How to pass your MOT

I think that the key to passing your MOT is to do a little bit of car maintenance, often.  That way you can be sure that your car is in a fairly good condition.

In my previous ‘MOT Testing Guide’, I went through, in detail, what you’re tested on in the actual MOT. Here's the follow up to that: a basic list of what you need to check before you take your car into the garage for the dreaded test.

What to check for your MOT

One of the best ways to pass your MOT is to prepare your car for it. Think of being back at school. Unless you wanted to fail (or were too cool), you wouldn’t go into a test without revising for it, right? It’s the same principle with the MOT test, but your ‘revising’ is actually just checking that the things your car is tested on are in a decent condition.

If you’re paranoid about your car failing its MOT, you could take your car for a general check-over and service at a garage before the actual test to iron out potential problems and save yourself later embarrassment. Obviously, an MOT test doesn’t actually cover engine operation, but a cheeky little service won’t do it any harm to be honest.

Obviously, we can’t guarantee that you’ll pass your MOT because nothing in life is certain. Paying attention to these particular things should give you a damn good chance of passing it though.

Outside of your car

Number plate

Check that both of your number plates meet the strict rules laid down by the Government. Your number plates (or registration plates, to give them their fancy title) need to meet the British standard so that they can be seen clearly.

There’s a whole host of rules when it comes to number plates. The front plate needs to be 520mm by 111mm, with black characters on a white reflective background, and the rear plate needs to be 285mm by 203mm, with black characters on a yellow reflective background. These characters need to be in the mandatory font too, spacing needs to be uniform and plates in italics or bold aren’t allowed either.


Blown brake, indicator and beam lights are one of the main cause of MOT failures, despite being one of the cheapest – and easiest things–  to fix. You’ll need another person to help you check if the lights are working correctly. Turn on and off, all of the lights in your car one by one, and get the other person to check that they’re all working correctly.

Fixing a broken bulb is pretty easy. You can find out how in my other blog, Easy DIY Car Repairs.


Looking over your windscreen for any chips and cracks is really easy to do and can help you spot and solve a small problem before it becomes a much larger one. The maximum area of damage that’s allowed to the windscreen is 10mm in the driver’s direct field of view, and 40mm outside of that.

Steering and suspension

These can be checked as and when you’re driving by just paying attention to how they feel. Usually you’ll be able to tell if something is wrong – the steering might feel sluggish or pull to one side, and the suspension might give out really weird creaks and noises if there’s a problem, for instance.

Wipers and washers

Check these are working properly by using the washer, turning on the wipers and checking how well they sweep the windscreen clean.

It’s also worthwhile checking the condition of your washer bottle, under the bonnet, at the same time.


Heavy rust and damage or sharp edges on the bodywork of your car are likely to result in an MOT failure, so do a quick visual scan of your car and check that everything’s okay. If it isn’t, take it to a garage or bodyshop and get them to fix it.

Wheels and tyres

The condition of your wheels and tyres are another common reason a lot of cars fail their MOTs, so it makes sense to do a visual check for cuts, bulges and any other damage.

Tread depth is a really important thing to look out for too. The minimum depth for your tyres is 1.6mm which you can easily check with a 20p coin. Put the coin in the main tread pattern and look at it. If the main rim of the coin can’t be seen, the tread is okay. If the rim of the coin is visible though, your tyres are too worn and need to be replaced.

Inside of your car


Blow your horn (when it’s safe to, and when you’re not likely to give someone a heart attack) to check that it’s working properly.

Seats and seatbelts

Test each of the seatbelts and check that they buckle up securely, providing good resistance to movement. Check that they’re in a good condition with no damage.


Checking your brakes before an MOT is pretty easy to do as well. You can test them when you set off from standing, paying close attention to how they feel and sound. If they are sluggish, noisy or don’t really work, then contact a garage immediately and get them to fix the problem.


Check that your doors are safe and in good condition by making sure that they shut and lock properly.

Fuel system and emissions

These are harder to test yourself, but visual checks can usually give you a good indication of problems – if you see smoke of any kind, that’s a bad sign. Your garage will have the right equipment to test your emissions and the fuel system in general.