If you are a vehicle owner, you will undoubtedly be familiar with MOT testing. If you are not, the MOT test is an annual examination of your vehicle by an accredited MOT tester. During this test, the mechanic will test the safety of your vehicle and its overall roadworthiness. If your vehicle fails its MOT test, this can be an extremely frustrating and costly experience. Today we are going to outline some common MOT fails. Additionally, we are going to advise you on how to avoid them. 

What Can Fail An MOT? 

The day has arrived, and your MOT test is due to take place. You have dropped your car off at the garage, and you are waiting for a call to confirm whether it has passed or failed. This can be a nerve-racking experience for a few reasons. Sometimes, vehicle failures may go undetected by drivers that lack mechanical knowledge. This can result in a failed MOT as well as a costly repair bill. 
Although a large number of common MOT fails are fairly obvious (poor brakes, steering issues), some, such as a muddied registration plate, are not. So, you may now be wondering ‘‘what are the most common MOT failures and how, exactly, can I prevent them?’’. Continue below where we expand on this. 


Blown bulbs are one of, if not, the most consistent causes for a vehicle failing its MOT test. We think this is a shame, as the solution is often very simple and inexpensive. 


When some aspects of your vehicle begin to age and fail, it is sometimes quite difficult to tell. Thankfully, any one who reads this should, in the future, be able to diagnose brake issues with relative ease. Brakes that sound off (squealing, grinding), feel spongey when pressed or pull you to one side when activated, typically, indicate that there is a problem. You also need to be mindful of your handbrake. If you stop on a slight hill, and apply the handbrake, does it stop your car or does your vehicle roll? 


Another very common cause of a failed MOT test is suspension issues. Although, for the most part, the roads in this country are well maintained, there are exceptions. Driving over potholes consistently can be detrimental to your vehicle’s suspension. There are a few tests you can perform to check the health of your car’s suspension. One easy way is to walk around your vehicle and push down on all corners. If your car bounces a few times, and fails to return back up smoothly, this could indicate there are issues with your suspension. 


Power steering system faults are a popular cause of MOT test failures. Not only this, but vehicles with power steering fluid that falls below the minimum requirement will also be flagged. 


Faulty tyres or ones that have any visible damage will certainly result in a failed MOT test. Prior to your test, you need to check every tyre for any bumps or cuts. Your tyre tread depth should also not fall below a certain measurement (1.6mm). This is not only a requirement for the MOT test, but it is a legal requirement. We outline how to ensure your car does not fail on account of its tyres below. 

View of The Road 

The mechanic testing your car will check that the road can be viewed clearly. This means that vehicles with cracks in the windscreen can fail the test. Moreover, phone cradles that are placed in an awkward position, and are not removed prior to the test, can ensure a car fails. You also need to check your windscreen wipers work, and the motor that disperses your screen wash works. 

Registration Plate 

If you were to make a list titled ‘What Can Fail An MOT?’, we imagine you would not place registration plate issues high up on that last. You may be surprised to know that your car can fail if your registration plate is dirty. Yes, honestly! Your registration plate must be visible and legible to the examiner. Equally, if the bulb that illuminates your plate is faulty this could result in a failed test. As you can see, a thorough inspection of your vehicle is needed before its MOT to avoid any disappointment. 

Seat Belts 

Your vehicle’s seat belts are paramount to your safety. It comes at no surprise then, that any issues with seat belts will prevent your vehicle from passing its test. Your seat belts should be able to retract fully and smoothly. 

Common MOT Fails: How Do I Prevent a Failed MOT Test? 

Now you are aware of what can fail an MOT, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to ensure your vehicle sails through its test. Thankfully, there is! A lot of the time, a thorough inspection of your car prior to its test will avoid any frustration at the garage. Admittedly, some fixes are quicker and easier than others. Our guidance below will, we hope, help you avoid a test failure. 

Some Quick Fixes 

Seat Belts - Your seat belt needs to retract fully. Before your test, see to any knots in the seat belt and ensure it retracts smoothly. 
Registration Plate - Ensure your registration plate is clean and can be viewed at a moderate distance as well as up close. If the bulb above your plate has blown, it can be replaced with relative ease. If you do not feel confident doing this, any garage will be able to help you for a small fee. 
View of The Road - Ensure your windscreen wipers are working, and fill the screen wash reservoir. If you have a phone cradle in your car, it is best to remove this to err on the side of caution. Windscreen chips will require the assistance of a professional (see below). 
Lights - If any of your bulbs have died, these can be bought and replaced easily. As previously stated, you should be able to change any bulbs without stress. If you struggle, any garage should be able to help you. 

Fixes That Require A Specialist 

Tyres - Your tyres need to be in a healthy state, with the tyre tread depth not falling below 1.6mm. A handy tip is to take a 20p coin, and place it in your tyre’s tread. If the coin’s outer band is revealed, your tread is too worn. It is best that you take your vehicle to a garage before your MOT test to get the tyre(s) changed. Always ring ahead, as they may not stock your tyre. In this circumstance, you may have to wait a day or two for a delivery. 
Steering - This is partly a quick fix. Ensure that the liquid in your power steering reservoir is not below the minimum line. If you find you come into contact with a lot of resistance when turning your wheel, there may be an issue with the power steering. Again, it is best to get this assessed beforehand to ensure your car does not fail. 
Brakes - If your brakes make a suspicious noise or feel spongey, it could be that the pads need to be replaced. Equally, if your handbrake is not preventing your vehicle from rolling, it is likely that it needs to be adjusted. These are not fixes that can be made at home, so we encourage you to visit a garage. 
Suspension - Press on the corners of your car and see if it bounces. Alternatively, look to see if it sits too low or high in one corner when parked. This could indicate problems with the suspension. Suspension issues are not easily diagnosed without mechanical knowledge. If you suspect there are any problems, it is best to take it to a specialist. 
Windscreen Cracks - Significant windscreen chips need to be assessed, and then fixed, prior to your MOT test. A number of companies offer windscreen repairs and replacements, with prices varying. 

Barrett Lee: Guiding You On Common MOT Fails 

If you are concerned about any of the above common MOT fails, we encourage you to get in touch via the contact form on our dedicated MOT page. Our experienced team can assess any of the aforementioned issues, offer advice on what can fail an MOT and advise you on the best way to proceed. 
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