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MOT Routine

Click on the captions below to see how each item is MOT Tested.

Fuel System - MOT Test of Fuel System

Any fuel leak will result in a fail.

Check under the bonnet and throughout the run of the fuel line from the fuel tank to the engine.

  • Fuel filler cap must fasten securely
  • The seal in the cap must not be torn, deteriorated or missing (includes self-sealing flaps)
  • No other defect which could cause fuel to leak out
  • The fuel tank must be securely mounted
  • A fuel pipe or hose must not be excessively chafed or damaged

Exhaust and Emissions - MOT Test of Exhaust and Emissions

The exhaust system will fail the MOT if:

  • Has a major leak
  • Insecure
  • Exhaust fumes entering passenger compartment
  • Heat shields missing or insecure
  • CAT missing
  • DPF missing or signs of being cut open


  • These are checked using specialised equipment, the details of the check depending on the year that the vehicle was first used on the road. Excessive smoking (checked visually) is a reason for failure.
  • Diesel smoke emissions are checked by using a smoke meter.
Horror Shocker

Clearly a fail!

Tow Bar - MOT Test of Tow Bar (Towing Hook)

Reason for Rejection:

  • A towbar component insecure, fractured or excessively worn, corroded or damaged
  • Excessive corrosion within 30cms of the towbar mounting is also a fail.
  • Towbar assembly is attached to the vehicle structure using a mounting, support or fixing which is obviously of an inappropriate size or type.
  • Retaining device missing or insecure
  • Locking device missing, insecure, inadequate or damaged to the extent that its operation is impaired.
  • Excessive play between a detachable tow ball and its receiver socket
  • A quick release mechanism that does not secure the tow ball arm as intended
  • A tow bar assembly inappropriately repaired or modified
  • A trailer electrical socket insecure or damaged, or deteriorated to the extent that the connecting lead could not be securely connected
  • A trailer 13-pin Euro socket not operating the trailer lamps as intended
  • Wiring showing exposed conductors

2012 Notes: 1. Does not include emergency towing eyes. If a tow ball or pin is not fitted at the time of Test e.g. because it is detachable, has been unbolted or otherwise removed, but the attachment brackets are still in place these brackets and any trailer electrical socket should still be assessed unless the attachment brackets have been deliberately rendered unfit for further use.

2. 13-pin electric socket inspection and test for electrical function (specialist tool will be used) and check for inappropriate tow bar repairs/modification will come into force when the appropriate legislation has been passed.

7-pin sockets are not testable with an electrical tester as there is no standard wiring protocol.

Wheels & Tyres - MOT Test of Tyres and Road wheels


A tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning lamp must be operative and not indicating a fault in the system (On vehicles first used on or after 1st January 2012)

Tyre condition

The reason for failure with respect to tyre wear is: "The grooves of the tread pattern are not at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising: the central three-quarters of the breadth of tread around the entire outer circumference of the tyre".

Tyres must be correctly matched with regard to:

  • Type
  • Size
  • Structure
  • Fitted in accordance with tyre sidewall markings – eg direction of rotation or 'outside' in case of asymmetric tyres.

NB. type or structure but not both.

  • Tyres on the same axle must be of the same structure and size.

Also examined:

  • General condition of tyre
  • Condition of valve

Tyres fail if they have serious cuts, bulges or other damage.

The wear on the tyre is checked with a tyre tread depth gauge to ensure compliance. The tyres are examined to ensure that there is no fouling with any part of the vehicle, unless part of the steering mechanism design.


  • Although under-inflation is not in itself a reason for failure (on vehicles on which the TPMS test is applicable, if a fault is indicated by the TPMS then that will be a fail), a brake test may be inadvisable because of possible damage, and it may affect headlamp alignment. The condition of the spare tyre is not part of the MOT.
  • From 2012, Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) will form part of the MOT Test. Vehicles on which TPMS was originally fitted will have to have it fully operable.

When this test is implemented one faulty sensor will result in a fail.

