Prepare your car to pass the MOT!
Whether or not you are a good DIY car mechanic there are some things you can do to prepare your car for the MOT.
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Check that all the lights work, you’ll have to get somebody to stand behind the car to check that the brake lights are working – and don’t forget the hazards and number plate lamps!
- Check the wiper blades, any significant splits or breaks in the rubber means a fail. Do the washers work, properly clearing the screen? Do the blades fully sweep from side to side?
- Do the seat belts ‘clunk-click’ properly? Are they frayed anywhere? Slowly pull the belt out of the inertia reel to check.
- Are any rear view mirrors cracked or broken? That could also be a failure, depending on the car’s age.
- Do the car’s wheel rims have any serious ‘kerb’ damage? If so it could fail – but if the spare is OK put it on before the MOT. The spare wheel/tyre is not checked for the MOT.
- Have a look at the tyres – are there bald patches or serious cuts in the side wall? That too would be a failure. Again, what’s your spare tyre like? If it’s OK put that on before the MOT.
Other MOT failure items that car owners can check, but will probably not be able to remedy themselves (Dashboard warning lamps):
1. Rear fog lamp warning light
2. Indicator tell tale light (or audible sign the indicator is working)
3. Hazard warning light
4. Main beam tell tale light
5. Electronic power steering light
6. Electronic parking brake light or message
7. ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) warning light
8. Esc (traction control ) warning light
9. Brake fluid warning light illuminated/inoperative
10. TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system) warning light (after January 1st 2012)
11. Air bag (SRS) warning light
MOT run out? Book your MOT Test BEFORE driving to the Testing Station!
It is illegal to drive a car without a valid MOT – and you can’t get it taxed either. So to help motorists the Government allows you to drive to and from an MOT Testing Station without road tax and MOT provided you have booked it in with the MOT Station in advance – but you must be insured!
Washers, wipers and windscreen
Make sure the washers have water in them and that they work properly – this is an MOT item. Look at your wiper blades to see if the surface which wipes the screen is not cracked, broken or damaged in any way. Has the windscreen got any large cracks in it. If it has then that could be a failure depending on how extensive they are and where they appear on the screen – and remember, many insurance policies allow windscreen replacement without affecting the policy.
Windscreen rules are (see windscreen graphic):
In Zone A
damage not contained within a 10mm diameter circle, or
a windscreen sticker or other obstruction encroaching more than 10mm.
a combination of minor damage areas which seriously restricts the driver’s view.
In the remainder of the swept area:
4. damage not contained within a 40mm diameter circle, or
5. a winscreen sticker or other obstruction encroaching more than 40mm.
6. a temporary windscreen fitted.
Wheels and tyres
If you have ‘alloy’ wheels with the wheel nuts exposed, make sure that none are missing. If the wheel rim has been seriously damaged that too could be a failure. Also, check the valve to make sure that it has not been damaged or is misaligned. Although you do not have to remove the hub caps for the Test, and the Tester won’t do so if they remain on the vehicle, you will have a better examination of the vehicle if you do remove them, although if any wheel nuts are missing a failure will result.
Checking the tyres is also important. As far as the tyres themselves are concerned the requirements regarding the type of tyre, its structure and which type of tyre is acceptable or not on the fronts or rears, that is quite technical and would require expert knowledge.
However, the tyre condition can be visually checked. Has the tyre wall been damaged? Are there any serious cuts or damage on the tread? And you can check the wear by seeing if it has extended beyond the so called ‘wear bars’ within the tread. If they are smooth across the tread then there will be less than the acceptable 1.6mm of tread required.
The spare tyre is not checked as part of the MOT. Obviously, if the ‘spare’ tyre is actually fitted to the vehicle, then it will be checked in the normal way. ‘Temporary Use’ spare tyres will fail the MOT if fitted at the time of the MOT Test.
Lights, indicators and hazards
Very obviously, check all the lights and indicators are working and replace any failed bulbs. Make sure the hazards working too. Either use a mirror placed behind the car, or get someone to stand behind the car while you operate the brakes, hazard lights, fog light and indicators. The number plate light is also part of the MOT, although the reversing light is not.
