How to get your car ready for its MOT

For anyone who owns a car, there is always a time once a year when things can become nerve-racking.

The annual MOT is designed to keep both drivers and other road users safe by preventing dangerous or damaged vehicles from driving freely on the road. An MOT must be carried out on every vehicle registered as ‘on the road’, although there are some exemptions (i.e. classic vehicles) that can be found on the Government website.

Although an MOT is a big benefit in safety terms, the costs of putting potential problems right can be an issue for vehicle owners, especially if unexpected repairs are needed.

Here’s our pre-MOT guide to making sure you’re aware of any problems before they’re highlighted in the test, giving you more time to get them rectified. Just follow our pre-MOT checklist and, if you spot anything out of place, you should have enough time to get it fixed before the MOT is due.


Rest your foot on the brake and lift your hand brake on and off. If it travels too far, or you hear more than 3-4 clicks, then the cable may be starting to stretch or wear. If your handbrake doesn’t hold the car in place without being lifted to an extreme angle, then you may need to get this looked at before you go for the MOT.


Make sure your seatbelts click in place with ease and return to the holder when not in use. If they fail to return or don’t stay clicked in place when tugged, then they could cause you to fail your MOT. If any of the car’s seatbelts have been removed, then your car will automatically fail.


Your seats and headrests should be fully locked in place and upright. If they are stuck in place or the headrests don’t stay secure, then this may also cause the car to fail.

Steering wheel

Your steering wheel should feel firm and return to its original position with the engine switched on if you have power steering. Any looseness or failure to travel to full lock means the hydraulics aren’t working as they should, so get the car checked if this is the case.

Brakes and fluid level

Pump your brakes several times. They should feel firm and the pedal should return to its original position immediately. If the pedal feels soft or loose, then the brakes need immediate attention. Once that’s done, check the brake fluid reservoir under the bonnet and top up if the level is low. Please use our handy online look-up tool to find suitable brake fluid for your vehicle.


Your wing and rear-view mirrors need to be adjustable and fixed securely in place. If mirrors are missing or damaged, then the car will fail.


Windscreens need to be free from chips and scratches. If any of the glass in your car is scratched or damaged, then you’ll need to get this repaired before the MOT. Please book a Windscreen chip repair to get this issue rectified.


Test your wipers by giving the screen a clean. The wipers should move in a smooth arc, with no juddering or missed patches. If the water isn’t wiped away smoothly, then your wiper blades may need replacing. Check out our How do I know when to replace my wiper blades? article to help you spot the signs before they wear out completely.


Yes, if your horn isn’t working then your car will fail its MOT! A quick honk will get this one off the checklist.


Step out of the car and push down on each corner of your vehicle. The car should spring back into place and should look level. If the car sags too far to the ground or doesn’t return immediately, then the dampers or suspension springs could be damaged. Listen out for any strange noises when driving too, or any erroneous handling as you take corners or change direction.

Number plates

As you check the suspension, take a look at your number plates. Any cracks or damage to the plates may result in a failure, so get these replaced if you can’t clearly read the numbers.


Checking your tyres should be a weekly job, but it’s worth taking a look again just before you take your car in for an MOT.

Grab a 20p coin and push it inside your tyre’s treads. The rim around the edge of 20p should fit completely within the tread. If you can see any part of the rim, then your tyre tread may be too low.


Finally, check if your exhaust system is working properly. With the engine running, put on some protective gloves and fold up a thick cloth or old tea towel, then hold it against the exhaust. The exhaust should push the cloth away with ease. If this doesn’t happen, or the exhaust makes a funny noise, then there may be a leak in the system and you should get this checked out straight away.

IMPORTANT: Always wear protective gloves when carrying out this test and do not force the cloth over the exhaust – hold it in place for just a second or two to test the system’s pressure.

Now that you’ve checked your car’s vitals, it’s time to hand it over to the trained mechanics to check it over. But before that, it’s definitely worth getting a free 5-point safety check at your local Halfords Autocentre. It’s a great way of checking your car’s essentials before the MOT and won’t cost you a penny – just book online or visit a Halfords Autocentre.

Remember that you can also book your MOT at Halfords if you aren’t planning on doing so already. In most cases, we’ll beat the price offered by most vehicle manufacturers, plus our trained MOT testers will explain any faults and problems clearly and without the jargon, so you’ll know exactly what needs to be done to ensure the car passes the test.

Book your MOT now

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