Wheel condition

  • Damage
  • Distortion
  • Cracks
  • Distorted bead rim
  • Securely attached to the vehicle
  • No wheel nuts or studs missing
Horror Story

Getting into the groove!

When it comes to assessing tyres, it seems that some testers have difficulty identifying which tread grooves are important when assessing the minimum tread depth requirements. Here we explain the important factors that you need to take into consideration when making any assessment.

Breadth of tread

The breadth of tread is any part of the tyre that can contact the road under normal driving conditions measured at 90° to the peripheral line of the tread. In simple terms, this is any part of the tyre that contacts the road under normal driving conditions.

Tread pattern

The tread pattern is a combination of plain surfaces and grooves extending across the breadth of tread and around the circumference of the tyre. This excludes any features designed to wear out substantially before the rest of the pattern.

But how do you establish which features are designed to wear out considerably before the rest of the pattern?

When you assess the grooves to which the legal minimum tread depth requirements apply, you must establish which grooves are the primary tread grooves.

Primary grooves

The primary grooves of any tyre are those grooves that contain the tread wear indicators (TWIs) or those that were originally moulded to the same depth as them.. Evidence of TWIs can usually be seen in those grooves designed to have them and their position is normally marked on the sidewall of the tyre at the shoulder of the tread. Generally, TWI's are marked with a small arrow or 'TWI', however some manufacturers use their own specific markings.

Secondary Grooves

These grooves are not of equal depth to those with TWI's and are designed to wear out before the primary grooves.

Making your assessment

Vehicles where 1.6mm tread depth applies

Making your assessment

When you assess the central three-quarters of any tyre, remember that the breadth of tread includes plain surfaces and any grooves. When you assess the minimum tread depth requirements, you only need to measure the primary grooves, those grooves that contain the TWIs or those that were originally moulded to the same depth as them.

You might find secondary grooves within the central three-quarters, and they may be below the required minimum tread depth requirements. Even if this is the case, provided the primary grooves meet the minimum depth requirements, the tyre is acceptable for this part of the inspection.

The tread pattern outside of the central ¾ of the breadth of tread can be bald.

Vehicles where 1.0mm tread depth applies

There is only a requirement for the primary grooves to meet the minimum tread depth. However, in this case the 1.0mm applies to any ¾ of the breadth of tread which is continuous around the entire circumference of the tyre. Additionally, no part of the primary grooves outside of the measured ¾ breadth of tread can be bald.

Steering - MOT Test of Steering

Steering: Inside the car MOT checks

Steering wheel and steering column:

  • Steering wheel is in acceptable condition
  • Steering wheel is securely attached to the steering shaft
  • A steering lock mechanism must not be missing, inadvertently engaging or inoperative
  • An electronic steering lock malfunction lock warning must not be indicating a malfunction
  • An electronic power steering malfunction indicator lamp must not be indicating a malfunction
  • Upper bearings of the steering column are inspected for wear
  • Steering shaft is checked for excessive end float
  • The clamping bolts are all checked for security
  • Split pins and locking nuts are also checked.
  • 'Free play' in the steering is checked*
  • All flexible couplings and universal joints are checked

*Free play allowed depends on type of steering: 75mm for non-rack and pinion, 13mm for rack and pinion steering. Where there are several joints between the steering wheel and the rack, up to 48mm on a 380mm diameter wheel may be accepted.

Further information – reasons for failure:

1. Steering wheel weakened by modification, cracks, fractures, in a condition that hampers proper control or likely to injure the driver's hands. Note: Cracks or incompleteness of the covering skin of a steering wheel or hub, are not a reason for rejection.

2. a) an adjustable steering column will not lock in a fixed position
b) movement between the shaft and steering wheel Mbr
c) excessive radial movement (play) at the top of the steering column between the column and the shaft indicating a badly worn top bearing. Note: Some vehicles have flexible top bearings for the steering column. With these more than average movement is acceptable.
d. insecurity at the steering column top mounting bracket.

