According to the most recent DVSA data, over 7 million cars fail their MOT each year.

Failing your MOT is not only annoying but can be expensive if you don’t manage to get all the repairs within the grace period.

With this in mind, motoring experts at National Tyres and Autocare have put together a list of things you can check before your car goes for its MOT to try and save you some money.

Here’s what they had to say.

Top pre-MOT checks, to save you money

Lighting and signaling

DVSA statistics from July to September 2019 show that 14% of all Class 3 and 4 car MOT failures were due to lighting issues, such as a blown bulb, inoperative number plate light or a faulty indicator. Your car can also fail if your headlights are misted, misaligned or cracked too.

When conducting your pre- MOT check, take a good look around your car and ask a friend or family member to confirm all the lights are functioning – headlights, indicators, number plate lights, sidelights, fog lights and brake lights.

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Your MOT test will cover fluids like screen wash, so be sure to top it up. In order to pass the MOT, your car will also need sufficient oil in its engine.

With your car parked on an even surface, pull out the oil dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert it back in for a minute and remove it, checking the level is between the MIN and MAX marks on the dipstick.

Your tester will also need to conduct emissions tests, so make sure you have enough fuel in the tank as well.

Steering and suspension

The same DVSA statistics show 18% of cars failed due to suspension issues like a leaking shock absorber or snapped coil spring. It’s not easy to spot these while parked, so while driving, listen out for any unusual noises or peculiar driving characteristics when cornering or braking.

You can also carry out the ‘bounce test’ when going through your MOT preparation checklist. Simply push down on each corner of your vehicle and let go.

The car should immediately spring up to its normal position rather than bouncing up and down.

Body, chassis and structure

According to the data, 7% of all MOT defects were related to body, chassis and structure in 2019-2020.

If your car has corrosion or rust within 12cm of a structurally important area, you can fail the test. And if there are any sharp edges that could cause injury, these could also result in a failure.

To check for these, give the exterior surfaces of your vehicle and the engine bay a thorough inspection.


2018-2019 data shows 14% of car MOT failures are due to brake defects picked up in the MOT brake efficiency test. Most often, this is caused by worn brake pads and or worn, pitted or warped brake discs.

You may be able to see the pads and discs through your alloy wheels, so check each one thoroughly.

Also, during your MOT test checklist session, try listening out for any grinding sounds when driving. Does your brake pedal feel spongy or does the car pull to one side when braking?

Check your handbrake as well. If you parked on a steep hill, would it hold the vehicle in place effectively?


12% of fails are due to tyre issues. These can be the easiest step to check.

The law requires 1.6mm of tread depth across the entire central three-quarters of the tyre. You can check this with a 20p coin.

Insert the coin into the tread groove of each tyre. If the outside band of the 20p coin is visible, then the tread is less than 1.6mm.

Are all the tyres the same size and with the correct load and speed rating? Are there lumps or bulges in the tyre tread or wall? Are your tyre pressures correct and in line with those set out by the vehicle manufacturer?

Number plates

Since 2018, number plates have been included in the MOT test, which is why they’re a key part of any MOT checklist. This is covered under the identification of the vehicle section of the MOT and accounted for 1% of all MOT failures.

According to the British Number Plate Manufacturers Association, these must be clearly visible, free from damage and completely laminated. They cannot have any background overprinting or any fixings or features that obscure their legal view.

All vehicles registered after September 1st, 2001 need to have a honeycomb construction too and all plates must be properly affixed to the car.


8% of MOT failures are caused by issues affecting the driver's view of the road.

In your MOT checklist, see whether the wipers are working properly and if you can squirt the washer fluid onto your windscreen.

Are there any cracks in the windscreen within the range of the wiper blades? A 40mm crack on the passenger side is an MOT fail, while on the driver’s side, 10mm can stop you from passing.

Next, see if anything else is obscuring the driver’s view, such as a dashcam, sat-nav or any object obscuring the rear windscreen.

Lastly, check whether your screen-wash is topped up.


4% of all fails are due to noise, emissions and leaks – key environmental aspects of the MOT test.

When going through your MOT checklist, check whether you can hear the exhaust blowing and if you can smell exhaust fumes inside the car.

Can you hear any unusual rattling or banging during normal driving that might suggest the exhaust is not attached properly? This can be a very simple fix for you or a mechanic to conduct.

Bonnet, boot and doors

Your bonnet, boot and door handle releases must work correctly, so check whether they stick and if they do, consider oiling them prior to your test.


While the interior is not a specific section of the test, your dashboard warning lights are covered under lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment.

They should come on when you turn the ignition on and then turn off after a moment. If any are still showing, then you need to get those checked out beforehand.

If you’re unsure what the dashboard lights mean, then consider booking a diagnostic check.

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Seats and seatbelts

Comprising 2% of all fails, seats and seatbelts should nevertheless be a key safety aspect of your MOT checklist process.

Check each seatbelt by pulling down sharply – you should feel it lock in place. Make sure all seatbelts can be secured into their locking mechanism too and ensure that the seats can move backwards and forwards and be locked in position effectively.


Finally, honk your horn with a friend or family member standing some distance away. Would other road users be able to hear it?