What is an MOT Test?
The MOT (Ministry of Transport) Test is an annual vehicle safety test, mandatory for most cars, vans and motorcycles that examines a vehicle’s roadworthiness, exhaust emissions and other legalities such as vehicle lighting and licence plates.
The Ministry of Transport, from which the MOT test gets its name, is a defunct government department and one of the predecessors to the current Department for Transport. VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency), a subdivision of the Department For Transport, are the agency responsible for recording and issuing MOT Test certificates.
History of the MOT Test
In 1960, Ernest Maples, the then Minister of Transport (a politician born in Levenshulme, Manchester, Lancashire) lead the introduction of the MOT Test. The MOT test was originally only applicable to vehicles ten years and older and, like the present MOT test, a retest was required every year. The test was commonly known as the ‘Ten Year Test’ or the ‘Ministry Of Transport’ Test, which was usually shortened to simply ‘MOT Test’. In 1962, commercial vehicles became eligible for the MOT test and required a valid MOT test certificate in order to apply for a road tax disc. In 1967 the vehicle testable age was reduced from 10 years to 3 years and, in 1983, the testable age was reduced to 1 year for ambulances, taxis and vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats.
Over the years, the list of items examined during the MOT test has grown. The first MOT tests only consisted of basic steering, braking and lighting checks. 1968 saw the introduction of tyre checks; 1977, body/chassis structural checks, windscreen wipers, windscreen washers, direction indicators, stoplights, horns and exhaust system checks; 1991, emissions, anti-lock braking (ABS), rear wheel bearings, rear wheel steering (where appropriate) and rear seat belts and, later, numerous other small additions, such as stricter tyre depth requirements were introduced. More recently (in 2012) was the introduction of battery checks, wiring checks and test procedures for ESC systems, speedometers, steering locks and secondary restraint systems.
MOT tests are classified by vehicle type under the following classes:
- Class I MOT — Motorcycles (with or without side cars) up to 200cc
- Class II MOT — All motorcycles (including Class I) (with or without side cars).
- Class III MOT — 3-wheeled vehicles not more than 450 kg unladen weight (excluding motorcycles with side cars).
- Class IV MOT — Cars, including 3-wheeled vehicles more than 450 kg unladen weight, Taxis, Minibuses and Ambulances up to 12 passenger seats, Goods Vehicles not exceeding 3000 kg Design Gross Weight (DGW), Motor Caravans and Dual Purpose Vehicles.
- Class V MOT — Private passenger vehicles, ambulances, motor caravans and dual purpose vehicles with 13 or more passenger seats
- Class VII MOT — Goods Vehicles over 3000 kg up to and including 3500 kg DGW.
- PSV MOT test (Class VI) — Public service vehicles used for hire or reward with more than eight passenger seats.
- HGV MOT test — Goods vehicles over 3,500 kg GVW and trailers over 1,020 kg unladen weight or 3,500 kg GVW if fitted with overrun brakes.
Documents and Regulations
Documents associated with the MOT test are: The VT20 MOT pass certificate, the VT30 MOT failure report and the VT32 MOT advisories report. The MOT test will also include a vehicle emissions test report, if applicable.
Unless a vehicle is MOT exempt, it is illegal to drive it on a public road without a current MOT test certificate (VT20). The only exception to this is when driving the vehicle to or from an MOT test station for a pre-booked MOT test (assuming this does not violate the terms and conditions of the vehicle insurance). To obtain a vehicle licence (tax disc) the vehicle must have a valid and up-to-date MOT test certificate (VT20).
MOT Test Checks
The present MOT test requires the condition of the following items to be checked:
- Vehicle Body Structure/condition
- Brakes, Steering and Suspension
- Lighting and Signalling
- Driver’s View of the Road
- Road Wheels and Tyres
- Seat Belts
- Fuel, Exhaust and Emissions
Items such as the exhaust system, windscreen and windscreen wipers are checked for operation and condition. The exhaust system must be secure, intact and not unduly loud. The windscreen wipers and washers must be able to adequately clear the windscreen.
For more detailed MOT test procedural information, download the relevant MOT test Inspection Manual:
MOT Test Inspection Manual for Classes 1 and 2 Vehicles
(Motorcycle MOT Testing)
MOT Test Inspection Manual for Classes 3, 4, 5 and 7 Vehicles
(Private Passenger and Light Commercial Vehicle MOT Testing)
Note: MOT Test Inspection Manuals above were current at the time of writing. For the latest MOT Test Inspection Manuals, visit the official government website:
If a vehicle fails the MOT test and requires remedial repair work, an MOT re-test must be carried out within 10 working days, otherwise a further full MOT test will be required. If the vehicle remains at the MOT testing station for the duration of the repairs (and is re-tested within 10 working days), it is eligible for a free recheck. If repairs are carried out elsewhere and the vehicle is returned within 10 working days, a partial re-test will be required, for which most MOT testing stations will charge approximately half of the original full MOT test fee.
If the vehicle fails the MOT test on one of the following items and is repaired elsewhere but returned to the same MOT testing station before the end of the next working day, no retest fee is charged: Windscreen and Glass, Fuel Filler Cap, Seat Belts, Wipers and Washers, Hazard Warning, Seats, Wheels and Tyres, Mirrors, Tailgate, Doors Rear Reflectors, VIN, Drop sides, Registration Plates, Bonnet, Horn, Sharp Edges, Boot lid, Lamps, Steering Wheel, Brake Pedal Anti-slip, Loading Door, Tailboard, Direction Indicators.
New Receipt-style Plain Paper MOT Test Certificates
In 2012, the old, official-looking MOT certificates were replaced with printed receipt-style certificates that simple serve as a record of the data now held on the VOSA computer database. An MOT test number displayed on the certificate allows the vehicle’s current MOT test status to be verified, along with its entire MOT test history, via the VOSA website.
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