The biggest overhaul in MOT rules in year took place in 2018, when the “fail” category was split into two categories. The change in the rules caught lots of people out. Recently released figures reveal that in the first year, almost a million cars failed the MOT on the new dangerous category of fault. So are cars on the road becoming more dangerous?

What’s Changed?

Until 2018, the MOT was a fail or a pass. The change to the rules on 2019 splits the fail category into two. Drivers will either be told that their car has failed for a major reason, or a dangerous one. If the fault is major, it needs repaired straight away. However, it’s a fault which doesn’t necessarily mean that the car is dangerous to drive. A missing number plate, for example, is classed as a dangerous fault. But not having a number plate does not affect the car’s roadworthiness. If your car is listed as having a major fault, you can take it wherever you like to have it fixed, as long as the previous MOT is still valid. If however, the fail certificate lists a dangerous fault, this is something major which does affect the safety of the car. Major faults could be something like a cracked windscreen affecting visibility, or not enough depth on the tyre tread. If your car has a dangerous fault, then it’s illegal to drive it on the road. Any existing validity on your MOT certificate is void. If you can’t have it fixed by the same place which did your MOT, you’ll have to arrange for it to be towed away for repair elsewhere.

What About Advisories?

Under the old system, the tester would give you advisories. These were minor faults which were not serious enough to constitute a fail, but which should be put right when you get the chance. The new system has renamed advisories as minor defects but the end result is the same. Minor faults are just things which you should keep an eye on as they may get a lot worse before your car has its next MOT in a year’s time.

Dangerous Fails

The figures reveal a lot of differences in the way that different vehicles on the road cope with the MOT test. Although we most often talk about cars, motorbikes, vans and motorhomes all need a MOT test too. Figures reveal that motorbikes are often the safest vehicles on the road, with 83% of all bikes tested passing without any remedial work required. Overall, around a third of all cars presented for the MOT fail.

Rules for commercial vehicles like heavy lorries, buses and minibuses are different. These sorts of vehicles start their annual testing programme at one year of age, and undergo more robust testing than private vehicles.

Costs of Failure?

Getting that call or text message from the garage telling you that your car has failed its MOT often immediately leads to thoughts about how much it’s all going to cost. It’s impossible to give estimates of the average costs to resolve faults as it really all depends what’s wrong. Replacing a worn tyre could cost £75, but if the problems are much more extensive, the repair bill could run into hundreds. In a very old car, this could lead to discussions about whether it’s worth fixing at all, or whether it’s best to call it a day and sell the vehicle for scrap. Any decent mechanic should be able to estimate the costs of repairs over the phone, breaking down the prices into parts and labour. Once the repairs have been done, the vehicle goes through a partial retest. This means testing only the elements of the car which failed the first time, rather than running through the whole checklist again. Garages can charge a fee for a partial retest but many don’t, especially if you are spending money with them getting the work done. Once the pass certificate has been issued, you can drive away and forget about MOT tests until the same time next year.

On the other hand, if you decide that you’re going to ignore the law and drive away in a car which has been failed as dangerous, you’re taking quite a risk. The online system for logging MOT failures is linked to the police national computer. If you drive past a police car equipped with automatic number plate recognition, and it pings that you haven’t got a MOT, you’ll be stopped. The penalty for driving without a MOT is points on your licence, and a fine of up to £2500.

Avoiding Failures on the MOT Test

Unless you’re a mechanic expert, you won’t be able to check everything which the mechanic will look at during the MOT test. However, you can maximise your chances of getting through the test first time by keeping up to date with basic maintenance. There’s really no excuse for a car failing its MOT because you haven’t bothered topping up the washer fluid, or haven’t noticed that a tyre is wearing down.

Unlike MOTs, there is no legal requirement to have your car serviced. All manufacturers set out how often their vehicles need serviced. This might be annually, every two years, or after a set number of miles on the clock. During a service, the mechanics will change things like oil and air filters, but will also check over the engine, suspension, brakes and other items which are also checked for the MOT. It’s a great opportunity to spot small issues on a car before they turn into bigger, more expensive issues. Too many people leave routine maintenance for the MOT when it is something we should all be keeping on top of monthly. The MOT certificate isn’t a warranty of roadworthiness; it’s your responsibility as a driver to make sure you’re checking your tyres and other critical aspects of your car regularly to make sure it’s up to standard.