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The simple car accessory that could land you an MOT failure and lead to a £2.5k fine

By Karen Antcliff

Over 7 million cars fail their MOT each year, according to the most recent DVSA data and it appears that it might not always be down to major vehicle faults. A simple accessory could land you with an MOT failure as well as a fine of up to £2.5k.

Some 8 percent of MOT failures are caused by issues affecting the driver's view of the road an it could be a costly mistake. Items that could be the cause included dashcam's sat-navs or, in the case of one motorist, a wrongly positioned dream-catcher.

"I never knew my rear view mirror car accessory could've led to my car failing its MOT" said Katie, a 29-year-old British Sign Language Interpreter. The motorist posted an image of her dream catcher being taken down with the caption: "My car was about to fail it's MOT for this dream catcher".

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Michael Bourne, group marketing director at National Tyres and Autocare says “Something as simple as a rearview mirror car accessory can lead to your car failing its MOT due to failure of visibility. An MOT is one of the most important checks you need to remember when owning a car, alongside a regular service. Driving without a valid MOT means you will be breaking the law.

“If you are caught driving without an MOT it can lead to a £1,000 fine. If your vehicle is considered to be dangerous you can be fined £2,500, even if your MOT is still valid.

“On top of this, you can get three points on your license and if you have been convicted of driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition within the past three years, you could be disqualified from driving for at least six months”.

For those heading for their MOT, National Tyres and Autocare have pulled together an pre- MOT checklist .

Ten vital pre-MOT checks

Fluids

Your MOT test will cover fluids like screen wash, so be sure to top it up. Your car will need sufficient oil in its engine to pass the exhaust emissions test too. With your car parked on an even surface, pull out the oil dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert it back in for a minute and remove it, checking the level is between the MIN and MAX marks on the dipstick.

Your tester will also need to conduct emissions tests, so make sure you have enough fuel in the tank as well. While going through this pre-MOT checklist, it’s also a good idea to top up other important fluids too, like engine coolant.

Lighting and signaling

DVSA statistics from July to September 2019 show that 14% of all Class 3 and 4 car MOT failures were due to lighting issues, such as a blown bulb, inoperative number plate light or a faulty indicator. Your car can also fail if your headlights are misted, misaligned or cracked too.

When conducting your pre-MOT check, take a good look around your car. Ask a friend or family member to confirm all the lights are functioning – headlights, indicators, number plate lights, sidelights, fog lights and brake lights.

Brakes

Data from 2018-2019 shows 14 percent of car MOT failures are due to brake defects picked up in the MOT brake efficiency test. Most often, this is caused by worn brake pads and or worn, pitted or warped brake discs. You may be able to see the pads and discs through your alloy wheels, so check each one thoroughly.

Also, during your MOT test checklist session, try listening out for any grinding sounds when driving. Does your brake pedal feel spongy or does the car pull to one side when braking? Check your handbrake as well. If you parked on a steep hill, would it hold the vehicle in place effectively?

Steering and suspension

The same DVSA statistics show 18 percent of cars failed due to suspension issues like a leaking shock absorber or snapped coil spring. It’s not easy to spot these while parked, so while driving, listen out for any unusual noises or peculiar driving characteristics when cornering or braking.

You can also carry out the ‘bounce test’ when going through your MOT preparation checklist. Simply push down on each corner of your vehicle and let go. The car should immediately spring up to its normal position rather than bouncing up and down. Check your steering too – is it responsive?

Body, chassis and structure

Defects were related to body, chassis and structure accounted for 7 percent of MOT failures in 2019-2020. If your car has corrosion or rust within 12cm of a structurally important area, you can fail the test. And if there are any sharp edges that could cause injury, these could also result in a failure. To check for these, give the exterior surfaces of your vehicle and the engine bay a thorough inspection.

Tyres

Check those tyres. Some 12 percent of fails are due to tyre issues and these are perhaps the easiest components to check. The law requires 1.6mm of tread depth across the entire central three-quarters of the tyre. You can check this with a 20p coin – the 20p test. Insert the coin into the tread groove of each tyre. If the outside band of the 20p coin is visible, then the tread is less than 1.6mm.

Are all the tyres the same size and with the correct load and speed rating? Are there lumps or bulges in the tyre tread or wall? Are your tyre pressures correct and in line with those set out by the vehicle manufacturer?

Number plates

Since 2018, number plates have been included in the MOT test, which is why they’re a key part of any MOT checklist. This is covered under the identification of the vehicle section of the MOT and accounted for 1% of all MOT failures.

According to the British Number Plate Manufacturers Association, these must be clearly visible, free from damage and completely laminated. They cannot have any background overprinting or any fixings or features that obscure their legal view. All vehicles registered after September 1st, 2001 need to have a honeycomb construction too and all plates must be properly affixed to the car.

Visibility

This is potential the one you might not have considered by 8% of MOT failures are caused by issues affecting the driver's view of the road. In your MOT checklist, see whether the wipers are working properly and if you can squirt the washer fluid onto your windscreen.

Are there any cracks in the windscreen within the range of the wiper blades? A 40mm crack on the passenger side is an MOT fail, while on the driver’s side, 10mm can stop you from passing.

Next, see if anything else is obscuring the driver’s view, like the dreamcatcher that nearly caught Katie out, or a dashcam, sat-nav... any object obscuring the rear windscreen. Also check whether your screen-wash is topped up.

Exhaust

When going through your MOT checklist, check whether you can hear the exhaust blowing and if you can smell exhaust fumes inside the car. Some 4% of all fails are due to noise, emissions and leaks – key environmental aspects of the MOT test.

Can you hear any unusual rattling or banging during normal driving that might suggest the exhaust is not attached properly? This can be a very simple fix for you or a mechanic to conduct.

Bonnet, boot and doors

Your bonnet, boot and door handle releases must work correctly. Check whether they stick and if they do, consider oiling them prior to your test.

Interior

While the interior is not a specific section of the test, your dashboard warning lights are covered under lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment. They should come on when you turn the ignition on and then turn off after a moment. If any are still showing, then you need to get those checked out beforehand. If you’re unsure what the dashboard lights mean, then consider booking a diagnostic check.

Seats and seatbelts

Check each seatbelt by pulling down sharply – you should feel it lock in place. Make sure all seatbelts can be secured into their locking mechanism too, ensure that the seats can move backwards and forwards and be locked in position effectively. Two percent of all fails come under this category.

Horn

Finally, honk your horn with a friend or family member standing some distance away. Can other road users hear it?

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Dive Deeper:
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