3. Excessive steering shaft end float.

4. Insecurity, excessive play or deterioration of a flexible coupling or universal joint.

5. A retaining or locking device missing or insecure.

Under bonnet checks

This varies vehicle to vehicle; some of these items cannot be observed from under the bonnet on some makes and models.

  • Security of the steering rack or steering box and its mountings
  • Play in steering joints
  • Inspection of any other swivel joints which form part of the vehicles' steering system which can be readily inspected from under the bonnet.

Under vehicle checks:


  • All the steering joints are inspected by the Tester whilst the steering is loaded by turning the steering wheel from side to side, or by the use of approved wheel play detectors
  • Power steering systems are checked with the engine running (Power steering fluid level will be checked with engine off)
  • The security of attachment of the steering rack or steering box is checked both with respect to the tightness of nuts and bolts, and structural cracking or corrosion of the vehicle chassis where it is attached
  • Whilst the vehicle stands on special swivel plates the wheels are turned from lock to lock and checked for smoothness of operation and to ensure that the wheels and tyres do not foul either the structure of the vehicle or any brake pipes or hoses
  • With the wheels jacked the wheel bearings are checked
  • Steering rack gaiters and front outer constant velocity joint boots are examined
  • Ball joint dust covers inspected for not allowing ingress of dirt etc
  • Metal and/or rubber bushes are checked as are split pins, locking nuts and other locking or retaining devices which relate to steering components.
  • On some cars there will be rear wheel steering which is checked from beneath the car.
  • Checked for inappropriate repair or modification to steering linkage or power steering
  • Steering lock stop must be present if fitted as standard
  • No significant oil leak from the steering box
  • Power steering: checked for fluid level below minimum (where visible) pipes and hoses damaged, corroded or fouling; components fouling or misaligned on external power steering systems
  • Any drive shaft (not including the prop shaft) support bearing excessively worn or a coupling gaiter missing or no longer preventing ingress of dirt etc

MOT Shockers

This one below from Dave of the MOT Testing Centre, Tameside was a customer also unaware of how close they came to complete steering failure.

Not only was the locking nut insecure, but the track rod end was only attached by the last couple of threads. It appeared the locking nut had been 'backed off', probably for adjustment of the tracking, but was never re-tightened

Doors - MOT Test of Doors

  • Both front doors must be openable from the inside and outside and all doors must latch securely.
  • a passenger door must open from the outside using relevant control
  • All door hinges, catches and pillars to be assessed for door readily opening and closing, and security

Tailgates, boot lids etc. All these items, including the tailboards and drop sides of trucks must be securable in the closed position.

Instrument panel - MOT Test of Speedometer

For vehicles first used on or after 01 October 1937 The glass being cracked is not a reason for failure providing there is no possibility of misreading the speedometer, no possibility of the indicator needle being fouled or the cracked glass being a safety hazard. Will be checked for:

  • Presence
  • Condition
  • Can be illuminated

Brakes - MOT Test of Brakes

Brake efficiency and balance is usually checked on a roller brake tester. In certain cases where a roller brake tester may not be used (for example on certain 4-wheel drive vehicles) it may be necessary to check brake efficiency and balance on a road test, with a portable decelerometer.

Inside the car

Electronic parking Brake (EPB) warning device must not be indicating a malfunction Electronic stability control (ESC) component must not be obviously missing, damaged or inappropriately repaired or modified ESC wiring must not be excessively damaged ESC warning lamp must be present, working and not indicating a fault ESC Swithch must not be insecure or faulty A brake slack adjuster must not be defective or incorrectly installed A brake fluid warnimg lamp must not be inoperative or illuminated Class (v): Electronic braking system (EBS) warning device must not be inoperative or indicating a fault

Anti-lock braking system (if fitted) warning lamp is checked for:

Function Sequence of operation Footbrake

Sufficient reserve travel on the footbrake Pedal rubber not worn to excess Correct operation of the servo assistance system ABS and ESC components and associated wiring/switch checked for presence and condition

Parking brake This could be hand, foot or electronically operated. Checked for reserve travel so that it doesn't reach the stops on application. The mountings will be checked for security and/or corrosion.

