MOT checklist

Checks to help pass your car MOT test

If it’s time for your vehicle’s MOT test, you might be worried about whether it’s going to pass or fail.

Thankfully, there are quick checks that you can do to give your vehicle the best chance of passing. Many vehicles fail their MOT because of small issues like faulty bulbs or even a dirty number plate.

Read below and take a look at our video to find out which car checks to do in advance of your MOT.

You should aim to do these checks in enough time to get any problems repaired before your MOT, if they're too difficult to manage yourself.


1. Tyres

The minimum legal tyre tread depth is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central 3/4 of the tyre. Any tyres with less than this will be marked as an MOT fail.

Tyre tread is easy to check as most tyres have tread wear indicators – you can find these raised ridges running across the tyre in the bottom of the grooves.

The ridges are 1.6mm high, so if the tread's worn down to the same level the tyre needs replacing before the MOT.

Book your MOT quickly and easily with Smart Care.

2. Windscreen, wipers and washers

Carefully check the car windscreen for any damage such as cracks or chips.

Any damage of 10mm or more in the A-zone of the windscreen (a 290mm area directly in front of the driver) will result in an MOT fail.

And if there are any chips or cracks 40mm or more on the rest of the “swept” part of the windscreen (area covered by the wipers), this will also result in a fail.

Damage to any part of the windscreen outside the “swept” area won’t result in a fail, but you may still be advised to get it fixed.

Windscreen stickers or other obstructions to your view may also cause an MOT failure.

For wipers, test they can still clean the front and back windscreens properly and that your washer fluid is topped up.

3. Fuel and engine oil

Your car will need enough fuel and engine oil for its MOT.

The MOT tester will need to run the engine to check exhaust emission levels and might refuse to test your car if the fuel or engine oil level is too low.

You can easily check your engine oil level using your dipstick – watch our video above to learn how. 

4. Lights and indicators

Check the headlights, number plate lights (at least 1 of the 2 lights needs to be working to pass your MOT test), brake lights, hazard lights and indicators are all working as normal.

5. Number plate

Make sure your number plate is clean and readable – a quick wash is sufficient.

The font and spacing of the number plate characters must also comply with legal requirements.

6. Exhaust

Check there’s no unusual, excessive noises or rattles coming from your exhaust.

If there’s a problem with your exhaust, let us take care of it.

7. Seats and seatbelts

Test to see if the driver's seat moves normally and locks securely in any position, without any difficulties.

For seatbelts, check every one fully to see if they:

  • Have any cuts or fraying.
  • Retract properly.
  • Are securely attached to the floor or seat.
  • Clip in and unclip without hassle.
  • Are locked in properly once clipped.

8. Horn

Test your vehicle’s horn – try and do this somewhere where it isn’t likely to startle other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

If it doesn't work, it'll need to be repaired or replaced.

What else can fail a car MOT test?

Using the checklist above will hopefully give your vehicle the best chance of passing an MOT test.

But there are many other parts of your car that, if not working correctly, could cause a fail.

These include (but are not limited to):

  • Airbag – if the original equipment airbag is missing or obviously defective then this is a classed as a “major” defect and will result in a fail. A passenger airbag that is switched off is not considered a defect.

  • Car battery – a leaking battery or one that’s insecure and looks likely to fall from the carrier will also result in a failure. (If it’s insecure but doesn’t look likely to fall from the carrier, this is classed a minor fault so won’t automatically result in a fail).

  • Engine management dashboard warning light – if your engine management or check engine light is on, this will result in an MOT fail as it’s classed as a major fault.

There are also aspects of your car that may only result in a “minor” defect, such as brake fluid warning light showing or being below a minimum level (although if it’s significantly below a minimum level, it will be classed as a major fault and therefore an automatic fail).

A “minor” defect won’t result in a fail, but should still be fixed as soon as possible.

If you are experiencing any issues with your vehicle, including any warning lights flashing up, then it’s best to get them checked as soon as possible.

This isn’t just in order to pass your MOT but to make sure the vehicle you’re driving is safe and roadworthy.

You can find a full list of what will be inspected in an MOT on the GOV.UK website (opens in a new tab).

We provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

Can an MOT test be done early?

Many drivers arrange their MOT test close to the expiry date of their current one.

It's worth noting your car can be tested up to a month early, and still hold the same anniversary date.

If you take your car in early and it fails the test, the old certificate will still be valid. This might mean that technically you still have a current MOT but you can't ignore the fault and continue driving the car.

Remember, it's an offence to drive an unroadworthy vehicle - you could be fined or even banned from driving.

What happens if you disagree with your MOT test result?

If you disagree with the MOT result, you should talk to the MOT test centre before anyone starts repairs.

If you're not happy with the way the test was carried out, you can make a complaint to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

You'll be contacted within five days to discuss your appeal.

If they decide to recheck your vehicle, you'll have to arrange a date and pay the full test fee again.

Be sure not to have any repairs done to your vehicle during the retesting process.

Learn more about the MOT test and regulations.

Vehicle inspections and car servicing

It’s worth remembering that the MOT test is a check to ensure your vehicle meets the minimum standard as set out by the DVSA

This means that even if it has passed an MOT test, the vehicle might not be in good condition or have been well-serviced and maintained.

If you’re buying a used car, it’s worth getting a vehicle inspection to check that there are no hidden problems. And it's important to get your car serviced regularly to make sure it's in good condition. 


Published: 21 August 2017 | Updated: 10 December 2021 | Author: The AA

AA approved MOTs, services and repairs at a local garage near you

Book with Smart Care and get a 12-month guarantee on all parts and labour, fixed pricing with no hidden extras and free vehicle collection and return (subject to availability).