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Car MOT Checklist: How to Pass Your Business Vehicles

All vehicles older than three years have to have an MOT check every year. If you’ve found this guide, your MOT is probably coming up soon. But what do you need to check before your car goes in?

Doing common car maintenance tasks can help you avoid some issues and prevent much bigger problems in the future.

A man looks under his car as part of his car maintenance checks, which include tyre pressure checks

Complete car checklist: before the MOT

Checking your car before going for the MOT is the best way to avoid failing. Avoid common mistakes like poor tyre conditions and broken headlights! Tick off everything on our car MOT checklist and complete common car maintenance services to improve your odds of passing by miles.

1. Look at your owner’s manual for common car maintenance services

Your owner’s manual should be the first thing you check before making any maintenance checks on your car.

The owner’s manual for your car gives you insight into specific details concerning your vehicle — checks more unique to it.

But the most important reason to check your owner’s manual is it highlights the maintenance schedule for your car, explaining not only what checks need to be made but when they must be carried out.

If you can’t find your owner’s manual then visit the website of your car manufacturer. Most automakers publish their car manuals online, so it should be no problem for you to find yours.

2. Find your nearest MOT test centre

Next up is the obvious but unavoidable step of making the appointment. Don’t worry – you don’t need to dig up your last MOT certificate. Check when your MOT date is due on the government’s website.

You can book your MOT check up to a month before the due date. The sooner you can book your company car in, the better. If the car does fail, you can still use your previous MOT pass until time runs out. That should give you a couple of weeks to get repairs booked in and return for another test.

Using the government’s nearest MOT test centre finder is the best way to find where to get your MOT check done. Thousands of them are in the UK, so you’re spoiled for choice.

3. Check your brakes

Brakes are obviously a vital safety feature of driving that must be in perfect working order before you go on the road. Here’s how you check your brakes:

    • Open the bonnet of your car
    • Open the brake fluid reservoir
    • See what the brake fluid level is
    • If the fluid level is fine then you don’t need to add more

If the fluid level is low then top up it up (check your owner’s manual to find the right fluid specification)

*You should also keep an eye on your dashboard, as a warning light will come on if there is any wear and tear issues with your brake pads.

*Please note that brake fluid is corrosive. If you’re concerned about this then take your car to a mechanic to check its brake fluid levels.

iCompario tip: use a vehicle tracker to check bad habits

Braking harshly and speeding are the cause of many company car issues. Over time, these bad habits cause wear and tear.

Kick costly habits to the curb by installing a car tracker. These small but powerful devices report and analyse driver performance to help you save cash in places you don’t even know you’re spending it.

4. Check tyre pressures and condition

Your car must have roadworthy tyres. If it doesn’t then you could face a fine of up £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre, with a max fine of £10,000 and ten penalty points — ten penalty points leads to an immediate driving ban of six months.

First, refer to your car manual to be certain of the required pressure for your car’s front and rear tyres – they are often different. You may wish to invest in a portable tyre gauge and pump which is powered by your car battery, connecting via the “cigarette lighter” socket.

Here’s how you check your tyres:

  • Look for any cuts
  • Look for any bulges
  • Make sure the tread depth is a minimum of 1.6mm
  • Ensure each tyre is pumped to the right pressure using a portable tyre pressure gauge or one at a petrol station. You will be able to top up to the required pressure if necessary.

5. Look at the coolant level

Engine coolant stops your engine from overheating and lubricates moving parts in your car, preventing damage to your head gasket, water pump, piston timing and cylinder. You will most certainly destroy your engine if you drive without it!

Here’s how to check your engine coolant:

  • Locate the expansion tank
  • See what the coolant level is
  • If the level is fine then you’re all good
  • If the level is off then top it up with antifreeze

6. Double-check engine oil levels

Oil is one of the most important substances in your car. Oil cleans, cools, lubricates and protects your engine’s moving parts, ensuring it doesn’t seize up and break down.

Here’s how to check your engine oil:

  • Make sure your engine is cold and you’re parked on flat ground
  • Open the bonnet
  • Locate the dipstick
  • Open the oil tank
  • Clean the dipstick then insert it into the oil reservoir
  • Pull the dipstick out
  • Check to see if the level is correct as stated in your car’s manual
  • If the level is fine then you don’t need to do anything
  • If the level is low then you need to top up your oil with the correct type, as stated in your car manual, and then check the level again
  • Wipe the dipstick clean before replacing it in its clips

7. Replace old windscreen wipers

If your wiper blades need replacing you will have noticed streaks across your windscreen when it rains, or if you try to clean your windscreen while driving and discover you are just making even worse smears across your field of vision.

The last thing you should risk is making this discovery while driving along a motorway.

If this doesn’t convince you, it’s also worth bearing in mind that the DVSA says faulty wiper blades are in the top three reasons for MOT fails.

