are lighting up in error. Look in your handbook to find out what the warning lights mean. It could be something as simple as checking your tyre pressure, then resetting the warning levels.
You will only get a MOT pass certificate if your car has the right number of mirrors. You need one internal mirror, and one driver’s side wing mirror. If your mirrors are broken, can’t be adjusted, or missing, your car won’t pass. Wing mirrors are easily broken but also easy to replace so there’s really no excuse for a car failing on missing mirrors.
We should all be in the habit of checking the tread levels on our tyres regularly, but if not, just before the MOT is the best time to take a look. Tyre treads must be at least 1.6mm all the way round the tyre. Tyres should also be wearing evenly, without bald patches. You can get special tread depth checkers from large motoring stores, but just as easy is to slot a 20p coin into the tread. If you can still see the rim, the tread isn’t deep enough.
MOT tests specify the combination of lights which should be working to pass. The tester will look at all of the lights on your car; headlights, side lights, indicators and brake lights. These should all be working properly so if they’re not, buy new bulbs or get them fixed. One of the lights which is often overlooked is the small light above your rear numberplate.
Oil Check
Although checking the oil isn’t an essential part of the MOT, it needs to be at the right level to make the emissions tests give the correct result. Check the oil level at the same time as you check the brake fluid, when the car engine is cold and you’re not parked on a hill. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean on a rag. Then put the dipstick bag into the oil and pull it out again. The dipstick should be marked with minimum and maximum levels. If it’s getting a bit low, top it up. Your handbook should specify the type of oil you need. You don’t have to buy oil from the garage either, the stuff from the motoring superstores, garages and supermarkets will do the job just as well.
The MOT rules say that your car windscreen should be intact and free of obstructions. If your windscreen has stickers all over it and a big crack down the middle, then that’s an obvious fail. However, smaller chips and cracks can cause a problem too. Don’t put off getting cracks and chips repaired as soon as you spot them, and don’t be tempted to obscure your vision with stickers, tinted films or anything else which could cause a fail. While you’re thinking about the windscreen, check the levels of screenwash in the reservoir under the bonnet. Too little water can cause a MOT fail too.
Give it a Clean
Cars don’t fail their MOT for being a bit grimy. But if the glass covering the headlamps is so dirty that the light can’t get through, or if there’s a thick layer of dirt on the number plates then the tester would be within their rights to fail you. And furthermore, they could charge you for their time and effort cleaning your car and bringing it up to the required standard. So it’s worth spending a few pounds at the car wash on the way to the MOT testing station.
A functioning horn is also a requirement for the MOT test. This is one of the easiest things to test too, and doesn’t require any specialist knowledge whatsoever. If your horn isn’t working, mention this when you hand your car over for its test and they can take a look at it first.
The inspector will go around your car tugging on all of the seatbelts to make sure they lock if there’s a crash. They’ll also want to see that they retract smoothly too. Pull the seatbelt our fully and make sure that there is no fraying or damage along the length of the belt. It’s not just the driver’s seatbelt which needs tested either, it’s all of the seatbelts in the car including those in the back. Seatbelts can be expensive to replace, especially in modern cars where there is no option but replacing the entire sealed unit.