What Can Fail An MOT & What To Do Next

What Can Fail An MOT & What To Do Next

Every car owner in the UK needs to pass the annual MOT inspection in order to keep their vehicle ‘street legal.’ But do you know what happens if your car fails its MOT?   

First of all, don’t panic! You’re not the first person whose car has failed an MOT, and you won’t be the last. Although repairs can be costly and you won’t be left with much choice, with car finance options like Bumper available, you might find yourself back on the road faster than anticipated.   

However, you’ll want to get repairs done reasonably quickly — or do without your car until whatever’s broken is fixed.    

Forewarned is forearmed. Here’s everything you need to prepare for a possible MOT #fail.    

What is an MOT? 

An MOT is the UK’s annual vehicle check that ensures your car is roadworthy and won’t pose a risk to yourself or other drivers. The MOT is carried out according to the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.  

Every vehicle older than three years must have a valid MOT certificate before being driven on public roads. If you don’t have a valid MOT and are caught, you can receive a fine of up to £1,000.   

Plus, your insurance company is within its rights to invalidate a claim if you can’t prove your vehicle was roadworthy at the time of the incident.

What can fail an MOT? 11 common reasons cars fail MOTs 

The best way to avoid an MOT failure is to know what’s being checked and which issues are most common. We’ve compiled a list of 11 standard MOT failing points to help you prepare. Save this page so you don’t forget them or the failed MOT meaning! 

1. Broken light bulbs 

Blown or broken lightbulbs are the single most common MOT failure cause. Luckily, they’re also the cheapest to fix. Check your lights are working properly before the big test. This includes indicators, front, rear, brake, and fog lights. 

2. Suspension issues 

Let's face it — the UK's potholed roads give your suspension a serious workout. So, it's not surprising that suspension issues are another leading cause of MOT failures. Aside from timing your annual service before the MOT test, you cannot do much to prevent this. 

3. Spongy brakes 

Have you noticed that your brakes are feeling spongy? Or has your car been pulling to the left or right while under braking? These are usually signs that your brake pads need replacing.  

Pro Tip: Brakes need a refresh approximately every 50,000 miles.  

4. Illegal tyres 

Tyres are one of the most essential parts of the car as they’re the only part of the vehicle that touches the road. If your tyres are in bad shape, they might not even be legal for road driving.  

The UK's minimum legal tread depth limit is 1.6 mm across the central ¾ of the tyre tread. Under this? It’s time for some new tyres! 

While checking your tyres, you should also look for cuts, exposed steel belts, or bulges and tears. You’ll also need to change your tyres if they’re different sizes to the opposite partner. 

5. Cracked windscreen (obscuring driver’s view) 

Good visibility is crucial when driving, as without a clear view, you’re putting yourself and other drivers at risk. So, make sure you get any windscreen chips filled with resin to prevent them from becoming cracked.  

6. Stickers on the windscreen (that obscure driver’s view) 

Similarly to cracks and chips, stickers that obscure your view will lead to a failed MOT. Yes, something as small as a sticker can cause you to fail! Being able to see is critical, so ensure your windscreen, rear windows, and mirrors are clear.  

7. Emissions 

Emissions (fuel and exhaust) can also lead to a failed MOT if your fuel system isn’t cleaned and functioning properly. This issue is so standard that some garages even offer pre-MOT fuel services to help you give your emissions a refresh before the test.  

8. Lack of power steering fluid 

While most fluids aren’t usually tested on an MOT, they will test your power steering fluid. You must have enough fluid in the reservoir to meet the minimum level, so check and top up your fluid if needed.   

9. Non-retracting seat belts 

For a car to be deemed road-safe, it must have retracting seat belts. Before you arrive at the test, check your seats for any knotted or twisted belts. You should also ensure that they can secure their position without detaching.  

10. Missing airbags 

Another safety feature to check is your airbags. Missing airbags or airbag warning lights are a failure point, so get your bags repaired or your dashboard lights reset ASAP.  

11. Registration plates 

Last but not least, review your registration plates. In the UK, these must be clear and legible. You don’t want to fail because of a splodge, dirt, or blown lightbulb! 

How much does an MOT cost?  

The maximum price a garage can charge to carry out an MOT is £54.85 and that includes VAT. As this is the maximum price, you’ll find most garages set £54.85 as their average MOT cost.   

Most MOTs take about 45 minutes and can be carried out in one of over 20,000 licensed MOT stations in the UK.    

