The Ministry of Transport tests (MOT Test) are the time of year many drivers dread. Each year as cars get older, the tests seem to become more stringent, and many insurers won’t insure a car if it doesn’t have a current valid MOT ‘ticket’.

But the test itself does serve a purpose of ensuring that only vehicles free from any major deficiencies are legally allowed to drive on our roads. The problem though, is that it’s just a snapshot in time, once a year, and once the car is back on the road again, the only other opportunities for spotting flaws in a vehicles safety is during routine servicing (that often happens at the same time as the MOT anyway). So, any faults or failures that occur in the 364 days after a test can still render a car un-safe for driving on the roads and are still subject to other laws which could prevent it from being legally driven.

This guide is to help you prepare for a test, and may end up saving you at least time, and possibly even money, if you can avoid a partial, or full re-test.

To start with, and without wishing to state the obvious, ensure that your car has enough fuel. During the test, your car will be left to idle for a while and will need to be run to test the brakes. You really don’t want your car running out of juice mid-way through as this won’t earn you a pass. Also check your fluids – screen wash in particular, but also worth checking oil and coolant levels whilst under the bonnet, though these won’t be tested as part of the MOT.

The most common forms of failure are said to be the simplest: tyres that don’t have enough tread (or have a dangerous un-even test), blocked washer jets, a light that doesn’t illuminate etc. So, with your car sat running on your driveway or somewhere safe, walk around and quickly check these items:

Tyres – inflated evenly? Enough tread left?
Hazzard lights/Indicators – do these all work and the dash have a ‘tell-tale’ flash?
Lights – no cracks on lenses? Do these all operate effectively?
Windscreen wipers – do the washer jets hit the screen in the right place? Do wipers work effectively?
Fog light – check for operation (put lights on first). Does the switch in the car illuminate?
Windscreen – any cracks or chips within the drivers vision?
Rust – particulary around structural points (seatbelt mounts etc)?
Horn – give it a quick hoot
Number plates – ensure these are legal, not cracked, not overly covered in dirt
Seatbelts…give them a yank. Do they lock?
Dashboard – any warning lights? These would probably be an MOT failure.

If your car is old and you’re worried about an emissions test – take it for a good drive before the test. A warmer engine will be leaner than a cold engine.

And remember, if your car fails, it’s failed for a reason. Don’t take it out on the examiner, but get the issues fixed within 10 working days (2 weeks) so you can have a partial re-test, often for no or little extra fee.