The brake lever or control will be a fail if:

missing insecure defective or located so that it cannot be satisfactorily operated any inappropriate repair or modification During a decelerometer test, if vehicle deviates from a straight line when parking brake applied then this becomes a fail.

Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Systems

The inspection applies to all systems, original equipment or 'aftermarket'. Will be checked for being fitted (if originally specified), illuminating, not indicating fault, ABS to follow correct sequence. If ABS or ESC system has been intentionally rendered inoperative the whole system, with the exception of sensor rings or other components which form part of another component.

Reasons for rejection:

component missing, damaged, inappropriately repaired or modified wiring excessively damaged

Warning Lamp

Missing Does not illuminate Indicates a fault (For ABS) does not follow the correct sequence


Component missing or excessively damaged Wiring excessively damaged Inappropriately repaired or modified Switch faulty or insecure

Under bonnet checks Master cylinder and servo unit are checked for leaks with the engine on and the brakes applied Servo unit will be checked to ensure it is operating correctly Visible metal or flexible brake pipes will be checked for corrosion, condition, fouling or leaks

Under vehicle checks

Flexible brake pipes and any other metal brake pipes visible beneath the car are checked Discs and drums (external only) checked for condition and contamination Brake back plates and caliper securing devices are checked for condition and security Condition of the brake pads will be checked if visible The assistant operates the handbrake and the condition of the linkages and/or cables is checked. On some vehicles there will be a brake compensating valve beneath the car which will need to be inspected for fluid leaks

General All components checked for security, condition and operation.

Reason for failure:

Component inappropriately repaired or modified Insecurely mounted Excessively weakened Damaged Retaining or locking device insecure Cable, rod or clevis joint insecure A load sensing valve seized, inoperative, function impaired or incorrectly adjusted Air brake actuator dust cover missing or not preventing ingress of dirt etc.

Brake performance check The performance of the front and rear brakes and handbrake are checked for efficiency and balance using specialised equipment.

Horror story: Brake disc

When the owner of this vehicle dropped it off with Martin, at Discount Tyres in Sittingbourne for its MOT, they mentioned a noise which had been coming from the front of the vehicle when braking.

Martin offered to carry out an inspection of the brakes but the owner declined and asked only for the MOT to be done.

When driving the vehicle in for test, Martin noticed the ABS light was on. When carrying out the underside inspection, he couldn't see a brake disc on the nearside front, so decided to abandon the test.

The picture shows what Martin found when he removed the wheel. Martin abandoned the test as he felt it wasn't possible to complete all aspects safely. A decision we can't argue with. Obviously in situations like this, conducting a brake test would be out of the question.

If the rest of the test can be completed, without risk of further damage or injury, then the reason for rejection 'Item not tested' (RfR 3.7A1), could be used to fail the vehicle, along with a note that a brake test was not conducted.

Luckily this owner made it to their MOT before suffering more serious consequences.

Suspension - MOT Test of Suspension

Under bonnet checks

  • Upper suspension joints
  • Any other suspension components which can be inspected from beneath the bonnet

Under vehicle checks

Applies to the front and rear suspension

  • No split pins or nuts missing, no components broken or excessively damaged
  • Road springs are checked for condition
  • All suspension joints are checked for condition
  • Ball joint dust covers checked for not allowing ingress of dirt etc
  • Shock absorbers must not leak and must be secure (the vehicle will be 'bounced' by the Tester* to check that they damp the springs adequately).
  • Inappropriate repair or modification of suspension components
  • Any drive shaft (except the prop shaft) support bearing excessively worn or coupling gaiter missing or no longer preventing ingress of dirt etc.
  • The suspension is checked for wear by the assistant applying loads in various ways with the wheels jacked up whilst the Tester observes the result from beneath the vehicle. This may include the use of approved wheel play detectors in some Test Stations.

    * This item will be removed from the MOT Test subject to the required legislation being passed. Note: There are numerous different suspension systems, and the specific nature of any examination will depend to a large extent on the design of the suspension system.

