What is an MOT?
When most vehicles are three years old they must be sent to a garage for a Ministry of Transport test (MOT). This test will determine whether or not the condition of the vehicle corresponds with the legal requirements of road safety and environmental standards set out by the UK Government. After the first MOT test, vehicles must be sent for additional MOTs every 12 months. The new certificate for vehicles tested on or after October 16, 2011 is printed on a plain sheet of paper in landscape format, which replaces the pre-printed coloured form.
In 2011 there were more than 19,000 garages that were authorised MOT test stations in the UK. All MOT testers take a training course in conjunction with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency before carrying out inspections. The agency also supervises the MOT scheme by setting minimum standards on testing and authorisation of MOT test centres. It is also committed to taking disciplinary action against test centres that fail to abide to legal standards of practice.
During the MOT, drivers are permitted to observe the test at a designated viewing area but they must not interrupt the tester during the inspection. The test will be carried out in testing bays and the testers should only use equipment that matches the required specifications.
An MOT certificate is a legal document that drivers can display on their vehicle in the form of a sticker. Vehicles that do not have a valid certificate are only allowed to be driven to an MOT test station or away from the station in the event that the vehicle fails its MOT inspection. Motorists can face prosecution for not possessing a valid certificate and it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that they send their vehicle for an MOT when it is required. It must also be reiterated that an MOT certificate does not guarantee the roadworthiness of a vehicle during the term of the certificate.
All vehicles that are categorised as class 1, 2 and 3 (such as motorcycles and 3-wheeled vehicles) must be sent for their first MOT test after three years. Class 4 vehicles (such as cars and motor caravans) will also require their first MOT after three years. An exception applies to ambulances, taxis and private vehicles and ambulances, which must have an MOT test after their first year. All class 5 vehicles with a seat belt installation check must also have their first test after 1 year; however, this requirement is not applicable to class 5a vehicles. Meanwhile, class 7 vehicles, which include heavy goods vehicles of more than 3,000 kilograms and up to 3,500 kilograms will require their first MOT after three years.
The main purpose of the MOT test is to observe any signs of excessive damage or corrosion in the vehicle and any sharp injuries that could pose a potential safety hazard. This will include a thorough observation of the vehicle’s fuel system, to ensure that it is free from any leaks and that the fuel cap is securely fastened and sealed when closed. The vehicle must also meet the minimum legal requirements on exhaust emissions, which will depend on the age of the vehicle and the type of fuel it uses.
The exhaust system must also be secure and complete, fully protected from any leaks and capable of silencing itself efficiently. The seatbelts inside the vehicle must meet an acceptable condition and checks will be made to ensure that all compulsory belts have been put in place for passenger safety. All seats inside the vehicle will be checked for their security and front and rear seats will typically be secured in their upright position during the inspection.
The MOT test also checks the vehicle’s front and rear doors to confirm that they are secure in their closed position. All of the front doors must be opened from within and outside the vehicle. The interior of the vehicle will also be inspected to make sure there are a minimum number of mirrors and that they are in the appropriate condition. An examination of the boot or tailgate of the vehicle will be required in order to check its security when closed.
The vehicle’s brakes are carefully monitored to ensure that their performance, overall condition, efficiency and standard of operation are acceptable. Tyres and wheels will also be checked for their type, condition, size and tread depth, although there is no requirement for road wheels to be removed as part of the test. The steering and suspension is an essential component of the MOT and must meet a satisfactory condition and standard of operation.
The vehicle’s registration plates will also need to be tested for their condition, security and that each character is correctly position and intelligible. The bonnet must close securely and the horn should be a suitable type and operate in a reasonable condition. The MOT test will also examine the windscreen wipers, which should work efficiently and must provide a clear enough view of the windscreen from the driver’s seat. The vehicle’s identification number (VIN) is included on all vehicles that have been used from August 1, 1980. This is displayed on all models with the exception of multistage build vehicles.
The MOT test certificate must also be valid on the day that the vehicle’s tax disc takes effect. Any certificate that has expired before the tax disc comes into effect is not eligible for use and only the original version can be accepted. Owners of vehicles that are exempt from the MOT test for whatever reason should submit a V112 form (‘Claim for exemption from MOT testing’ that they must produce as an alternative to the MOT certificate.
Sometimes drivers may be unable to renew their vehicle tax when they are waiting for an MOT test or insurance. In this case, they must apply for a new tax disc within 14 days and during this time they must remove their vehicle from the road. However, they will be allowed to drive their vehicle to and from an MOT test station or a Vehicle Inspection Check station provided they have sufficient insurance cover.
The MOT certificate will remain valid until the next test is due each year. Drivers of vehicles that fail their MOT will be presented with a failure document, which will contain the inspection manual.