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Getting ready for the MOT car test

Some hints on preparing for the big day

The MOT.
MOT test sign
A spot of prior thought and preparation can cushion the stress of taking your car for its annual MOT checkover, although car MOTs are only compulsory in the UK now for privately-owned examples if they are under 40 years of age. However anyone with a 40+ year old car can still submit their steed for testing if they so wish. The following is a brief rundown of some things to check over beforehand, giving you a chance to correct any obvious faults before booking your car in for its test. This is only a guide, there are links at the foot of this page for the full info on MOT testing regs, and the latest changes / developments in the MOT test.
old garage
The mere thought of the annual MOT test can send a shiver down the spine of the most hardened classic car owner, and is as popular as having your molars drilled out by your local friendly dentist.
You submit your pride and joy to the all-seeing tester at an approved garage, and can do nothing as he prods, taps, and bounces, your car in various directions, peering into its inner recesses, assessing its general fitness and eligibility to potter its away along the Queen's highway for another 12 months.
As this is a stressful enough occasion at the best of times, it pays to do some prep work well in advance of the dreaded garage appointment, to 'up' your chances of getting a clean 'pass' result.

Areas looked at.

The actual parts of the vehicle tested will vary somewhat depending on the age of the vehicle, and its classification. Older cars are not subject to the same strict emissions regs for instance, which is a good job as they were never designed with this in mind. Chances are you'll only fail emissions on an older classic if you fill the workshop with plumes of smoke, causing the sprinklers to kick in. Visible smoke once off-choke is a no-no, and really is a sign that your classic might benefit from an overhaul anyway.

Preparing for the big day.

It will help your chances if you use the following checklist when doing your pre-MOT checkup. Some of the areas you'll need to look at include:
  • Registration plates - must be appropriate for the year of vehicle, unobscured, with correctly spaced letters etc
  • VIN/Chassis plate must be fitted and easily read, and tie in with your logbook!!
  • Steering - works as intended, no excessive play or clunks, all joints, mountings, rubber boots, track rod ends, split pins etc in fine fettle
  • No power steering leaks (where fitted). If you have a steering box, try adjusting out any slack at the wheel, there is usually an adjuster on the steering box itself
  • Check wheel bearings for excessive play - this can be taken up on some older cars, or else your left with fitting new ones
  • Make sure your horn works and emits an audible paaarrppppp
  • Check all lights, make sure they work, there are no duff earths causing strange blinking effects, remember to check the no. plate lamps, hazard flashers, semaphore indicators (if fitted), and any visual reminders on the dashboard
  • Is the bonnet catch working properly? also check the bootlid while you're at it
  • Door catches all need to work from both inside and outside
  • Body condition - this is the biggie! A little surface corrosion isn't usually a problem, but serious corrosion of any of the following will cause a furrowed brow with your usually-cheery MOT tester:
    • Separate chassis cars - ensure body is properly attached!!
    • There mustn't be any jagged edges (eg wheelarches) that people admiring your car could catch themselves upon
    • Have a look underneath and ensure that all suspension & steering pickup points are solid, same goes for seat belt mountings (and 30cm all around)
    • How are the sills looking? monocoque cars rely on sills for strength usually, so any holed grot here will most likely cause a fail
    • Also check - inner wings, bulkhead, floorpans and bootfloor - anything that's perforated really needs seeing to, not just for safety's sake but the future fitness and roadworthiness of your car
  • Seats need to be firmly secured and not slithering around every time you crest a sleeping policeman
  • Brakes - foot and handbrakes all need to work, does the car pull up straight? It's worth jacking up each wheel and ensuring no brakes are binding either - this often happens on cars that don't get used much over winter etc. Needless to say each braked wheel needs to be able to demonstrate some retardation - leaking slave cylinder seals or hub seals can soak brake linings rendering them useless, so check this carefully
  • While you're looking for leaks, also have a nosey at brake/clutch master cylinders and dampers as these will cause a fail if they've sprung a leak
  • Brake & fuel pipes etc must not foul bodywork
  • Chips or cracks in the windscreen can cause an MOT failure depending whether they are in the drivers line of sight
  • Try out your wipers and washers, split wiper blades will get you a failure so check them out. Cars with opening windscreens don't need washers.
  • Give all four corners of the car a bounce test, and make sure there are no clonks/leaks or any other obvious woes in the suspension department
  • Most post-1965 cars need seatbelts, if your car has them make sure they aren't fraying, they fasten and release ok, and that there is no rust near their mountings
  • A rotten or leaking exhaust will catch the MOT tester's keen eye so repair if there's any sign of problems here
  • Wheels and tyres need to be in good nick, and be appropriate to the vehicle they are on. Worn-out skinny crossplies on a high powered sportscar may not be the best choice
This is only a brief guide and must only be seen as such - for the full lowdown on MOT rules and regulations, I'd recommend studying the DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) website, they have the full run down not just on car testing regs, but also LGVs, HGVs, PSVs, and motorcycles.

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