MOT Service Checklist

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    • With a load of older and classic cars, I go through the UK MOT test far too regularly. No one looks forward to the test, but it needn't be costly - just make sure you have fully checked the car before you put it through the MOT test and you'll almost always pass first time. However, just in case, always make sure you've picked a garage that both offers a free MOT retest and allows you to take the car away and do the work yourself. It really is worth doing this as you can cut the cost massively. For example, I recently overhauled both rear brakes on a car for the test, it cost me less than £40 and 2 hours work.
    • Below is a checklist of items that cover the MOT test. Check them all before the test and if you are in any doubt, repair or replace the item that could fail you.

    • Cockpit Checks 
    • These checks include those that can be done from the drivers seat or inside the car.
    • Steering wheel
      Windscreen and Mirrors
      Steering wheel
      Foot brake
      Seat Belts

    • Steering Wheel Checks
    • Look over the steering wheel and column for any cracks and / or looseness
    • Move the steering wheel from side to side, and up and down. Make sure that it is not lose on the column.
    • Do the same check while steering the wheel from left to right.
    • Check and make sure there is not any unusual movement.
    • Windscreen and Mirrors
    • Check windscreen is free from any cracks or damage that would inhibit the drivers view of the road.
    • Small stone chips are acceptable but should be dealt with if they increase in size.
    • If there's any real damage to Zone A (Swept area by wipers on drivers side) you'll probably fail if it cannot be contained in a 10mm circle or is a crack that appears to be progressing into that area.
    • Zone B is the area swept by wipers on passenger side. Damage here must be contained in 40mm circle. Bear in mind stickers etc. are seen as damage to an MOT man!
    • Doors
    • Check and make sure the driver and passenger doors at the front of the car open and close from inside and out and that the locks work correctly