Although it isn’t necessary to present a cleaned and polished vehicle for an MOT, if the underside, or items requiring inspection in the engine compartment is really dirty and covered in oil, then the Tester can refuse to inspect it and you will have made an unnecessary journey. Also, if you are taking a small van or truck for MOT, if there is a large load on board that too may have to be removed for the MOT. The same applies to items in the boot; do not present the car for Test with the boot crammed full. The Tester may have to look into the boot to examine the rear suspension mounting and will need to be able to see them to complete the MOT.
Have a look at the seat belts. Do they properly engage? Is the belt frayed or cut? That too could result in a failure.
Damaged bodywork can also cause an MOT failure if it is likely to result in damage or injury to other road users, including pedestrians – so make sure that there are no nasty jagged exposed edges.
Is there a smell of petrol? Do not present your car for an MOT Test with a fuel leak. Any fuel leak at all will result in an immediate failure with no other items being examined because of the serious potential hazard during the MOT Test.
Oh, and finally, you may need the vehicle registration documents as some MOT Tested items are checked in a way which could depend on when the vehicle was first registered. If your vehicle falls across one of these date breaks, and the Tester doesn’t have the documentation to check, you may find you will be turned away until you have the correct paper work which can be checked.
Next page: Carrying out your own repairs for the MOT
Carrying out your own repairs for the MOT
There are inevitably some pitfalls facing even a skilled DIY motor mechanic when it comes to repairing MOT failures, which largely break down into the four areas of
- Welding of excessively corroded areas.
So let’s look at these in turn:
A ‘weeping’ slave cylinder. This is potentially dangerous, but the MOT Test would not discover this as the Tester is not allowed to dismantle any component.
There are a number of reasons that a vehicle can fail the MOT on brakes. There may be a brake fluid leak, the brakes may have an imbalance causing the vehicle to veer to one side or the other during braking. The efficiency of the brakes may be inadequate for the type of vehicle, flexible or metal brake pipes may be defective, or some other mechanical element in the braking system could be worn excessively.
As has been noted elsewhere, the MOT can not provide a comprehensive examination of the brakes. During an MOT Test the Tester is not allowed to dismantle components – and it is quite possible for there to be a latent defect within the brakes which would merit a failure but which the Tester cannot detect during the MOT and isn’t flagged up by the braking performance – slightly leaking brake cylinders within the system is just one example.
However there are a number of fairly straightforward jobs which can be carried out by an experienced DIY mechanic. Changing brake shoes or pads for example.
The problem here is that after the repair the DIY motorist cannot check the brakes in the same way as the Testing Station – with the use of a roller brake test machine.
The roller brake testing equipment not only measures braking efficiency it also accurately measures brake imbalance as a percentage.
So following that hard weekend of car repairing, the result of the brake re-Test could be a failure due to an unexpected fault detected by the brake test equipment, which may not necessarily show up when the vehicle is driven. And don’t forget, a braking imbalance which might feel only very slight on a dry road, could be disastrous in the wet.
Provided it is relatively simple, like changing track rod ends or the like, then there’s no reason why the ‘home repairer’ should not carry out straightforward repairs following an MOT failure. However there is another consideration – without accurate tracking equipment, should the tracking not be correct when the defective components have been replaced, then accelerated tyre wear will result – this may not be evident until considerable wear has resulted – so such a repair could be a false economy.
Here the DIY mechanic could face problems – especially on more modern vehicles. Most emission problems will need sophisticated diagnostic equipment to discover what the problem is before it can be rectified – and even then, without the gas analysis equipment used in Testing Stations it would be impossible to be sure that the problem has been solved. However, any reasonable sized non-MOT garage would probably have this equipment. This is an area which the amateur would best be advised to steer clear of.