  • Lift the wiper arm from the glass until it locks in the upright position. Don’t let it spring back against the glass. If the arm doesn’t lock in position, hold it carefully while you check the blade.
  • Wipe the cleaning edge of the blade using a clean cloth dipped in undiluted washer fluid.
  • Run a finger along the edge of the blade to check the rubber for damage. If there are any cracks or splits, you need a new blade.
  • First turn the blade at right angles to the arm. Some blades have securing tabs that need to be released before the blade can be removed. Note which way round the blade fits before removing it, to help when fitting the new blade.
  • Depending on the type of new wiper blade you’re fitting, fit the correct adaptor to it – check the instructions supplied with the new blade for details.
  • Fit the new blade to the arm, making sure that it’s pushed fully home and the securing tabs are closed, if you have them. Then lower the arm gently onto the glass.
  • Check that the wipers work properly before driving the car!

Windscreen wiper blade sizes are measured in millimetres or inches, which refers to the length of the blade. There are a range of wiper blades available, in sizes from 9″ to 32″ or 250mm through to 813mm.

8. Refill your screen wash if needed

If you don’t have sufficient washer fluid then you won’t be able to clean dirt from your windscreen, which will obscure your vision and could cause an accident.

Here’s how you check your windscreen washer fluid level safely:

  • Ensure your engine is cold and you’re parked on flat ground
  • Open the bonnet of your car and locate the washer fluid cap
  • Check the level inside or on the side of the tube
  • If the level is correct then you’re fine
  • If the level is low then you need to fill it up to the indicated maximum level
Windscreen washer fluid

9. Grab a buddy and check the lights

It’s an extreme safety hazard to drive your car if your lights aren’t fully functioning. Your lights tell other drivers if you’re going to change direction or stop and allow them to see you on the road at night.

Here’s how you check your lights if you don’t have anyone else to stand outside the car and tell you what is working:

  • Park in front of a reflective surface
  • Apply your brakes to see if the brake lights work
  • Turn on your indicators to see if they work
  • Turn on your main beam to see if the lights work
  • Turn on your fog lights to see if they work

10. Clean those mirrors

Mirrors allow you to see other road users, from cars behind you to cyclists overtaking you. Faulty mirrors can lead you to take actions that cause accidents.

Here’s how you check your mirrors:

  • Make sure you always have a clear view from your rear-view mirror
  • Make sure you always have a clear view from your wing mirrors
  • Look for any cracks in your mirrors
  • Ensure your mirrors are clean

11. Try all seatbelts

You should check all the seatbelts in your car regularly.

  • Check that all seatbelts are functioning and not twisted.
  • Yank each seatbelt sharply to make sure it immediately locks instead of unrolling freely, to make sure it will hold the driver and passengers in their seats in the event of a collision.
  • Insert each seatbelt into its lock to make sure it closes and holds properly.

12. Top up on AdBlue

A diesel car can get through a litre of AdBlue every 350 to 600 miles, depending on your driving style and the car model.

You should top up your AdBlue as soon as the warning light comes on because your car will not drive without it.

iCompario tip: businesses can use maintenance systems to manage costs

Completing these checks and doing repairs when you notice problems can save money over time. But human error happens and it’s not like you can see everything happening under the bonnet.

Use a fleet maintenance system to get vehicle diagnostics reports. These show you oil pressure, fault codes and more in one easy to access report for all your fleet vehicles.

Common car maintenance tasks to do yourself before your MOT

These are checks you should make every 6,000 miles or every 365 days, which will come sooner if you are a low-mileage driver. You should certainly make all these checks before taking your car in for its MOT.

You will find it useful to make some of these checks more often than that, depending on the weather, how you are using your car and whether you suspect something may not be right based on observation.

Checking the conditions of all these things can help you save money in the long run and avoid failing your MOT. Complete these common car maintenance services before an MOT:

  1. Air conditioning
  2. Battery
  3. Exteriors
  4. Leaves and gunk
  5. Rust
  6. Interiors
  7. Horn
  8. Reversing camera

1. How to check your air conditioning for MOT

Here’s how you check your air conditioning:

  • Start your car, ideally on a warm day, with all the windows closed
  • Turn on the air conditioning (on both settings) at its coldest setting
  • You should feel the car becoming cold very quickly.
  • If this fails to happen, you’ll need to get a mechanic to check the system. They may need to insert new gas and they should check the whole system with a blue dye, which reveals where there is a leak.
  • If your air conditioning system gives off a smell of mould you may need new filters (including pollen filter), or the whole system cleaned. If this is what you need, make sure you specify that to the mechanic so they are clear you are not just asking for the air con to be checked as fault-free.

2. How to check battery quality

Your car battery provides electrical current for your car’s starter, engine and other important electronic features.

Here’s how you check your car battery:

  • Turn on your headlights (without starting your engine)
  • Leave your headlights on for around 15 minutes
  • Start your car after 15 minutes have passed
  • Observe how bright your headlights are
  • If your headlights don’t dim then your battery is OK
  • If your headlights do dim then you should replace your battery before driving

3. How to check car exteriors

Simply put, your car exteriors are all the important components found on the outside of your car. Some parts of a car’s exterior are covered elsewhere in this guide. This section concerns exterior checks that don’t have a designated explanation.

