Car Repairs 101: Navigating an MOT Test Failure in the UK

Driving a safe and roadworthy vehicle is a legal requirement in the UK. An essential aspect is ensuring your car passes its annual MOT test. When your vehicle fails its MOT, it can be stressful and confusing. However, understanding the reasons for MOT failures, how to address them, and how to choose a trustworthy garage for repairs can make the process smoother.

The Importance of the MOT Test

MOT Failure What To Do. Choosing a reputable garage for repairs.
MOT Failure What To Do

The MOT test is a legal requirement in the UK for all vehicles over three years old. It’s a thorough check that ensures your vehicle is safe to drive and environmentally friendly. It meets the minimum safety standards set by the DVSA. If your car fails its MOT, it’s crucial to understand why it failed and what steps you need to take next.

What Happens If Your Vehicle Fails Its MOT Test?

Deciphering an MOT Failure

If your vehicle fails the MOT test, you’ll receive a ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate‘ from the test centre. This refusal will be recorded in the MOT database. It’s important to note that a failed MOT does not necessarily mean you’re not allowed to drive your vehicle. If your current MOT certificate is still valid and no ‘dangerous’ problems were listed in the MOT, you can still drive your car. However, it must meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times.

If your vehicle fails because of ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ problems, you won’t be allowed to drive it until these issues are sorted out. On the other hand, if the problems listed are ‘minor’ or ‘advisory’, these are issues that you can monitor and fix in the future. In cases where your current MOT certificate is still valid and no ‘dangerous’ problems were listed, you may be allowed to drive away with your vehicle. But remember, your vehicle must still meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times.

Driving a vehicle that has failed its MOT due to a ‘dangerous’ problem can lead to a fine of up to £2,500, a driving ban, and three penalty points.

Common Reasons for MOT Failures and How to Prevent Them

Understanding the most common reasons for MOT failures can help you prevent them in the future and ensure that your vehicle remains roadworthy. Here are the five most common reasons for MOT failures:

  1. Lighting and Signalling (18.9% of failures): Regularly check all your lights (headlights, tail lights, indicators, and number plate lights) to ensure they’re in working order. Replace any blown bulbs immediately, and consider cleaning your lights if the plastic lenses become misty or discoloured over time.
  2. Suspension (13% of failures): Suspension issues can be challenging to identify. However, signs can include unusual noises when driving, especially over bumpy roads or cornering. If your car doesn’t sit level or bounces excessively when you push down on a corner, these could also be signs of suspension problems.
  3. Brakes (10% of failures): Essential for safety, any issues with your brakes should be addressed immediately. Listen for any unusual noises when braking; if your car pulls to one side when you brake, it might indicate a problem. Regularly inspect your brake discs and pads for wear and tear.
  4. Tyres (7.7% of failures): Regularly check your tyres for the correct pressure, tread depth, and any signs of damage like cuts or bulges. The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm – you can use a 20p coin to check this. If the coin’s outer band is visible when inserted in the tread, your tyres may be below the legal limit.
  5. Issues Affecting the Driver’s View of the Road (7.2% of failures): Keep your windscreen clear of obstructions and ensure your wipers are in good working order. Regularly check for any chips or cracks in the windscreen, especially in the driver’s field of vision.

Identifying a Trustworthy Garage for Repairs

Once you’ve understood why your MOT failed, the next step is to find a reputable garage to handle the necessary repairs.

How To Find A Reputable Garage in the UK

Finding a reputable garage to rectify MOT test issues can sometimes be a daunting task, but there are resources available to help you. Websites like Which? Trusted Traders and The Motor Ombudsman offer directories of approved garages that have been vetted and accredited by industry standards. These garages have passed rigorous assessments, including credit, reference, and background checks, and have clear complaints procedures in place, which means if something goes wrong, you have a better chance of resolving the issue.

Find MOT Garage Services.
Find MOT Garage Services

Furthermore, asking for recommendations from family, friends, or colleagues can be invaluable. Check local online forums or review sites for experiences and recommendations from others in your area. Once you’ve identified a potential garage, don’t hesitate to give them a call or visit in person. This allows you to ask questions, gauge their professionalism, and get a feel for their customer service.

Understanding the MOT Process and Common Failures

The MOT test is a yearly requirement for all cars over three years old in the UK. This test determines whether your car is safe to drive on the road, but it won’t reveal any lurking vehicle health issues like problems with the clutch or the engine.

Common causes of MOT failures include issues with lighting and signalling, suspension, brakes, tyres, and factors affecting the driver’s view of the road. Regular checks and maintenance can prevent these failures. Check your lights, listen for any unusual noises when driving, inspect your brakes and tyres, and ensure nothing is blocking your view of the road.


If your vehicle fails its MOT test, it’s crucial to address the issues promptly and efficiently. Regular vehicle checks and maintenance, along with choosing a reputable garage for your MOT test, can go a long way in ensuring your vehicle remains roadworthy and safe to drive. Remember, it’s not just about passing the MOT test, it’s about ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road.

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