Whether you run a car dealership, fleet of vans or you may be a sole driver, a car failing its MOT can be a financial drain on your company – from expensive re-tests to vehicles being off the road for a few days.
If your vehicle does fail its MOT, you are not alone. In 2019, nearly 30 million class 3&4 vehicles underwent their MOT, with numbers approaching 8 million in initial failures. What is surprising is that the MOT fail rate is often due to a simple fault that is easily solved.
Having your vehicle in good condition is essential not just for making sure it gets through its MOT but also to prevent any invalidation of claims on your motor trade insurance should you be in an accident or car dealership insurance if you own a fleet.
Below, is the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) data on the top 10 reasons why vehicle’s fail and how to prevent it happening to you.
1. Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment – 27% of fails
It’s not surprising that lights come up as a continual issue when taking your vehicle for its MOT. In fact, over a quarter of vehicles fail their MOT due to faulty lights. Check them fully before taking your car to the garage and replace any blown bulbs by following the instructions in the vehicle’s manual.
As well as headlights, this includes rear lights, fog lights, brake lights, indicator lights, reversing lights and hazard lights. All cars built after 1 April 1980 must also have two red rear reflectors.
Check that your dashboard’s warning lights are working correctly, including indicator lights that turn on and warning lights that turn off when not needed – any that are permanently illuminated could fail your vehicle.
One area that is often overlooked is incorrect headlamp alignment. A badly adjusted headlight can be dazzling to oncoming vehicles and could lead to accidents. You may be able to adjust them manually or you may need a mechanic if there’s a damaged bracket.
2. Suspension – 18% of fails
In second place for MOT fails is suspension, which includes springs, shock absorbers and suspension arms and joints. With the growing number of potholes, and wet weather eroding road surfaces, coil springs can take the brunt of the wear, with corroded and broken springs a common culprit for MOT fails.
3. Worn Brake Pads - 17% of fails
Defective brake pads lead to longer stopping distances, especially in wet weather. Vibration and/or a spongy pedal response are signs of worn brake pads. These will only become a problem for your MOT if they are worn below a minimum acceptable level of 1.5mm. If you are approaching that limit, but are just above, it’s more likely you will receive a cautionary note on your MOT certificate to say that they need replacing sooner rather than later. Mechanics often recommend a change of brake pads when the pad friction material is worn to 3mm in depth.
4. Tyres - 11% of fails
Insufficient tyre tread is still high on the list of MOT fails. As a legal minimum, a tyre should have 1.6mm of tread depth (though 3mm is often recommended for good grip on wet roads). In addition, poor wheel alignment or uneven pressure can leave your vehicle prone to accidents.
5. Visibility / Driver’s view - 8% of fails
A faulty catch on your bonnet, lack of windscreen wash fluid, worn-out windscreen wipers and poor condition of the glass can all be reasons to fail a car in its MOT. A small amount of damage to your windscreen – less than 10mm in the driver’s line of vision – won’t cause your vehicle to fail but it’s always advised to get it fixed to avoid it causing further damage.
If you hear a juddering or squeaking sound from your wipers, this could be a first sign that they are on their way out. Also, remember to check your windscreen washer fluid –thousands of cars fail just because the driver forgot to top up the screen wash.
Nothing should obstruct your view of the road and this includes stickers, sat nave cradles, and air fresheners blocking the windscreen.
6. Bodywork and structure – 7% of fails
When looking at bodywork, your car will only be failed if there is excessive corrosion, sharp edges or additional damage to areas of the vehicle. Testers will check that the doors can be opened from inside and outside the car, and that any openings can be closed securely. If excessive corrosion is seen on areas such as the brakes or steering gear, then your vehicle will be failed.
7. Fuel and exhaust – 6% of fails
An emissions check is carried out to make sure your exhaust is working correctly. Exhausts only fail their MOT if there’s a major leak or emissions are deemed unsafe. If it’s a minor leak, this would be added to the advisory note to be corrected in the future.
8. Steering – 3% of fails
At the MOT, your steering will be checked to ensure it only locks when the vehicle is stationary without the engine running. The tester will also ensure the steering wheel and column are in good condition and there is no ‘free play’. The operation of power steering is tested with the engine running.
9. Seatbelts – 2% of fails
All seatbelts, including the lap belt, should be in full working order. There should be no fraying, rips, tears, worn out patches or cut portions. Belts need to be securely fixed – including the clip/locking mechanism – and in good condition. A seatbelt that doesn’t retract on its own, or with a little help, is a fail – the belt must, at least, take up the slack when on.
10. Number plates / VIN – 1% of fails
Your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – also known as the chassis number and found on the V5 registration document – must be displayed and legible. It’s often found at the base of the windscreen or on a stamped metal panel under the bonnet.
When it comes to your number plate, make sure it is fully visible, isn’t cracked and the overhead bulb is working so it’s visible at night.