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Top 10 Pre-MOT Checks

Top Ten Pre Mot Checks

Unfortunately, we’re not all in a position to own a car that is newer than three years old, nor to have looked after one well enough for it to reach the grand old age of forty. For the rest of us, annual MOT tests are required for every vehicle.

Whilst it’s not a strenuous test on the driver’s part, the unknown as to whether your vehicle will pass road safety standards or if you could be hit with a large sum of money should it fail is simply awful.

However, there are a list of simple checks that you can inspect yourself prior to a MOT test, which will greatly reduce the chance expense and inconvenience of a retest. Most of these parts are easy to find once you’ve done it once and are even easier to fix should you need to.

1. Oil level

Your car oil lubricates the engine parts to ensure it runs smoothly when driving. Without this, your engine without oil works similarly to human bones without cartilage. A dry engine will very quickly grind and groan until it becomes undrivable. If your engine seizes it can be as dramatic as buying a new car as opposed to getting it fixed.

Nonetheless, a low oil level is a fault that, once identified, will lead to your vehicle failing an MOT. Typically, you should check your oil level every time you reach 3000-5000 miles or every six months, you can find your oil dipstick under the bonnet. Use your driver’s manual to find exactly where to locate it, pull out the dipstick, and carry out the following steps.

Firstly, look for the minimum and maximum line, this should be situated on the side of your dipstick. Next, wipe it clean and pop it back in before pulling it out again. If the oil line sits between these, then your oil level is adequate. If it sits below the minimum line, you’ll need to fill up your oil before taking it in for its MOT.

This should always be carried out when the engine is cold, and the vehicle is parked on a level surface. Testing the levels on a warm engine can be dangerous and will give a very different reading as oil expands under the heat.

To do this, refer to your driver’s manual for the full instructions in regard to your vehicle.

2. Brakes

After continuous and long-term use, you can expect your brakes to become spongy or slack. If this is not easily noticeable, there are a few tests that you can try in order to find out.

  • Before starting the engine, press down on the brake pedal. If these feel spongy or the pedal pushes flat down to the floor, then there is an issue.
  • Whilst driving, find a safe space and press down on the brakes firmly, your vehicle should slow down smoothly without pulling to the side and without any vibration.
  • Check your brake pads. To be on the safe side, you should be able to see at least a ¼ inch of the brake pad. If you can’t, your brake pads may need to be replaced.

Sometimes spongy brakes aren’t always a serious issue, it could be down to a lack of brake fluid in the vehicle. Again, under the bonnet, you’ll be able to find the brake fluid reservoir. If your brake fluid is a couple of inches lower than the reservoir cap, this will need refilling before your MOT. If you notice your brake fluid to be dark in colour, this will need to be replaced by a mechanic.

3. Tyre tread

Possibly unknown to some, it is an illegal offence to drive a vehicle with tyres that do not meet the required tread depth. The law allows a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm and no lower.

Many mechanics and drivers use the 20p trick to determine if their vehicle’s tyre tread depth exceeds the legal minimum. Place a 20p into the main grooves of your tyre, if you cannot see the outer band on the 20p coin, then your tyre is above the legal minimum. If you can see the outer band, your tread depth breaches the legal requirement and your tyres will need to be replaced.

Be sure to check the depths across the tyre as under or overinflated tyres will wear unevenly, and also check all four tyres. They will all wear unevenly depending on whether your car is front, rear or four-wheel drive, and if you are the sort to tackle a roundabout at speed the left side will also be likely to incur more wear.

4. Lights

Nowadays, most car dashboards will notify the driver of any lights that aren’t working. Although, in the case that a car that doesn’t, you should check your lights once a week to guarantee safety when driving in the dark or during low visibility weather conditions.

The easiest way to carry out these checks is with a friend, family member or colleague who is happy to help. Ask someone to walk around the car whilst you turn on each indicator and individual headlight setting, as well as the brake lights. This way, you can easily identify any that need to be replaced.

If you are checking these on your own, use other vehicles and windows to check your headlights and brake lights. To check your indicators, pull over to a safe space, pop your hazards on and walk around the car to check they’re all working.

Replacing a light bulb can cost as little as £1.00, depending on the car model you have. Replacing car light bulbs tends to be a quick and simple change for most car owners, refer to your driver’s manual for further instructions. If your car was to fail in a MOT for this, it’s a real kick yourself moment.

5. Tyre pressure

One for the driver’s manual, due to each car’s required tyre pressure being different, your manual will state what your car tyre pressures need to be.

Both your tyres being too low and too high can cause serious implications for your vehicle.

