What happens on MOT Test?

The MOT test is an annual test performed in the UK and required on cars three years (third anniversary of its registration) or older.

During inspection they examine vehicles for safety, roadworthiness and to ensure they meet environmental standards. MOT is the abbreviation for Ministry of Transport and was first introduced in 1960. It’s illegal to drive all vehicles except those which are exempt on any public road without a current MOT certificate. Vehicles that are exempt from MOT testing include cars and motorcycles made before 1960, goods vehicles powered by electricity and tractors. Lorries, busses and trailers require an “Annual Vehicle Test” in place of the MOT.

An important aspect of the MOT is that the vehicle’s equipment is tested at the standard required during the year the vehicle was manufactured rather than today’s standards. The only inspectors, who are authorized to examine vehicles for MOT approval and issuance of certificate, are officially nominated testers, commonly known as MOT Testers. Inspection Stations that provide MOT testing are easily identifiable by the blue, 3 triangles MOT symbol.

When taking your vehicle in for MOT testing it’s always best to be prepared and know what will be expected of you in order to move your vehicle through the process as quickly as possible. There are 4 stages of testing that your vehicle will need to pass to receive a MOT certificate and I’ve provided a short summary for each stage below. An average MOT test takes between 45 and 60 minutes unless there are needed repairs, as there are some items that may prevent you from legally driving your car away from the inspection station if minimum standards aren’t met. There may also be other cars scheduled for the same morning/afternoon and some testing stations may require your car be dropped off and picked up after inspection is completed.

Please Note: The MOT test does not check the general mechanical condition of your vehicle and does not replace regularly required maintenance. The MOT test does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox, which are the parts of your car that are inspected when your car is serviced.

First Stage

Park car but leave it running, while waiting you can follow this list of things to be sure you are prepared when you are told to pull around for your test.

  • Make sure you know where all controls are as the attendant will want to check all to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Ensure the headlamp levelling device is at Zero if applicable.
  • Ensure you have your vehicle registration, appointment card and most recent MOT certificate unless this is the first time your vehicle has been through a MOT inspection.

During this stage your car will moved into the testing station and tested for the following-

Smoke Test

The vehicle will need to pass a smoke density test and a smoke meter reader is used to complete this. In order to pass this test the smoke meter must read below 2.5m-1 for non-turbocharged engines or 3.0m-1 for turbocharged engines. In addition to the smoke reader test, the car will also be visually inspected for the following: the amount of smoke and color of smoke being emitted by the exhaust and to ensure it doesn’t obscure vision of drivers traveling behind you, damaged tail pipe, insufficient oil in the engine or low oil pressure, obvious signs of an engine defect and finally, they will check for obvious signs that the governors have been tampered with.

Exhaust Emission

All vehicles built after August of 1975, with up to 12 passenger seats will be required to pass this test and they will be checking to see how much carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are being emitted from the exhaust. All vehicles manufactured after August of 1975 will need to test within standards of the year the car was built. During this test they will also visually check the following: to see if the engine is idling at a normal rate, to see if blue or clearly visible black smoke is being emitted for longer than 5 seconds during engine idle, they check for blue or clearly visible black smoke during acceleration, they check for damages to the tail pipe and they check to see if gas contains one or more gases in excess of the required limits.

Under Bonnet Inspection

During this portion of the inspection you will need to release the bonnet so the MOT inspector may check the following: brake fuel system, mechanical brake components, hydraulic, air and vacuum brake systems brake and power steering fluids, registration plates and vehicle identification number or VIN, power assisted steering, engine transmission mounts and the general condition of vehicle including its structural integrity.

Second Stage

Stage two consists of checking vehicle to ensure all lights, starting with headlight alignment, mirrors, doors and windows are in proper working order as well as the overall general condition of your vehicle. Keep in mind that additional mirrors are required and will be tested on heavy goods vehicles. During this portion of the inspection the MOT inspector will be checking the following and will direct you as to which item he’s inspecting and needs you to operate. They will check the mirrors, hazard warning lamps, front and rear position lamps, registration plate lamps and rear fog lamp, body condition, doors, boot lid and bonnet, steering column lock, trailer tow bar and electrical connections, seats including driver’s seat adjustment mechanism, windows and windscreen, windscreen washers and wipers, horn, headlamps, direction indicators, stop lamps, rear reflectors, seat belts and once again they will check the general condition of vehicle including its structural integrity.