Here’s how you check your exteriors:

  • Check that both wing mirrors are clean
  • Observe your number plates and see if they’re clean
  • Look at your windows to see if they’re clean.
  • If all these parts of your car are clean, then you’re fine. If any of these parts of your car are dirty then you must clean them
  • Check your wiper blades both front and back. If the rubber is frayed you should replace it promptly, or your vision of the road in poor weather will be dangerously impaired.

4. Remove leaves and gunk

Leaves and gunk are exactly what they sound like, they’re debris from plants that can clog up parts of your car. If they clog up parts of your car, it could lead water to build up.

Here’s how you check for leaves and gunk:

  • Check the space between windscreen and bonnet
  • Check the space between your rear windscreen and boot

5. Where to check for rust

Rust may seem like a cosmetic issue but it can lead to serious problems and damage if it gets to the frame of your car. This is why signs of rust in prescribed areas will cause your car to fail its MOT.

Here’s how you check for rust:

  • Check for rust along the frames or rails under the doors
  • Check for rust along the body contour
  • Check for rust inside the wheel wells
  • Check for rust on the exhaust

6. Give the inside of your car a final sweep

Your interiors are the things inside your car, such as your dashboard, footwells and boot.

Here’s how you check your interiors:

  • Check the seatbelts
  • Make sure the footwells (the space for your feet) are clear or any objects that could roll under pedals.
  • Make sure the dashboard, steering wheel, gear stick and other essentials are clean
  • Make sure you don’t overload your boot with unnecessary items, which will increase your petrol consumption.

7. Honk your horn

Your horn lets other drivers know your car is on the road, making it an important safety tool when driving in poor conditions.

Here’s how you check your horn:

  • Press it and see if it’s working!
  • If it doesn’t then get a mechanic to look at it, as you never know when you might need to use it.

8. See if the reversing camera is working

Reversing cameras are a great tool for parking, as they allow you to see how close you are to objects (such as other vehicles) and animals (like people, cats or dogs).

Reversing cameras get coated in mud very frequently so you should keep wipes in your car to clean the camera any time you need to. If you need help to locate this tiny camera close to your rear bumper, refer to your car manual.

Here’s how you check your reversing camera is working properly:

  • Take someone with you
  • Park in front of a clear wall
  • Get the person to stand at the rear of your car
  • Put the car in reverse so the camera is activated
  • Ask the person to let you know how far you have to reverse
  • Tally what the person tells you with the images and warning noises from your camera
  • Another thing to check is the quality of the images — they should be clear, not blurry

What to do after your MOT

If you’ve followed the car check list and fixed what you can, you should be able to avoid many of the common issues drivers face after an MOT. But issues can still crop up; often from things you can’t fix yourself like the suspension and spark plugs.

Car MOT check list: MOT pass

Passing doesn’t mean your work is done. Your MOT certificate may come with recommendations to do to keep your car in tip top shape. You don’t have to do them, but we recommend you keep them in mind as not doing them could cost you more later on.

Even after you’ve passed your MOT, make sure you check everything on our list ideally on a regular basis. Businesses can easily miss common issues and fail an MOT check because of things that could have been fixed.

MOT check list for cars that fail

Unlike exam results, the reasons for not passing an MOT are listed clearly in the straightforward but hated VT30 “refusal” paper. Here’s what to do if your car fails:

  • Check if your car got a “dangerous” or “major” failure
  • Read the VT30 failures list and organise repairs
  • Make all repairs within 10 days of your MOT failure
  • Get a partial retest booked within those next 10 days after repairs are done
  • If you wait over 10 days, you will have to pay the whole fee once again

Can I still drive my car if it failed an MOT?

Not all failures are the same! There are two categories – dangerous and major. If you get a dangerous MOT failure, don’t drive your car until you fix everything. It’s dangerous for you, other drivers and your bank account. You’re only allowed to drive your car with dangerous faults to the MOT check.

If you get a major failure, you can still drive your car around as usual until your last MOT expires.

If your last MOT has already expired, you’re not allowed to drive your car regardless of the type of failure.

iCompario tip: use short term vehicle hire while your car is being repaired

Waiting for your car to get fixed can mean sharing a vehicle with your partner or friends. Or, using public transport to commute. Depending on your circumstances, hiring a vehicle for a week could be a better option just for sheer convenience.

Whether you choose to face the train crowds or not, avoid using the car that failed the MOT check no matter what. Driving it, especially if it got a dangerous failure, could lead to fines of over £1,000.

What if I want to make a complaint about my MOT?

If you’re not happy with the way your MOT was done, you can make a complaint to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency). The complaint needs to be filed within 2 days of the MOT completion.

The DVSA should contact you within 2 days of your complaint. They might agree to retest your vehicle. You don’t have to pay the fee again if they decide to retest it. You should receive the results of the retest within 5 days.

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