mot testing what to do beforehand

the words 'mot test time' can strike fear into the heart of any vehicle owner. however, if you carry out a few basic checks yourself before taking your car for the test, you can minimise the cost and inconvenience of this important annual inspection.

When you hear of someone needing to spend hundreds of pounds to get their car through its MoT test, it's easy to overlook that MoTs exist for your protection, providing the only statutory test for safety and environmental legislation. After all, how often do you get underneath your car and check that the exhaust is still firmly attached and that none of the vital suspension or steering components is worn or loose? It's best to view the annual MoT test as a sensible opportunity to have your vehicle examined by an expert to ensure that it meets all safety and legal requirements.

The MoT was introduced in 1959 and initially was only required for cars aged 10 years or older. These days, all vehicles of three years or older need to be taken in for an annual test. Since 1995, the MoT has also included a check of exhaust emissions to ensure that cars are not polluting our air excessively.

So what can you do to ensure your car passes? Before taking your car in for the dreaded check-up, why not run through this checklist as suggested by a qualified MoT tester:

Starting in the interior, check the following:

- are the seats securely mounted?

- are the seatbelts frayed and does the mechanism work correctly?

- is there any damage to the steering wheel or too much free movement when you gently turn the wheel a few inches in each direction when the car is parked?

- is the boot clear so an inspector can open it and inspect under the mat for rust or structural damage? (And he needs to be able to gain entry via the boot lid or tailgate.)

- are there any cracks or chips in the windscreen? (Cracks or chips in the driver's line of sight must not be larger than 10mm. Out of the driver's field of view, 40mm is the limit.)

-are all the rear-view mirrors intact and clean?

Once you've made a note of anything to repair, it's time to check exterior items:

- is the car reasonably clean? (Garages won't test VERY dirty cars.)

- are all lights working and not damaged in any way?

- if the car has a rear fog light, is it working and does the warning light in the switch or on the dashboard function as well?

- do all tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm?

- is either registration plate cracked or obscured?

- is the chassis/VIN number plate easily found (and legible)?

Now for the under-bonnet and mechanical checks:

- is the horn working properly?

- does the fuel cap fit securely?

- is the screen washer bottle topped up?

- are the headlights correctly aligned?

- are there any leaks in the exhaust system? (You can usually hear the system 'blowing' from outside the car.)

- are the brakes and handbrake in perfect working order? (There must not be excessive pedal movement before the brakes start to 'bite'.)

- are all the controls, such as indicators and switches, in good working order?

There is much frustration can be avoided if you carry out these basic checks before presenting your car for test as it can be very annoying and time-consuming to have your car fail on some minor point such as an empty screen washer bottle. MoT testers must, by law, test the car 'as presented' and they are not allowed to warm vehicles up before a test or make even the most minor repair or adjustment. If they find anything not conforming to the rules, they must fail the car.

It is recommended giving the car a reasonably long run (say 10-15 miles) before taking it to the test station. This will ensure the catalytic converter, if one is fitted, is up to temperature and working properly to reduce exhaust emissions. Diesel cars and cars without a catalytic converter also benefit from a pre-test run as emissions are usually lower once the engine is up to the correct operating temperature.

However, checking your car over should not only be limited to the day before an MoT is due. Checks such as those detailed above should form part of a regular inspection which will help you maintain your car in good order for your own safety and that of other road users.

The MoT test has been designed to be as customer friendly as possible and every testing station has a viewing area near the test bay so you can see the test taking place. This also enables you to discuss any problems or failure items with the tester so you're fully aware of required repairs or possible future problems.

The RMI Consumer Motorline on 08457 585 350 (local rates) will give you the names of reliable garages in your area who are members of the RMI and adhere to the principles of quality service, sales, information, guidance and customer care.

So, face the test with confidence. The MoT is not there to reduce your driving pleasure. A smooth-running car can only make motoring more enjoyable, safer and cleaner.