    • Handbrake
    • Check the handbrake can only be activated in the correct manner both on and off. make sure that it only releases when the button is used and that cannot be knocked out of lock.
    • Listen and ensure you do not hear to many click or that the handbrake can be over pulled
    • Foot brake
    • Check that the foot brake when pressed does not slip to the floor.
    • Check that the foot brake doesn't feel spongy as this could indicate air in the hydraulics. Bleeding the system can cure this problem
    • Seat Belts
    • Check that the webbing on all belts including rear belts if present for excessive wear and tear, for example cuts and/or excessive fraying.
    • Check that all seat belts buckle and unbuckle correctly.
    • Check that the seat belts retract properly with ease.
    • Check all the seat belt mountings are secure and correctly attached.
    • Seats
    • Check that the front seats are securely attached and if backrests are present they must lock into their upright position.
    • Exterior Checks
    • These checks include those that can be done from the outside and under the bonnet.
    • Steering and Suspension
      Foot brake
      Shock Absorbers
      Windscreen Washer and Wipers
      Electrical Components
      Exhaust System
      Vehicle Identification
    • Steering and Suspension
    • Get Somebody to turn the steering wheel a little while you observe the steering gear. Check for excess play between the steering wheel and steering gear
    • Foot brake
    • Check the brake fluid levels in the reservoir are between the upper and lower points.
    • Check that the reservoir is secure.
    • Check all brake pipes, the master cylinder and servo unit for any signs of leakage, looseness, corrosion.
    • Check both front brake hoses for any cracks or deterioration in the rubber.
    • Press the foot brake pedal firmly and check the hoses for any bulges, leaks or weakness under pressure.
    • Shock Absorbers
    • Press each corner of the car then let go. Check that the car rises then settles into its normal sitting position. If the car bounces repeatedly the shock absorber is defective and may need replacing.
    • Windscreen Washer and Wipers
    • Check that the washers and wipers work correctly and are not damaged or worn in anyway - replace any damaged wipers.
    • remember to fill up your washer bottle!
    • Electrical Components
    • Check that the horn operates correctly.
    • Check that the windscreen wipers operate correctly.
    • Press the brake pedal and check that the stoplights work correctly.
    • Check the operation of the rear fog lights, including the operation of the warning lights on the panel/switch.
    • Check that the indicators work correctly.
    • Check that other components such as stoplights and sidelights do not interfere with the operation of the indicators.
    • Check that the hazard lights work correctly.
    • Exhaust System
    • Get somebody to start the engine and put a rag over the exhaust tailpipe.
    • Check the whole length of the exhaust for leaks. repair or replace leaky or damaged parts.
    • Vehicle Identification
    • Check that number plates are in good condition, fully legible and secure.
    • Check that the plate numbers and letters are at the required spacing. The middle space should be twice the width of the spacing between the other letters and numbers.
    • Check the cars VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and /or homologation plate is present and legible.
    • Raised Car Checks
    • These are checks that require looking underneath the car while it is raised. Make sure that the steering can be turned and that the wheels are raised from the ground.
    • Braking System
      Suspension and wheel bearings
      Steering Mechanism
      Springs and Shock absorbers
      Forward drive shafts
      Exhaust and Fuel Systems
      Wheels and Tyres
    • Braking System
    • Check brake pad wear and tear.
    • Check brake discs are not cracked, fractured or soiled and look for signs of general wear and tear.
    • Check that the brake pipes underneath the car are not split, bulging, corroded or loosely attached.
    • Check for leaks in the area of the brake calipers or on the brake back plates. Repair or replace any leaky parts.
    • Check that the brakes are operating correctly by slowly turning each wheel while someone presses the brake pedal.
    • Take the car for a drive - test the brakes and make sure that you do not veer off of a straight line.
    • Check the handbrake components for frayed or broken cables. also ensure that the cables are not excessively corroded.
    • Test the handbrake works and releases on all wheels correctly.
    • Suspension and wheel bearings
    • Check each of your 4 wheels in turn for free play or looseness in wheel bearings, Ball joints, suspension mountings, pivots and attachments by holding the wheel and shaking it vigorously. (hold the wheel with you right and left hand at north and south, and repeat test for east and west).
    • Steering Mechanism
    • Turn the steering wheel from full lock left to full lock right. Check that the wheel turns smoothly and that the tyres and/or wheels do not interfere with any other parts of the car
    • Check the rubber gaiters on both sides for splits, wear and/or looseness. Make sure they are attached securely with retaining clips.
    • If power steering is fitted to the car check for signs of damage or leakage from the fluid hoses/connections and pipes.
    • Check for excessive stiffness or binding of the steering, missing split pin or locking device.
    • Check for excessive or severe corrosion of the body structure within 30centimetres of any steering component attachment point.
    • Springs and Shock absorbers
    • Check suspension struts for excessive corrosion or case damage.
    • Check for excessive fluid leakage>
    • Check for loose mounting points.
    • Forward drive shafts
    • Check the constant velocity joint gaiters for damage and splits.
    • Check each drive shaft is straight and undamaged
    • Exhaust and Fuel Systems
    • Check that the exhaust system for any damaged, missing or loose components.
    • Check also for missing/loose mountings or retaining clips.
    • Check for excessive corrosion and/or rust.
    • Wheels and Tyres
    • Check sidewalls and tread of each tyre on the car.
    • Check for slices, bulges, tread separation, cuts, lumps or tears in the tyres.
    • Check for exposure of the tyre ply or cord due to wear or damage.
    • Check that the tyre bead is correctly seated on the wheel rim.
    • Check that the valve is sound and correctly seated.
    • Check that the wheel is not damaged or distorted in anyway.
    • Check that all car tyres are the same and are the correct size for the car.
    • Check that the tyre pressures are correct for the car.
    • Check that the tyre tread depth is within the standard allowed. It is a legal requirement that they are no less than 1.6 millimeters over at least 3 quarters of the tyres tread width surface.
    • A good guide to tread depth is to use the limiters in the tyres. These are cuts and tabs of rubber lower than the tread which easily tell you when the tread is too low. Basically if the cuts disappear or the tread is worn to the tabs then that area has too little tread depth.
    • Bodywork
    • Check over the condition of the entire structure of the car for signs of rust or corrosion in load bearing areas. The car will fail its mot test if corrosion has affected and reduced the thickness of a load bearing area. These areas can include chassis, braking system, pillars, steering, seat belt mountings, anchorages, side sills, cross members, pillars and suspension.
    • Check for damage and corrosion that exposes sharp and/or dangerous edges as this is likely to cause your car to fail its mot test.
    • Check your filler cap works and is secure - its on the test!
    • Exhaust and Emissions Checks
    • To test your cars emissions properly you will require a gas analyser but a simple "colour tune" kit (made by Gunson I think) also works ok (£20) and will help with tuning too - comes with instructions. Until 2002 I did everything with a colour tune and it is no less effective for this kind of stuff than a professional tuning station like Krypton. However, if you want you can usually blag a test from the local garage for a small fee.
    • Get the engine running at normal running temperature and make sure that the ignition system is in good tune.
    • Raise the engine speed to approx 2500 rpm and hold it for at least 20 secs. Allow the engine speed to return to idle and watch for smoke emission from your exhaust. If the idle speed is much to high or if dense blue or back smoke comes from the exhaust for more than say 5 secs the vehicle will probably fail.
    • Black smoke usually signifies unburnt fuel (dirty air cleaning element or maybe carburettor or fuel system fault)
    • Blue smoke usually signifies oil being burnt (engine wear)
    MOT Test Checklist - a complete set of pre-test checks that you can carry out yourself to make sure your car will pass its MOT  @

    Don't fear the MOT. That certificate needn't be costly!

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