During this stage they will also complete an inspection of vehicles headlamp to check the alignment and it must meet the following criteria:

  • They will check to ensure beam pattern isn’t blurred and/or doesn’t have a distinctive cut-off point.
  • They will check to ensure the headlamps ‘kick-up’ is visible on the screen if it’s required, not all headlamps have kick ups, some have flat tops and some have beam deflectors fitted instead.
  • A headlamp will fail inspection if pointing above the upper limit of 0.5% or below the lower limit of 2.75%.
  • They will check the *Dazzle Zone for white-light in the area formed by the 0% vertical and the 0.5% horizontal lines for all European ‘E’ beams.

*Dazzle Zone is a term referring to the vehicles headlamp beam being aimed in a direction causing white-light that will likely “dazzle” oncoming vehicles. Any white-light in this area would result in the headlamp failing the test.

During this stage the vehicle will go through the shock absorber test. If you remain in your car you are required to wear your seatbelt, once this test is complete they will also administer a brake test.

Brakes must pass the following criteria:

  • While braking car must slow without significant effort.
  • Service brake efficiency must be above 50%.
  • Parking brake efficiency must be above 16%.
  • Service brakes on all axels must be balanced.
  • Over-all braking system must be functioning correctly and at the required standard.

Once shock absorber test and brake test is complete the driver’s compartment will be tested and this will include inspection of the following: driver controls, steering control, vehicle warning lights including vehicle tell-tale lights, parking brake, service brake and speedometer, they will also check the disabled driver control at this point if applicable.

Fourth Stage

During this stage you will exit your vehicle and head to the waiting room so inspector may complete final stage of inspection. The under body inspection will be completed at this time and will include testing the following items to ensure they meet the minimum standards. The transmission, exhaust system including the catalytic converter, mechanical brake components, brake hydraulic, air and vacuum systems, fuel system, spare wheel and carrier, road wheels and hubs, suspension, wheel bearings and drive shafts, shock absorbers, oil leaks, engine and transmission mounts, electrical wiring, body condition, steering system, tyres are checked and finally the general condition of vehicle, including structural integrity, is inspected for a final time.

MOT Certificate

Once all required testing is complete the MOT tester will advise you whether your vehicle has passed or failed. If vehicle has passed inspection he will then issue you a MOT Certificate.


If vehicle has failed the MOT test, the MOT tester will give you a VT3O Certificate stating the items causing the failure as well as required repairs needed to pass the test. If vehicle is left at the inspection station for repairs and they are completed within 10 business days, the re-inspection will be free of charge. If you take your vehicle from station to have repaired elsewhere and return for re-inspection within 10 business days you will only be responsible for paying for a partial inspection.

In all other cases you will be required to pay full cost of inspection and vehicle will need to complete the entire MOT test again.

The MOT Motorcycle Test

Like the vehicle inspections, a MOT Certificate is required for motorcycles operating on public roads that are three years (third anniversary of its registration) and/or older. The motorcycle will go through a series of tests to ensure it’s operating at minimum required legal standards.

Please Note: The MOT test does not check the general mechanical condition of your vehicle and does not replace regularly required maintenance. The MOT test does not include inspection of the engine, clutch or gearbox.

The MOT motorcycle test will require inspection of the following:


  • They will inspect the lights and inspect them to ensure they operate properly.
  • Check steering and suspension condition and that they work properly.
  • Check wheel alignment, wheels and tyres condition including tread, size and valves.
  • Inspect entire frame of motorcycle for damage and ensure free of cracks.
  • Inspect braking, exhaust and fuel system’s condition and performance.
  • Inspect seats including the side car if applicable.
  • Check the horn to ensure it functions properly.
  • Inspect the footrests, throttle and clutch lever.
  • Inspect the drive chain and sprocket to ensure not too loose or warn and overall condition.
  • Check your registration and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will be inspected to check that they’re present and legible.