Considering the relatively low price of an MOT and the ease of getting one done, it’s well worth making sure yours is up to date in order to avoid hefty fees and invalid insurance.    

Can you drive if your MOT runs out today?

Yes, but only to drive it to the garage for its MOT or for repairs, and then you are allowed to drive it back home. 

If your car doesn't have it's MOT up-to-date, then you may not drive it anywhere else legally. 

How to pass MOT?  

In order to pass the MOT, your vehicle has to meet a strict set of criteria, based on your car’s size, age and class. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, and any faults are identified as being dangerous or illegal, your vehicle will automatically fail the MOT.    

For any shortcomings that aren’t dangerous now, but could be down the line, they’ll be flagged up as advisory, meaning you’ll need to remedy them prior to your next MOT.  So, check out what can fail an MOT to get prepared. 

What happens if you fail the MOT?   

If your car fails the MOT, you will be issued a VT30 Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. This certificate will explain why your vehicle failed its test and the repairs that need to be carried out to pass the MOT. Remedy these before the next test to avoid another “car failed MOT” moment.  

Do you need to get another MOT after a failed test? 

Following the failed test, your car can stay at the garage for repairs and be partially rechecked for a free MOT within 10 working days. If more than 10 days pass, the vehicle must go through a complete MOT again at full cost.    

If you take your vehicle to a different garage for repairs, it can be re-inspected for half the normal MOT cost. 

The half-price re-test discount can only be used once, so if your vehicle fails again, you’re liable to pay for a full MOT at the next test. 

Can you drive with a failed MOT?  

No, you cannot drive your car with a failed MOT. If you receive a VT30 certificate, your car isn’t safe to drive on the roads, and it is illegal to drive.  

However, there are two exceptions to this rule: 

  • You’re taking your vehicle to a test station for an MOT test booked in advance.  
  • You’re taking your car to get repaired after it has already failed the MOT.  

If you’re caught driving on a failed MOT, you can receive a fine of up to £2,500 and get three penalty points on your licence.  

If you think an MOT failure might be on the cards, having a range of car repair payment options is a good idea. If you get caught out by an expensive set of MOT-mandated fixes, you can manage it with minimum pain. 

If you think you might struggle with the repair costs needed to pass your MOT, Bumper can help split your bill into interest-free instalments.

Do Garages Fail MOTs On Purpose?

Unfortunately, there are some untrustworthy garages that will purposely try and fail your MOT so they can get more work out of you. Luckily, though, they are very much in the minority. Most garages are reputable businesses who want you to be a pleased customer. 

Can you drive with minor defects or advisory items?  

Along with a clear pass or fail, there are two more possible results that you may see on your MOT certificate: minor defects and advisories. Unlike things that will fail an MOT, these fall under the “Pass with defects” category, as seen here.  

What is an Advisory item?   

An advisory item or note is an issue found during the MOT test that isn’t serious enough for failure but needs a service. 

These can be logged as advisories, allowing the MOT tester to communicate the car's general condition to the owner. The owner can then get these items repaired at their own leisure.  

Typical advisory items you may see on your MOT:  

  • Headlamp discoloured but not affecting the output of light  
  • Number Plate discoloured but not affecting readability  
  • Tyre worn close to the legal limit 

What is a Minor Defect?  

A minor defect is a defect/problem that's not serious enough to fail the test but needs to be repaired soon. These are listed alongside the note to 'Repair as soon as possible' on the MOT. An example is seen here.  

Whilst there is no legal requirement to have these items fixed before the next MOT, it may be more likely for the next MOT tester to pay close attention to them when inspecting next year.   

Minor defects should be treated to save some money on car maintenance. Often, items considered minor defects can now become serious enough to be major defects and, therefore, cause a failed MOT next time.   

Some examples of common minor defects include:  

  • Stop lamps not working (top)  
  • Registration plate light incorrect pattern  
  • Anti-roll ball link has slight play  
  • Cracked bumper MOT - a cracked or scratched bumper will pass, but a detached one will fail 

What do you do when you can’t afford MOT repairs?  

If you can’t afford MOT repairs, there are a few strategies you can use to get your MOT major defects repaired and your car back on the road. These payment plans include: 

  • Asking your mechanic for a payment plan 
  • Checking your vehicle warranty 
  • Borrowing money from family and friends 
  • Taking out a loan to cover the costs 
  • Selling the car 

There’s no one route that’s right for all when it comes to a failed MOT and affording the payments. Always remember to read the fine print before agreeing to any payment plans or loans.  