Horror story: Bit of a knock

This photo sent in by Phil Green from Lincoln shows a front suspension ball joint completely separated from the lower suspension arm. The owner brought the vehicle in complaining of a knock when driving around corners.

Apparently it turned out a new ball joint was fitted only 1 week before at a different garage. Unfortunately for the owner, not only the joint and arm needed replacing; the tyre too needed replacing The failure of the joint meant that the inner edge of the tyre was worn and the cords exposed.

Horror story: Wooden suspension

A novel way to stop that suspension knock! The owner of this MG advised Graham Ratcliffe of James Street Garage, Tyldesley before the test that he had done a repair to the suspension to stop a knocking noise.

We're sure this was not the type of repair Graham was expecting find but we can only assume it must have done the job; the owner was proud of his efforts. It may have removed any excessive movement from the bush but we think it is safe to say this could be classed as an inappropriate repair or modification, and fail under Section 2.4

Thanks to DVSA for support material

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Lights - MOT Test of Lights

The headlamps are checked for alignment with a Beam Setter. The headlamp beam image will be a fail if it is clearly incorrect. After first aligning the equipment with the vehicle, the left and right headlamp beams are checked to ensure they are correctly set so as not to dazzle other road users.

All required lights are checked for:

  • Operation
  • Condition
  • Security

With the exception of headlamps, all lamps must have at least 50% of the light source illuminating. All lamps must be visible from a reasonable distance (not obscured by products on the light lens or source.

Side lights and headlamps

  • are the correct type and colour
  • dip and aim

MOT Test of Registration Plates (Number Plates) and VIN*

* Required on all vehicles first used on or after 1st August 1980. NOTE: Revised Registration Plate Testing and Tow Bar Testing (see below) were effective from April 09.

see current Number Plate Regulationss table below.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

  • VIN number incomplete

Registration Plate

For registered vehicles the registration plate must be:

  • Present
  • Secure
  • Not faded, dirty or obscured
  • Letters and digits must conform to the approved font design with correct spacing
  • Front plates must be black digits on white background, rear must be black on yellow
  • Honeycomb background is not allowed.

Vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1973 may have registration plates displaying white, grey or silver characters on a black background. A three-wheeled vehicle, which has a motorcycle derived front end, does not require a front number plate.

Vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1973 may have registration plates displaying white, grey or silver characters on a black background. Three-dimensional characters are permitted to use grey edging in order to achieve the 3D effect on any age of vehicle. Quadricycles must be fitted with a front number plate.

MOT Registration Plate Specifications

Relevant Dimension Tricycles &
All other
Character height 64mm 79mm
Character width
(except for the figure 1 or letter I)
44mm 50mm
Stroke width 10mm 14mm
Space between two characters in group 10mm 11mm
Vertical space between groups of characters 13mm 19mm
Horizontal space between groups of characters 30mm 33mm
Margins (minimum) 11mm 11mm

The VIN number* must be:

  • Permanently displayed
  • Consistent
  • Legible.

*Required on all vehicles first used on or after 1st August 1980.

MOT Test of Bonnet Catch

Reasons for Failure:

  • A bonnet that cannot be safely secured in the closed position
  • An excessively deteriorated, ineffective or insecure (bonnet) retaining device

MOT Test of Windscreen

Includes all items affecting the driver's view of the road: the condition of the windscreen, the wipers and washers. Satnavs in the windscreen, furry dice, air fresheners or trinkets hanging from the mirror are not allowed.

Chips or cracks in the windscreen directly in front of the driver, in the area swept by the wiper blades, are acceptable if they are less than 10mm in diameter. In the rest of the swept area, up to 40mm diameter damage is acceptable

Change in policy (Oct 2011) "...it is permissible to have a defect larger than 10mm in the swept area of zone A, as long as it is not in the 'drivers view of the road'. Should now be "Pass and advise".

Official stickers (any used in connection with road enforcement, security or crime prevention matters) that are not readily removable are only a reason for rejection if they restrict the driver's view.