Welding is less likely to be tackled by a DIY mechanic, but can have pitfalls if it is done by a repair garage which is not also aware of the MOT specifications for welding repair. The technical requirements of VOSA (the government agency which administrates the MOT) regarding what can be repaired by welding and what can’t, as well as the way in which the welded repair is done, are quite precise – and non-MOT garages do not always have this knowledge.
They also tend to cover their work in thick underseal which obscures the weld so the Tester is unable to examine the repair properly.
For these reasons it is always better to have a Testing Station carry out welding work, or if not then ensure the person doing the work does not cover it in underseal until after the Test, or if after a failure, the re-Test has been done.
The MOT and DIY car repairs
At MOT Testing, every year we update our ‘Car Owners Guide to the MOT’ poster. This gives motorists a better insight as to what is involved in the MOT Test so they can carry out some simple rudimentary measures before submitting their vehicles for MOT. Like topping up the washers, inspecting the wipers and checking the windscreen for cracks to provide just a few simple examples.
But, in spite of the preceeding advice, another interesting issue which has recently come up is the advisability of motorists carrying out their own DIY repairs following MOT failure – is it a good idea? Can motorists really save money carrying out their own repairs, or having them carried out by a friendly ‘bloke down the road’?
What are the pitfalls if any, and are there some jobs which are inevitably beyond the average DIY repairer which the amateur should avoid getting involved in, and if so why?
It was only a few decades ago that DIY car repairs was very much the norm. Many motorists had the practical skills and knowledge to fix the cars then in use – cars were very much simpler and more often than not their fathers, uncles, older brothers or somebody they knew well had taught them those skills – that was in those days very much the culture amongst the majority of drivers.
Only people with money, or driving company cars, went to garages, the majority of which were dealerships charging prices beyond the pocket of the average working man running a car. It should also be remembered that the British economy was largely based on manufacturing, and a much higher proportion of the adult population had the appropriate practical skills needed to carry out the relatively rudimentary repairs the cars of the day required.
But the world has changed – in three key ways. Firstly the skills base in the population these days is far more skewed to service industries. Secondly modern vehicles are far more complex. And thirdly, the MOT has changed too.
A More complex MOT
These days, in important areas the MOT Test cannot be mimicked ‘at home’ by the amateur DIY mechanic – he or she would need a roller brake test machine, a four gas analyser and if the car has a diesel engine, a diesel smoke meter.
And they do not have the training required to properly decide that the repair has been carried out satisfactorily.
Ask any MOT Tester and you will be told about cars being returned for re-Test which fail because the repair (performed by a non-MOT garage) had not been properly carried out. More often than not this applies when the repair is done by the owner, or a friend, or relative ‘in the business’. But it is not unknown for repairs carried out professionally at repair garages which are not also Testing Stations, to fail to come ‘up to scratch’, resulting in a failure on re-Test.
Lacking the Tester’s training, and without the appropriate MOT equipment they make mistakes, albeit by inadvertence. Perhaps the brakes are out of balance, or the emissions are still unsatisfactory (often impossible to fix on modern cars without the appropriate diagnostic equipment!), and quite frequently that welding job just wasn’t done in the correct way to comply with the Government’s strict rules on welding repairs associated with an MOT failure – and if the Tester is faced with a welding repair covered in underseal so he just cannot satisfactorily check that it was done correctly he may ask for the underseal to be removed before he or she feels able to decide whether or not it is acceptable.
The MOT is primarily about road safety – that’s why it’s there. So not only will unsatisfactory MOT repairs cost more in the long run to the individual who will lose time, and money through an avoidable re-Test failure, the car will be a threat to road safety whilst being driven to and from the Testing Station – and, of course, the insurance may also be invalidated if an unsatisfactory repair effectively renders the vehicle unroadworthy!
Of course, the individual has the right to repair their own vehicle, and if they have the appropriate skills and access to the correct equipment to ensure the work has been carried out satisfactorily that is fine.
But without those skills and equipment they are effectively taking a chance that it will pass the MOT on re-Test, taking a chance not only on saving money, but also potentially, with their own and other people’s safety.