The Difference Between an MOT Test and a Service

The Difference Between an MOT Test and a Service


With an array of different terms and levels of car servicing it can sometimes be confusing to navigate, but doing so correctly means you’ll stay on the right side of the law as well as increase your car's value and life expectancy. 

What Is The Difference Between An MOT And A Service?

An MOT test is to ascertain the roadworthiness of your car, checking crucial safety and control features like tyres, brakes, suspension and steering. Servicing is undertaken to prolong the life of the engine and other components. 

Whilst different, there are some crossover points between MOT testing and servicing, as a full service will often involve checking tyres, brakes, and other components. This could help avoid your car failing an MOT. 

What is an MOT?

An MOT test is a government-regulated inspection that all vehicles within an age bracket have to pass, in order to be driven on public roads. It is most commonly conducted at a local independent garage or main dealer. 

What does MOT stand for?

The Ministry Of Transport is a body first created in 1960, to bring more regulation and structured guidance on the roadworthiness of private vehicles. The MOT test is a vehicle assessment conducted by a garage approved by the MOT’s guidelines. 

What does an MOT consist of?

MOT tests are quite comprehensive. The main aim of the test is to grade the safety and roadworthiness of your vehicle, so the engine and gearbox (other than safety issues such as oil leaks) are not inspected.  

Important areas of the test are suspension components, and structural sections such as the chassis, brakes and tyres. The MOT also includes an emissions test. You can see the full MOT testing criteria on the government website.

Is an MOT a legal requirement?

Yes. If your car is more than 3 years old, but less than 40, you need an MOT by law. Driving without an MOT will invalidate your insurance and land you with a hefty fine, of up to £1,000. 

How long does an MOT certificate last?

An MOT lasts for one year, and once the MOT certificate has run out, it’s illegal to drive or even park your car on a public road. If kept off-road for any period of time it should be registered as SORN.  

It's possible to extend this period if you get your car tested one month before your current MOT is due, giving you a 13-month validity period. This is also advisable as it gives you more time to fix any issues raised. 

What is a service?

Cars have many complex mechanisms and systems, and to keep these working correctly, routine maintenance needs to be completed, including the changing of filters and other consumable parts, these are done at set intervals, commonly referred to as service intervals. 

There are different levels of servicing, from half services through to full services, the difference being the parts that are changed.

What does a service include?

Servicing generally includes the following steps, some may only be included in a full service whilst others are carried out at every stage. 

  • Oil and oil filter 
  • Air filter 
  • Cabin/pollen filter 
  • Spark plugs 
  • Fuel filter 
  • Coolant flush 
  • Air conditioning flush 
  • Gearbox oil and filter 
  • Cambelt change or cam chain adjustment 
  • Tyre rotation 
  • Differential oil 

Whilst this is a long list, there may still be other areas that need regular maintenance on your particular car, so it’s always best to check the manual for exact servicing guidelines. 

Is servicing a legal requirement?

Whilst not highly recommended, there is no legal requirement to have your car serviced regularly. 

There are laws that state your car should be roadworthy, but it is very unlikely that any service items will interfere with the roadworthiness of your car - at least not in the short term! 

Should I get my car serviced?

There are many benefits to servicing your car, in almost all cases it’s cheaper to pay for regular service from a garage than to wait for issues to arise on their own. 

Servicing can also identify possible problems that may cause an MOT fail, allowing you time in advance to plan the repair work if necessary, without the car being off the road. 

For more information on servicing check out this article here.

Split the cost of a service and MOT into interest-free repayments at 1000s of reputable repairers.

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