Common MOT Questions

Around 28% of cars are late for their MOT, and for these, the failure rate is 8% higher than average; and while ignorance is certainly not an excuse, it can be a viable reason for why people with best intentions miss their MOTs.

This article is a starting point to combat MOT unawareness and will answer the common questions we’ve been asked at Williams.

So, without further ado let’s begin!

What Does MOT Stand For?

The abbreviation MOT actually stands for the Ministry of Transport, which was the Government department responsible for the roads when the MOT was first introduced in 1960. To make matters a bit more confusing a car MOT test is issued by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) – in 2021 there were over 23,000 MOT test centres in the UK, totalling at just under 65,000 MOT testers across the country.

For any vehicle 3 years or older an annual MOT inspection is required. To ensure your vehicle is working as efficiently as possible the inspection is consisted of over 150 safety and emission related systems.

The test does not cover:

  • Engine
  • Clutch
  • Gearbox

What Happens if I Fail my MOT?

At Williams, we recommend keeping up-to-date with your car safety and maintenance: this includes checking all of your break lights are working, or making sure your dashboard is clear of any warning symbols.

Keeping consistent with car care can mitigate most costly surprises, of course this isn’t 100% guaranteed! However, there are certain situations that may arise at the failure of your vehicle’s MOT.

First of all, don’t panic! The MOT testers are there to make sure that your car is safe to drive and is road legal – MOTs are not a money-making exercise for test centres. It is also important to note that it is illegal to drive without a valid MOT. If you’re in a situation where your car has failed, and the date on your certificate has passed you can only drive your car to:

  • Be repaired
  • A pre-arranged MOT appointment (only if it is roadworthy).

Did you know?

That there is a month’s leeway before the expiry date of your MOT certificate. This means that if your MOT is due on 1st September, you have a full month beforehand to get a test, and still drive it within the 30 days of having the original test!

Reasons for MOT Failure

As previously mentioned, there are over 150 safety and emission related systems during the inspection, we won’t list all 150 but here are some of the most common reasons your car has failed its MOT… and how you can avoid them:

  • Light it up! – A blown bulb may not sound like the end of the world, but it is a common failure reason for many vehicles across the UK. We advise that before the test you do a quick spot check (with help from a friend) to check all of the lights are working as they should be.
  • Is the view all clear? – It’s imperative that a driver is able to see clearly, so a chip on the windscreen in the line of sight of the driver is a big no in the eyes of MOT guidelines. Double and triple check that there’s nothing obstructing your view of the road, oh, and you can claim back a replacement or repaired windscreen on your insurance without affecting your premium**.
  • Keeping us in suspense - You can check your car to see if it sits level (is one side lower than the other?), or walk around the car and try pushing down on each corner. Does it return back to its normal level when you let go without ‘bouncing’ up and down a few times? Unfortunately, there’s no “quick fix” and fixing these common issues does have to result to a trip to the garage.
  • You’re braking up – There’s really no need to reiterate how important brakes are to you. Listen out for squealing or grinding noises from your brakes, both are signs that the pads are running low, does the brake pedal feel spongy when you compress it? This is an indication that you may need to change or flush your brake fluid.
  • A lie of emission – While the emissions test doesn’t involve the car’s safety, it is about its general roadworthiness and effects on the public’s (and planet’s) health. MOT examiners insert a probe into the exhaust tailpipe while the engine is running, allowing them to take a reading of the volume of poisonous gases and hydrocarbons present in the fumes. Regularly servicing your car will highlight any bugs in the system and give you enough preparation for the MOT, or you can clean your system with ‘fuel additives’ that work through the engine to remove particles and clean components to ensure your car’s emissions are as they should be.

Failing your MOT can be inconvenient, costly, and frustrating, so it’s always worth checking and preparing your car beforehand to give yourself the best chance of passing.

How Much is an MOT?

The government regulates the cost of MOTs in the UK. These MOT price restrictions differ depending on the classification of the vehicle***.

For a standard car that sits up to eight passengers, the maximum you should be paying for an MOT is £54.85. You do not have to start getting MOT tests until the car is at least three years’ old. 

At Williams, we offer MOTs on your vehicle(s) ​and​ send you reminders of when your next test is due


How to View an MOT Certificate

You needn’t worry if you’ve lost the paper MOT certificate, as everything is online. Simply head over to www.gov.uk/check-mot-history and go through the various steps:

*Unless a ‘dangerous’ issue has been listed on the paperwork and the minimum standards of roadworthiness aren’t met.

**Most insurers won't increase your premium if you claim for windscreen damage, this does not mean all insurers won’t.

***This information was accurate as of September 2023.