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When it comes to the time of year when your MOT is due to expire you should really be planning another test, be sure not to leave it too late as you may need some work doing on it before it will pass and remain road legal. Many MOT stations will offer a free re-test within a certain period of around 10 days so it doesn't hurt to get it tested to find out what's up with it prior to spending money on it.

Although each MOT station tests cars in different ways they all use the same principle, so by knowing what they look for, you can ensure that your car will pass first time.

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

This must be permanently displayed in all of the intended places, consistent and match the car database system making sure it's a legal and legit vehicle.

Registration Plate

This applies for both the front and back registration plates, they must be visible and secured safely onto your vehicle at all times. They also must follow the laws when it comes to the lettering and spacing, you won't have to worry about this unless they have been changed in the past if you have a private or customised registration plate.

Steering (inside car checks)

The person testing it will make sure that the steering wheel is in good condition and securely attached to the steering shaft. The steering shaft and upper bearing are then inspected for excessive wear and deterioration and the clamping bolts, split pins and locking nuts are checked to ensure they are secure and tight.

Steering (under bonnet checks)

This inspection is not carried out on all cars as some components cannot be seen from underneath the bonnet. They will try to see it the swivel joints are in good working order and that the steering rack and mountings are secure and safe. If there is excessive play in any steering joint then this will lead to an instant fail and will need correcting.

Steering (under vehicle checks)

Every component of the steering will be checked for excessive wear and play to make sure that the steering rack is securely attached to the cars chassis. The car will then be lifted into the air and checked for obstructions when full lock is applied, your wheel bearings will also be checked to make sure they are in good condition.

If your car is four wheel drive then the rear steering system will be checked in this stage to certify it's in good working order.


A quick and easy test will be applied to make sure that the horn works as intended, is not a sequential multi tone, loud enough and easily reached by the driver when needed.

Lights (side lights & headlights)

The tester will make sure that they work in the correct manner when on the dip and aim functions and that they are the correct type for your vehicle and a legal colour.

Lights (brake light, indicators & hazard lights)

These will firstly be checked to make sure they are the right colour and type, then checked to see if they interfere with each other when all in use. This could be a sign of an electrical fault which will need looking into.

Lights (rear fog lights)

The person performing the checks will ensure initially that the fog lights are red, in good working order, isn't obstructed or affected by anything else and that they are fitted to either the centre or offside of the car.

Lights (number plate lights)

A simple case of turning the cars lights on and checking if they are working correctly, if these were found to be faulty then more times then not, it's just the bulb that will need replacing.

Bonnet catch

You need to ensure that your bonnet can be opened and closed with ease and secure when fully closed. It's then checked for excess rust and deterioration which may result in a faulty retaining device.


All doors must be in working order and be able to be opened from the inside as well the outside and latch securely when closed. They also test the boot to make sure that it's secure when in the closed position.

Overall body condition

The body of the car must be in good condition and safe to drive on the roads with no sharp edges which may cause damage to other people on the road including pedestrians. It's then checked for corrosion around the brakes, steering, suspension and any other vital feature of a car.


The front passengers and drivers' seat must be secure and capable of sliding on the rails with no obstruction. The rear seats, if any, must be secure when in the upright position and work as planned.

Brakes (inside car checks)

The inspector will check that all brakes work properly from the inside of the vehicle ensuring that the rubber pedal is not worn down to a dangerous level and can be easily applied when needed.

The handbrake will then be under the spotlight making sure it works precisely and that the mounting are securely fitted.

Brakes (under bonnet checks)

The servo unit and master cylinder are checked for any leaks when the ignition is turned on and the brakes in use. All pipes leading to and from the brakes will be checked for excessive corrosion and leaks which make lead to faulty brakes in the near future.

Brakes (under vehicle checks)

All visible brake pipes are inspected for wear and tear, damage or leaks. Both the discs and drums are checked to ensure they are in good working order as the brakes are one of the most important factors of the vehicle. Each caliper is checked to make sure it's securely fastened with all the necessary bolts and that the brake pads themselves are in a reasonable condition.


The quality of your windscreen can play a major factor whether your car will pass or fail. If there is anything obstructing the drivers view then it will be an instant fail. This goes for cracks too, 10mm or less in diameter cracks are acceptable in the driver's line of sight or in the area of the windscreen wipers whereas up to 40mm in diameter are acceptable anywhere else.

They check that the washer jets and wiper blades are in good condition and working correctly.


These are checked to make sure they are securely fitted to the car and visible from the drivers' seat without any obstructions. They check the quality of them to make sure the image isn't distorted in any way which will impair the drivers' view.

Suspension (under bonnet checks)

All components which can be seen from under the bonnet such as the upper suspension joints will be inspected for excessive wear, rust or corrosion and that they are secured in place.

Suspension (under vehicle checks)

The springs and suspension joints are checked to ensure they are in good condition and free of rust and corrosion, all suspension components are inspected to see if they are broken, damaged or missing. A common fault is that the shock absorbers leak which will have to be replaced in order to pass the MOT.

Seat belts

All seat belts are tested to see if the mountings are safely fitted into the vehicle and lock correctly. The tester will examine the operation of each seat belt and check its retraction to ensure it will protect someone in the event of an accident.


If there are any problems with the exhaust system such as mountings missing or damaged, part of the system missing or excessively damaged, a leak or if it classed as extremely noisy it will be an instant fail and need correcting before the retest.


Each car will be attached to specialised equipment to measure the carbon dioxide output to make sure it's safe to run on the roads. They are very strict on this particular test as you can be causing excessive pollution without even knowing.

Fuel system

They check that the fuel cap can be fastened securely with no leaks or damage to the seal. They will also check any fuel pipes looking for any leaks or damage which will result in a fail.


The overall condition of each tyre is checked to make sure there are no cuts, foreign objects or any other damage. The right tyre has to be fitted based on your car so be sure to check before you buy a brand new set of tyres that they are MOT compliant.

The tread is taken into consideration, there has to be a 1.6mm or above groove all the way around or you will need to replace it. The valve is then tested to make sure it's not leaking air or working incorrectly.

By reading this guide you can probably make an educated guess whether your car will pass or fail, if you see some of the faults mentioned above on your car then you know you need to get them corrected before you book your car in for a MOT.

13,269 Posts
worth noting-your reversing lights DO NOT have to work for an mot.nor do you need a spare tyre

8,607 Posts
thedupleman said:
worth noting-your reversing lights DO NOT have to work for an mot.nor do you need a spare tyre
However if there is a spare tyre it has to be roadworthy, to the same conditions as mentioned above. If its not replace it, if you can't afford to replace it until payday, remove it and replace as soon as you can. An unroadworthy tyre in the boot can fail you.

As for number plates, the law has changed within the last 12 monthes, so you may if you've got alterations to spacing, logos on the backplate etc, you may well fail this year, even though you've passed in previous years.
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