CLASS (v): window, screen or partition must not be missing

Above: MOT Windscreen Test - areas where damage is allowed

Washers and wipers

  • Operation
  • Extent of area swept by the wipers
  • Condition of the wiper blades

Reasons for Rejection

Wipers and Washers

  • A wiper or washer control missing or inaccessible to the driver
  • A wiper does not continue to operate automatically when switched on
  • A wiper installed for the use of the driver does not operate over an area of the windscreen large enough to give the driver an adequate view of the road (through the windscreen) to the left and right sides of the vehicle, as well as to the front.

A wiper blade insecure, missing, or in such a condition that it does not clear the windscreen effectively to give the driver an adequate view of the road (through the windscreen) to the left and right sides of the vehicle, as well as to the front.

The windscreen washers do not provide enough liquid to clear the windscreen in conjunction with the wiper(s).

MOT Test of Mirrors

Applies to obligatory mirrors and "Indirect vision devices" such as cameras – and in this case the method of inspection and reason for failure will apply to both the camera and the screen. Not all mirrors or cameras etc. on all vehicles are subject to Test, depending on the age of the vehicle.

Those mirrors which must be checked must be

  • Secure
  • Visible from the driver's seat
  • Not distorted or damaged so as to seriously impair the driver's view to the rear


Vehicle Type Date of First Use Requirements
Passenger vehicles with less than 8 passenger seats First used before 1/8/78 At least one mirror/device in any of the above positions.
Any passenger vehicle(excluding buses and minibuses) First used on or after 1/8/78 Two mirrors/devices, one of which must be in position  'a'.
Passenger vehicles with 8 or morepassenger seats (excluding buses and minibuses)

Any age

Goods vehicles
Buses and minibuses First used before 1/8/83 An exterior mirror/device fitted on both the offside and the nearside ('a' and 'b').
First used on or after 1/8/83

Obligatory mirror options are:

a. an exterior mirror fitted to the offside (right-hand side when seated in the driver's seat), or

b. an exterior mirror fitted to the nearside (left hand side when seated in the driver's seat), or

c. an interior mirror. All goods vehicles must have two mirrors, one of which must be option 'a'. Passenger vehicles with no more than 7 passenger seats first used before 1 August 1978 must have any one of the above options.

Reasons For Rejection

An obligatory mirror:
a. is missing or insecure
b. is so damaged or deteriorated that the view to the rear is seriously impaired
c. does not provide a view to the rear of the vehicle
d. is not clearly visible from the driver's seat, or incapable of being adjusted to be clearly visible from the driver's seat.

Additional mirrors

Any mirrors additional to the obligatory mirrors are not subject to this inspection.

MOT Test of Seats

  • The driver's and the front passenger's seats must be secure.
  • The driver's seat fore and aft adjustment mechanism must function as intended.
  • All seat backs must be securable in the upright position.

MOT Test of Seat Belts including Supplementary Restraint
Systems (SRS)

Seat Belts

Test Description

Most vehicles after 1965 must have seat belts. Irrespective of that requirement, all seat belts fitted to any vehicle must be inspected for:

  • Security of seat belt mountings and locking stalks
  • Security and operation of the locking/release mechanism
  • Condition of webbing
  • Retraction of the belt (it is allowed to manually feed it in)
  • A seat belt load limiter or pre-tensioner must not be missing or obviously deployed

Notes: 1. For technical reasons the inertia locking mechanism is not checked. 2. On some vehicles the belt is attached to the seat, in which case the security of the seat to the vehicle would also constitute part of the seat belt check.

Supplementary Restraint Systems

This inspection includes airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners and seat belt load limiters.

Test method:

Check for

  • Presence and condition of any SRS
  • Turn on ignition and check for Presence and operation of Malfunction Iindicator Lamp (MIL)
  • Check for Presence and condition of any seat belt load limiters or pre-tensioners fitted as original equipment.

Reasons for failure:

  • airbag missing or defective
  • SRS Malfunction Indicator Lamp:
  • Inoperative
  • Indicating malfunction