  • If your tyre pressure is too low, you can run the risk of creating excessive friction between the tyre and road, wearing them prematurely and separating the tread through overheating.
  • If your tyre pressure is too high, your tyres can become bouncy on the road. In turn, this will cause your brakes to be less effective and contribute to an uncomfortable journey.
  • Either over or under inflation will also cause uneven wear on your tyres, reducing the life.

With this in mind, make a conscious effort to know the correct tyre pressure for your wheels and keep a close eye on these to guarantee optimum performance. If you notice your vehicle’s tyres continue to go flat in a short amount of time, it may be that you have a slow puncture, leaky valve or a broken seal around the bead. All of these issues can be quickly rectified by your local tyre dealer, and if the tyre is okay will only cost you a small amount.

6. Suspension

Have you noticed every bump and dip in the road during your drive? Or, have you noticed that the front of your vehicle frequently nose-dive’s upon stopping? Both of these could be signs that your suspension needs to be worked on.

Fear not, this is a really easy one to check. Commonly known as the ‘bounce test’, lean all your weight onto the bonnet of your car and bounce several times, repeat this on the back of the vehicle also. If the car continues to bounce 2 or 3 times after you’ve removed your weight, then it is highly likely that a mechanic will need to work on your suspension.

7. Wheel alignment

Unless you’re confident when it comes to working your way round a car, we would suggest leaving the realignment of wheels to your mechanic. However, there are ways in which you can test your wheel alignment to know beforehand whether this will come up in your MOT.

For example:

  • The most common sign that your wheels may need to be realigned is if your steering wheel steers to the side when driving straight.
  • If your vehicle pulls to the side, both whilst driving and slowing down, this suggests that your wheel alignment may need to be looked at.
  • A more subtle indication is when a small vibration appears at certain speeds. You may notice an imbalance at 65mph which disappears at 70mph. This is down to the rotation speeds at each speed, not because your car has just miraculously fixed itself!
  • A very verbal warning from your vehicle is if they screech when driving. This would need more urgent attention!

8. Fluid leaks

Various fluids are required in your vehicle in order to ensure it runs smoothly. Therefore, fluid leaks can be a result of lots of different reasons and its worthwhile being able to recognise what each fluid colour suggests. Identifying the issue to avoid any shock revelations in a MOT.

  • Green, orange or pink is your coolant fluid and could be a correspondent to a crack in the coolant system. Depending on the size of the crack, this could be taped over to prevent leaking or may need to be replaced altogether.
  • Black is the sign of an oil leak. Often, this adds up to a failed gasket and the only option for this is to be replaced by a mechanic.
  • Pink, red 0r dark red liquid is a transmission fluid leak. The level of repairs required rests upon the scale of the issue causing the leak and will require a mechanic to determine.
  • Thick, honey looking fluid is a gearbox oil leak. Due to the technical properties of the gearbox, this will always need a mechanic’s work to fix the issue.
  • Clear oil under your wheels will be brake fluid and is a concerning issue that impacts the occupant’s safety. Again, this requires a mechanic’s touch to ensure it meets the required safety standards.
  • Blue liquid is washer fluid. This is nothing too serious in regard to whether your car will drive, but it is a legal condition for drivers to have their washer fluid always topped up when on the road. Consequently, if your washer fluid is leaking, you could be breaching this requirement.
  • If you notice water leaking from your car, this is often harmless. Normally a result of your air conditioning system or humidity.

9. Windows

When it comes to your windows, there are several areas where your vehicle could fail its MOT which could have been prevented.

One being washer fluid levels, these should always sit between the designated minimum and maximum line. Another is the wear and tear of your wiper blades, costing less than £20 to be replaced, this is an easy fix that shouldn’t be left till the MOT. Lastly, cracks in the windscreen should be repaired as soon as they occur to avoid prompting any further and more costly issues. If this is arrange before an MOT it is often coverage by your insurance policy and can be replaced for the cost of a small excess payment.

10. Wear and tear of seatbelt

MOTs are compulsory to ensure vehicles meet the required road safety standards to prevent as many unnecessary accidents as possible. One of the most important checks carried out is on the seatbelts, our literal lifesavers should we ever find ourselves involved in a car crash.

If you notice your seatbelts start to wear and tear or lock before your MOT, take your car in for a service and get these replaced. It could be a real life or death decision.

All in all, there’s a lot that can be checked for and resolved prior to a MOT to reduce the lump sum cost at the end. Or, it could simply provide you with an insight into what the cost will be upon finding these faults in the MOT. On top of this, as driver’s we have a responsibility to make sure our vehicles are safe enough to be on the road and protect the occupants inside. We cannot urge you enough when we say, don’t wait until your MOT if you notice anything suspicious about your vehicle. Try diagnosing the issue or take your car to your local garage if you’re unsure.

Should you need a car garage in Norwich to carry out a MOT test or service on your car, call us on 01603 700128 to book your vehicle in today!