MOTs are an essential part of car ownership and failure to have one can spell disaster for you and your car.

For new drivers with less experience in dealing with this must-have, what are the most important things to know? We asked Vauxhall car specialists in Luton to help us with the answers. Here’s what they had to say.

What is an MOT?

An MOT is a test that determines whether your car is safe for driving and the environment. It follows a strict checklist of criteria set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Many garages offer MOT services, as do many dealerships such as Thurlow Nunn.

Why are MOTs important?

You don’t have a choice whether you get an MOT or not. Without one, you can’t legally drive your car. Because of this, your insurance will also become invalidated should you get into an accident. So, it’s best to check your MOT status periodically to make sure you get one before it expires each year.

What does an MOT include?

During your MOT test, your mechanic will check the following areas for problems:

  • Registration plate
  • Lights
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Windscreen, wipers, and washer bottle
  • Horn
  • Seats
  • Seatbelts
  • Fuel system
  • Emissions
  • Bodywork
  • Doors
  • Mirrors
  • Wheels
  • Tyres
  • Brakes

Although the inspection itself does not involve any repairs or replacements, you might need to undertake these following the inspection in order to pass the test. After the MOT is complete, you receive a pass or fail along with a corresponding certificate.

What should you check before taking an MOT?

Here’s a quick pre-test checklist you can follow to improve your chances of passing:

  • Have a mechanic check on any strange noises before the test
  • Top up your engine oil and fuel before the test
  • Give all your seatbelts a sharp tug
  • Make sure your locks are working
  • Use a tyre depth gauge to check the tread depth of each of your tyres
  • Ensure your lights are working correctly
  • Test your car horn
  • Keep an eye out for battery leakage
  • Look for windscreen cracks
  • Check your wipers are working and screen wash levels are topped up

For how long is an MOT valid?

You must get an MOT by either the third anniversary of your vehicle registration or – if your car is more than 3 years old – by the anniversary of its last MOT.

You can drive your vehicle up to midnight on your old MOT’s expiry date but not after – unless you can prove that you’re driving to an approved test centre.

What happens if I fail my MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, you will be given a refusal of MOT certificate. You will then need to repair and retest your vehicle until it meets MOT standards.

In the meantime, you may not be covered by your insurance. For this reason, you shouldn’t drive your car – except to a garage for repairs or an approved test centre.

Can I drive my brand-new car without an MOT?

New cars don’t need an MOT until three years after their registration.

If you buy a used car, you need to check its MOT status and arrange a test. If you’re travelling to an arranged test and can prove this, then you can drive your car without a valid MOT.

What happens if I’m caught driving without an MOT?

If you’re caught driving without an MOT certificate, you could be fined up to £1000. What’s worse, if you’re in an accident without a valid MOT, your insurance provider will not be able to cover your costs.

Additionally, your breakdown cover will be invalid – although, in Northern Ireland, some breakdown firms provide cover if your MoT is booked.