The Ultimate Guide to MOTs

September is a busy time for MOT tests, so there is a good chance you are looking to get your car booked in for its annual inspection. But what is an MOT test and how can you prepare for it?

Here at Mercury Car Centre we have collected everything you need to know about your MOT test into one place so you know all the whats, whys, whens and hows.

Everything you need to know about MOTs

What does MOT test stand for?

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport Test. The name comes from the government department that instated the test back in 1960.

How many days can I drive without an MOT?

Zero! It is illegal to drive your car without a valid MOT and may invalidate your insurance policy. So keep off the roads if yours has expired.

Will I get fined for driving without an MOT?

If you are caught driving without a valid MOT you might get away with a caution. However, you could also end up with a hefty fine of up to £1000.

Can I drive a car without an MOT to the garage?

The only time it is legal to drive a car without an MOT is on your way to your MOT testing centre. You should make sure you have evidence of a booked appointment in case you are stopped by the police.

What is the most common fail on an MOT?

Blown bulbs are the most common cause of failure on an MOT test, accounting for 18.9% of failures. Luckily they are an easy fix so make sure to test all of your cars lights before your appointment with the service centre!

What is the 10 day rule for MOTs?

If your car fails it’s MOT you have 10 days for work to be completed to qualify for a partial retest. Partial retests are often cheaper than the full test. After 10 days you will need a full retest and be charged the full fee again.

Do I need to empty my boot for an MOT test?

You should remove items from the boot and backseat before arriving at the test centre. This gives your vehicle technician access to the spare wheel if required.

How do I know when my MOT is due?

It’s easy to check when your MOT is due by going to the website here All you need is your vehicle registration number.

What to check before your MOT?

These are some easy things to check before your MOT that will help your car pass its test;

  • Make sure your windscreen wipers are in good condition, any splits will cause a problem
  • Check your windscreen washers aren’t blocked
  • Enlist a friend to help check all your lights are working and replace any bulbs as needed
  • Make sure your oil levels are high enough for an emissions test to be carried out
  • Your tyres should be properly inflated and the tread should measure at least 1.6mm in depth
  • Clean any rubbish from your car, rubbish can roll under pedals causing unsafe driving conditions and an excessively dirty car can be refused for testing
  • Make sure your registration plate is clean and easy to read
  • Empty your boot so the spare tyre can be easily accessed if necessary
  • Your windows should be clean and unobscured, that means no stickers or decorations that make it hard to see the road.

What is involved in an MOT test?

MOT tests are an extensive check of your car to make sure it is safe and roadworthy. These include;

  • Checking body work for corrosion and sharp edges that could cause injury
  • Towbars are secure and in good working order
  • The fuel system is not leaking and hoses are working and connected securely
  • The fuel cap fastens and seals securely
  • Exhaust emissions will be check to make sure they meet requirements
  • The exhaust is secure, complete and not leaking or making excessive noise
  • Seatbelts are in place, secure and in good condition
  • Malfunction indicator lights are working on the dashboard
  • All seats are securely fitted and the drivers seat can be adjusted
  • Doors latches are working correctly and doors can be opened from inside and out
  • Mirrors are in good working condition
  • The boot shuts properly
  • Brakes are efficient and in good working order
  • Tyre condition and security will be checked
  • All lights are working on both the interior and exterior of the car
  • Registration plates are secure and meet legal requirements
  • The bonnet closes securely
  • Wipers and washers are in good working condition
  • The windscreen provides a clear view of the road and is in good condition
  • The horn is suitable and working
  • The steering is working and in good condition, steering oil level is checked and related dashboard lights are working
  • VIN is correct
  • Visible electrical wiring and the battery will be checked

What to look for when choosing your MOT test centre

There are some things you can ask your test centre or check yourself online to make sure you are getting the service you deserve. We always recommend;

  • Checking reviews online
  • Is the test centre conveniently located for you in case of MOT failure
  • Can the test centre accommodate any repairs that may be necessary
  • Check the centre is authorised by VOSA, the government body that regulates MOT testing in the UK
  • If the centre is part of any trade bodies that can give you extra peace of mind, such as the Bosch car servicing network.

We hope this guide has helped you understand your MOT test a little better and boosted your confidence for booking the test. At Mercury we pride ourselves on offering extensive MOTs and being part of the Bosch network so you know you are getting a premium service. We also offer MOTs for free with any service for your car, so if you are in Hutton, Brentwood, Shenfield or the surrounding areas in Essex give us a call on 01277 262233. We would love to help you with your next MOT.