How to ensure you pass an MOT
If your car is more than three years old, it has to take and pass an MOT test every year. Motorcycles, mopeds and scooters over three years old must also take the test.
The standard MOT fee is just £54.85, and just £29.65 for motorcycles (prices correct as of 09/09/14). If you need any work done on top, the bills can quickly add up. But with a little bit of effort, you may be able to reduce the cost by identifying and resolving any problems in advance.
The MOT was introduced in 1960 by the then Ministry of Transport to check that vehicles were safe and roadworthy. Today, they also have to meet emission standards. If your car’s MOT is due, you can get it tested at any approved car-repair garage – look out for the familiar blue “three triangles” logo.
Whats involved in an MOT?
What’s involved in an MOT?
The mechanic will typically work through a standard checklist that includes your vehicle identification number (VIN), registration plate, lights, steering and suspension, wipers and washers, windscreen, horn, seat belts and seats, doors, mirrors, wheels and tyres, brakes, fuel system, exhaust system and emissions (and a lot more if they’re feeling picky).
If they discover a problem with any of these things, your car will fail its MOT, and you won’t get your certificate until the problems are fixed. Driving without an MOT certificate is against the law.
But with a little preparation, you can improve your chances of coasting through the test without incurring a hefty repair bill. You don’t have to be a mechanical genius, but you do have to be willing to learn a bit about how your car engine works.
Check sure your number plate and VIN match the numbers in your car’s V5C Registration Certificate - better known as your logbook.
Check your headlights, rear lights, foglamps, brake lights, indicator lights and so on are working correctly. If any bulbs are blown, check your car’s manual to see if you can replace them yourself. A new bulb should only cost a few pounds, and it’s cheaper than getting a mechanic to do it for you.
Check tyre pressure and depth of tread, and make sure they are inflated to the correct pressure. The legal minimum tread is 1.6mm, although you ideally need more. You could buy a new tyre and change it yourself.
Press the brake pedal. If it feels a bit soft or spongy, they may be air in the hydraulic system, which must be removed by bleeding. You can sort this out yourself, but you may need a decent car jack.
Windscreen washers and wiper blades
If anyone the blades are worn, you can replace them yourself, and while you’re at it, top up your screenwash.
Air filters and spark plugs
Locate your air filter, and if it looks murky, replace it. Ditto your spark plugs. A set of plugs can last you 100,000 miles these days, but if they look worn down, you could get more mileage out of a new set.
Seats and seatbelts
Take a look at your seatbelts. If they are worn or broken, you can change them yourself.
Check the seal around your petrol cap isn’t worn, that your mirrors are usable and not damaged, your horn sounds correctly, and your hazard lights work, even with the ignition off.
Give your car a clean, both inside and out
This gives the impression that your car is well looked after, and may just sway the mechanic to give you the thumbs up.
If you pass the test, your garage will supply you with an MOT test certificate, and you are then legal – alongside your car insurance – to drive your pride and joy. The results are sent to a central database, which means you can check the MOT history of any vehicle – handy if you are buying a used car.
The MOT is only a basic test to make sure you’re not driving an unsafe car. You should also get your car serviced every year, to keep it in tip-top condition. And make sure you get your service book stamped: this should improve the resale value of your vehicle.
What to do in a breakdown?
If you've broken down it can be hard and often dangerous to stop.
Get your vehicle off the road if possible and warn other traffic by using your hazard warning lights, particularly if your vehicle is causing an obstruction.
Motorway hard shoulders are for emergency use only. You should only stop if it is a real emergency and you have no other choice. It's best to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway if you can rather than stopping on the hard shoulder.
Here are our tips on how to stop safely and call for help.
On a motorway with a hard shoulder
You must not stop on the hard shoulder to:
go to the toilet
use a mobile phone
check a route or map
Step by step
If an emergency forces you to stop:
pull on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible with the wheels turned to the left
leave your sidelights on and turn on the hazard warning lights
get out of the vehicle by the left-hand door and make sure that all your passengers do the same
leave animals in the vehicle or in an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge
if you have reflective jackets in the vehicle wear them – do not use a warning triangle on the hard shoulder
make sure that passengers keep away from the carriageway and hard shoulder and children are kept under control – it is best to retreat up the bank, or behind a barrier if this is possible
don't attempt even simple repairs
Driver location sign
Driver location sign
Calling for help
Once in a safe place use a mobile phone to call the AA, making sure you can describe your location – look out for the new Driver Location Signs which will help us pinpoint your location and direction of travel, or there are reference numbers on all telephones and marker posts.
If you have a smart phone you can download the AA App, which uses the GPS function on the phone to find your exact location. With the simple touch of an icon both the call and the location are transferred to the AA Control Centre.
If you don't have a mobile walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway – never attempt to cross the carriageway. Follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police/Highways Agency. Give full details to the police and tell them if you are a vulnerable motorist, such as a woman travelling alone.
If you feel at risk from another person, return to your vehicle by a left-hand door and lock all doors. Leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.