What is checked in an MOT?

Stephen Wright, 2 years ago

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  • Advice
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WhoCanFixMyCar explain exactly what is checked when your vehicle goes into the garage for its MOT

There are many checks carried out in an MOT to make sure your car is road worthy, and these can be grouped into eight categories:

  • Lights, reflectors, and electrical equipment

  • Steering and suspension

  • Brakes

  • Tyres

  • Seat belts

  • Vehicle body and structure

  • Exhaust, fuel, and emissions

  • View of the road

What is checked in an MOT - full list explained

Lights, reflectors and electrical equipment checks


Make sure your front, brake, rear, fog, indicator, registration plate lights and rear reflectors are:

  • Correctly positioned and secure

  • Not obscured

  • In good condition

  • The correct colour (a bluish tinge to front headlights is acceptable)

  • Not overly affected by the operation of any other light

  • Light up at a single operation of the switch

The same colour, size and shape must emit from pairs of lights.

Both dip beam and main beam headlight aim should be below the horizontal, to ensure it doesn’t dazzle other drivers.


Your horn must sound a continuous uniform note. It must be loud enough to be heard by another road user.


The battery must be secure. It must not show any signs of leaking electrolyte.

Electrical wiring

Wiring should be secure. Wiring must not be damaged in a way that it is likely to short circuit or become detached.

If you think you’ve got an issue with your wiring, you might want to have an auto electrician take a look at your car prior to its MOT.

Steering and suspension checks

Power steering


During the test, the strength and condition of the steering wheel will be challenged by pushing the steering in various directions. Steering components will also be inspecting for wear or damage.

Wheels with locking devices will be tested to make sure it only locks when the engine isn’t running. Plus, cars with power steering must have the minimum level of power steering fluid in the reservoir.


Your vehicle’s suspension components and shock absorbers will be checked to find excessive corrosion, distortion and fractures. Any suspension repairs are something that should be done by a professional.

Brake checks

During an MOT check, the overall condition of the brakes, pedals and levers are looked at, alongside any warning lights. A brake performance test will also be carried to check the efficiency of your brakes.

Tyre checks

Tyre tread depth will be checked and must not be below the legal limit of 1.6mm. Tyres will be examined for cuts in excess of 25mm, alongside lumps, tears, exposure of the cord and tread separation. Furthermore, the warning light must operate correctly for vehicles with run flat tyres.

Mechanic checking tyre

Seat belt checks

Seat Belts

Each seat belt and its attachment and adjustment fittings are checked for its security and condition.

Vehicle body and structure

A general inspection is made of the body, chassis, engine mountings, seats and doors are inspected to make sure that all components are free from excessive corrosion do not have any sharp edges that may cause injury.

Registration plates

Registration plates must be fitted at the front and rear of the car. They must be secure and legible to someone standing 20 metres away. The characters on the plate must be correctly formed and spaced so that they are not likely to be misread.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Every car must have a legible VIN permanently displayed, either on the VIN plate or on the body or chassis.


The MOT tester will check if a speedometer is fitted and that it can be illuminated. They will also check to see if there are any cracks in the glass obstructing the view of the speedometer.

Exhaust, fuel and emissions checks

The exhaust system is inspected to ensure it is secure and doesn't leak. Vehicles originally fitted with a catalytic converter must have it present.

exhaust-pipe-4278617 1920

Fuel system

During the MOT, your vehicle’s fuel system is inspected for leaks. If your tank cap does not seal properly, then your car will fail.


The tester will use a gas analyser probe while the engine is running to test the smoke emitted from the exhaust. Emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons must fall within the legal limit set by the Euro Emissions Standards. A visual check for excessive dense blue or black smoke emitted from the exhaust is undertaken. If there appears to be thick black or blue smoke your car will not pass the MOT.

View of the road checks

Mirrors and wipers

The vehicle’s rear-view mirrors and wing mirrors must be secure and provide acceptable views to the rear and side whilst driving.

Wipers and washers should sweep a wide enough area on the widescreen to give an adequate view of the road.

There must not be any damage or obstructions larger than 10mm around the windscreen directly in front of the driver. Within this area but outside of the driver’s view your car will fail if there is any damage or other obstruction larger than 40mm.

For up to the minute information about  MOTs and the checks which will be included during the test, visit https://www.gov.uk/.

Frequently asked questions

Why do cars need an MOT?

A good question. An MOT certificate is given to you after your car passes its MOT test. Once passed, it means that at the time of your test, the car met the minimum acceptable environmental and road safety standards required by law to drive it on the road. 

How to check MOT history?

You can check the MOT history of a vehicle on the government website here.

How long does an MOT take?

An MOT will usually take around an hour to complete, but this also depends on whether your car passes first time.

When does a new car need an MOT?

A new car needs an MOT after three years.

Can you drive a car without an MOT?

It is illegal to drive without a valid MOT. This is one of the most common driving offences, and if you're caught, it will usually result in a £1,000 fine.

Can I tax my car without an MOT?

In a word, no. In order to tax your vehicle it must have a valid MOT certificate.

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