How to check your car is roadworthy

Is your MOT due?

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The six-month exemption on MOTs may have passed – but it’s still good practice to ensure your own vehicle is roadworthy

Mechanics working on a car in a garage

As part of its response to coronavirus, the government applied an automatic six-month extension to all MOTs due between 30 March and 31 July 2020. It applied to cars, motorcycles and light vans.

But while the MOT extension was good news for motorists, it placed the onus firmly on the driver to ensure their vehicle was in roadworthy condition.

If you were caught driving an unsafe vehicle, you could be fined £2,500, banned from driving it, and have three penalty points slapped onto your licence.

As things stand, MOTs can now be carried out again as normal – although it’s always worth keeping abreast of government guidance.

But with winter on its way and future coronavirus lockdowns uncertain, it pays learn a few quick checks that will ensure your vehicle is always safe to be on the road. Here’s how.

Make sure your vehicle is safe to drive

Although the MOT extension is good news for motorists, if you still need to use your vehicle, you must make sure it is in a roadworthy condition. Anyone caught driving a vehicle that is not safe could be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points on their licence.

Keep in mind too that while Britain remains in lockdown, you must only use your vehicle for essential travel. You should only leave home to buy food, pick up medical supplies, care for a vulnerable person or travel to and from work (if you cannot work from home).

If you need to use your vehicle for any of these reasons, below are some of the ways you can make sure your car is still safe on the road if your MOT was due imminently.

What checks should you carry out?

Additionally, your vehicle’s handbook should tell you how often to carry out checks for the:

  • Engine oil
  • Water level in the radiator or expansion tank
  • Brake fluid level
  • Battery – make sure it is secure and not leaking
  • Windscreen and rear window washer bottles – you may need to top up with windscreen washer fluid

It is also a good idea to check your vehicle’s registration plate is clean enough to read and that it’s attached securely, as well as ensure the warning lights on the dashboard work correctly.

The handbook will also tell you when the vehicle needs to be serviced.

Check your tyres

Checking your tyres regularly is another important precaution to take. Make sure they are the correct tread depth – this will vary depending on the vehicle – and that they do not have any cuts or defects.

Tyres on cars, light vans and light trailers should have a tread depth of 1.6mm, while motorcycles, large vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles should have a tread depth of 1mm. Mopeds only need to have a visible tread. There must be tread across the middle three-quarters and around the entire tyre.

Tyres on cars, light vans and light trailers should have a tread depth of 1.6mm

Following this guidance will ensure your car is safe to drive. Should you discover an issue that means your vehicle could be dangerous to drive, it’s important to take it to get repaired at your nearest garage as soon as possible.

And regardless of lockdowns, it’s crucial to ensure your car always remains insured. If you would prefer not to drive your car and don’t want to pay insurance, you’ll need to declare it off the road using a SORN. Our guide explains how.

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