4 DIY ways to prepare for an MOT

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Robin Henderson looks at some of the most common reasons why cars fail an MOT that can be fixed at home before the test

Your vehicle’s MOT is an essential part of its lifecycle, ensuring that it’s safe for use on the road.

If your car is over three years old, it will need to undergo annual testing that covers many of its essential functions, and if it fails, you will have to get it repaired before you can start using it again.

A failure can be awarded for a number of reasons, many of which are completely avoidable with a little preparation.

High fail rate

In the 2015–2016 financial year, 36.8% of cars, vans, and small passenger vehicles failed their MOT on initial inspection, according to government figures.

A closer inspection of the stats reveals that a lot cars fall into this category for fairly simple reasons, such as problems with lighting and signalling (18.9% of fails), seat belts (2% of fails) and tyres (7.7% of fails).

In light of these findings, we’ve put together a list of four easy ways to prepare your vehicle for its MOT that you can do at home.

By following our pointers, you can avoid becoming one of these statistics and save some money on inflated garage fees.

Test your lights and replace any broken ones

As mentioned, lighting and signalling failures make up 18.9% of MOT fails, making them the most common fault by some distance.

However, checking and fixing a lightbulb is a pretty simple process that can be carried out on your own without a great deal of mechanical know-how. Take the time to pay attention to yours and you can avoid one of the traps that trips up many vehicles.

Check each and every light, including: headlights (main beam and dipped), sidelights, indicators, hazard lights, fog lights, brake lights, and the number plate light.

The best way to perform a check is to switch them on one at a time and get someone to see if they are working. However, you can also carry out your test by parking near a wall and using your mirrors.

You can buy your own replacement bulbs from a car parts retailer and fit them yourself, which will avoid any parts and servicing mark-up from a garage.

Check tyre tread depth and pressure

Your vehicle’s tyres help you to stay safe on the road by gripping the surface, so it’s understandable that they are scrutinised during the MOT exam.

Insufficient tread depth and pressure are two common causes of failure for tyres, and they are also both easily serviceable at home.

The tread depth measures how worn down the grips on your tyres have become, and the legal limit is 1.6mm for safe driving.

Rather than struggling with fancy equipment, you can just perform the ‘20p test’, which involves is placing a 20p piece in the grooves and seeing if the outer band of the coin is visible above the channel. If it is, the tyre needs replacing.

You also need to get a reading on your tyre pressure and refill them if they need it. You can usually find your recommended level of pressure in your car’s user manual.

Examine your wiper blades and replace them if necessary

As part of your MOT test, your windscreen and rear window wipers will be examined to see if they are up to the task.

Squeaking noises and streaks of water being left across the glass are two signs that your wiper blades may be nearing the end of their lifespan.

As you don’t need to replace the whole wiper, the blades should be easy enough to clip on and off. You can pick up new ones from almost any car parts retailer.

Clean out your car before the MOT test

Though less of a technical problem, it is possible for a mechanic to fail your car on the grounds of it being a mess.

If clutter or rubbish is blocking any aspect of the driver’s view or threatening to interfere with their driving action, you should give your car a tidy out before you hand over the keys.

Check that any dashboard or back-shelf items are not blocking the line of sight out of the window. Take care of these and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Robin Henderson is an aftersales manager at car retailer Lookers

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