Do you need an MOT every year?  

Yes, you need an MOT every year if your vehicle is over 3 years old.  

If you’ve had your vehicle tested at a garage before, they’ll likely send you a reminder when your next MOT is due. But if you have recently purchased the vehicle or haven’t heard from the garage, you can easily go online to check when your existing MOT certificate expires.    

Is there a 14-day MOT grace period? 

No, there isn’t an MOT grace period. When your MOT has expired it’s instantly illegal to drive on the road. If you do, you may face prosecution.  

When to book an MOT  

Depending on your location and the type of vehicle you drive, most garages can fit an MOT slot within a week. But it’s best to check well in advance so you’re not at risk of missing your MOT expiry. 

A handy trick that the DVSA allows and even recommends is to book your MOT one month before your current one expires. The expiry date of the new MOT will remain as it was.  

This gives you a 13-month MOT at the same cost as a 12-month one.   

What does an MOT check consist of?  

Knowing what is checked during an MOT is good so you don’t get any nasty surprises. By knowing beforehand if there are any issues with your car, you can get them remedied before submitting it for its MOT.    

If you’ve got extended warranty cover through a third-party provider such as Warranty Direct, check to see if any mechanical or electrical issues are covered and get them fixed before the MOT.    

What is checked during an MOT:   

  • Number plate - This needs to be the right colour, fully legible and display the correct registration format for the year your car was manufactured. The font should also be the correct one and the plate itself an appropriate size.  
  • Lights - All need to work. It’s worth noting, that some cars have more lights than are legally required, but if your car does have extra lights, they all must work.   
  • Headlights - Must be clear with unmarked lenses   
  • Indicators - Must flash when triggered  
  • Number plate, reversing lights and fog lights - all need to be in working order   
  • Brake lights - must illuminate when the brake pedal is pressed   
  • Tyres -  These need to meet the legal minimum requirement in the UK of 1.6mm. Tyres should also not have bulges or cracks - if they do, they will fail  
  • Windscreen wipers - These need to be in good working order and be effective at clearing dirt from your windscreen. Side note - rear wipers aren’t checked  
  • Screenwash - Must be topped up and jets angled correctly  
  • Seat and seat belts - Must be in good, workable order  

Split the cost with Bumper 

Split the cost of repair work needed to pass your MOT with Bumper. 

Apply for a credit limit between £60 - £5,000 and choose from 1,000s of trusted repairers across the country. 

How to avoid failing an MOT  

If you think your car may not pass straight away, or if you rely on your car to get to work and cannot afford it to be off the road, there are a few steps to avoid failing an MOT.  

See the four most important pre-MOT checks below. 

1. Get a pre-MOT inspection  

Many garages will do pre-MOT checks for a small fee. They often check every part of the car that usually gets inspected on an MOT, except for a brake and emissions test.  

Once the mechanic has checked over your car, they’ll give you a report, which should outline any issues with your car without them causing an MOT failure. Getting this done at least two months before your MOT date is a good idea.  

2. Address all the advisories on the previous MOT  

Advisory and Minor items are helpful in identifying non-serious faults that could turn into serious ones. Check your MOT from last year, either by reading the V22 MOT certificate or checking on the government website.  

3. Have your car serviced regularly  

While servicing, many garages will also do a quick health check of your car whilst it's on the ramps. This can help identify common MOT issues such as worn rubber seals, cracked tyres, engine oil leaks, etc.  

For more information on each service level, check out our blog here

4. Do a quick check before driving to the test centre  

As we’ve seen above, broken lights, windscreen issues and tyre problems are common causes of MOT failures and are all things you can easily spot yourself.   

Download a pre-MOT checklist such as this one from the AA, and take a walk around your car. Remember to do this at least two weeks or so before the test to give yourself time to get any items fixed.  

Avoiding MOT major defects - Final thoughts 

While many things will fail an MOT, you can stay ahead of a potential failure by checking and servicing your car before the test date. Knowing how to pass MOT tests is easy with little research. Hopefully, this blog has helped you prepare your car for the big event or retest.  

Worried that your next MOT might result in a hefty repair bill? Use Bumper to split your bill into interest-free instalments. You can benefit from 'buy now, pay later' car repairs at over 4,000 trusted garages nationwide. 

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