Latest MOT failure rules

Vehicles failing roadworthiness and maintenance


After your vehicle is 3-years old or more it needs a new MOT every 12-months. Tests are carried out by a qualified examiner at one of the 23,000 plus MOT stations across the UK.

The penalties for driving a vehicle without a current MOT (such as a failed MOT test) are pretty severe. It’s part of every car owners responsibility to ensure their vehicle is safe, legal and roadworthy.


MOT tests are designed to provide such assurances.

Relates to

Buying or maintaining a vehicle

1. Run an MOT check

Using a vehicle registration number (vrn), view the full MOT history of the vehicle. This includes past failures and advisories alongside dates, mileages and miles between tests.

2. Related articles

MOT failure is one facet of testing a vehicle.
Useful citations

How long does an MOT take
MOT check

3. Is the vehicle insured?
4. Speak with DVLA

Prefer to speak with DVLA?

Contact DVLA by phone

Failed MOT rules


The new MOT rules from May 2018 are in full flow. Old style MOT tests resulted in a straight pass, pass with advisory (acceptable faults) or MOT failure.

Today, MOT test defects are recorded in three main categories:


All minor and major faults will be recorded against a vehicle. DVSA has been known to act against test centres that don’t thoroughly uphold MOT testing rules.

If you’re about to have your car tested and think you’ll get an MOT failure, read on to help negate costs and wasted time.

If an MOT tester is uncertain of how to categorise a worn car part, they refer to the MOT inspection manual for guidance in understanding how serious the defect is (Class 3,4,5 and 7 for cars, light-commercials and private buses).

 MOT test results (overview)


  1. The vehicle meets minimum legal standards (Passed)
  2. Advisory – Worn vehicle parts that may become serious or dangerous in the future. Such defects should be monitored regularly for potential repair or replacement (Passed)
  3. Minor – Little impact on vehicle safety or the environment – (Passed)
  4. Major – Regarded as risky, the vehicle could impact other motorists and have a negative bearing on the environment – (Failed)
  5. Dangerous – Significant, immediate and direct risk to other motorists and the environment – ( Failed)


If you have some time, consider an MOT precheck before getting your vehicle tested. It can save money and time with a potential retest or partial retest.

Major faults versus dangerous faults


Instances when you can still drive a car on the road after an MOT test or failure

Minor faults do not impede the roadworthiness of a vehicle; therefore it will be safe and legal to drive on the road.


Major faults are a little different. A vehicle can be driven with major faults if it is deemed to be roadworthy. The test centre discerns roadworthiness.

Dangerous faults always mean the vehicle cannot be driven on the road. Therefore, the test centre will need to make the necessary repairs. If not, the vehicle must be transported elsewhere for repairs to be completed before the retest.


Notes on MOT testing – DVSA stipulate a vehicle can be MOT tested up to one month before the old MOT certificate is due to expire. That means a 13-month MOT rather than the standard 12-months. The website provides further detail.

MOT failure rules with an existing MOT certificate


If a car is tested and fails its MOT (before the current one expires) the vehicle may remain drivable.

In all cases, a vehicle cannot be driven on the road with dangerous faults. The consequences of doing so are hefty with fines being dished out of up to £2,500 and a handful of penalty points.

The vehicle must be repaired first.


Remember, when a vehicle is tested, the results of the MOT are immediately recorded in the MOT database. If seen on the road, authorities like the Police will automatically know about the condition of the car.

Major faults with a valid MOT


The law states that a vehicle can be driven on the road with major faults, provided there is a valid MOT. This is because the vehicle was tested before its current MOT had expired.


An unroadworthy car should not be on the road. It’s unlawful and can result in a penalty.

When the MOT expiry date is the same as test date


If the vehicle fails its test, it can be driven to a workshop for repairs provided there were no dangerous faults recorded at the time of the test. Effectively, you can drive the vehicle with major faults, provided the car is roadworthy. If not, prosecution laws apply.


Can you drive a car without an MOT to a garage?

A pre-booked MOT permits the vehicle to be driven to the test centre provided faults were repaired and the vehicle was roadworthy. This will be necessary for an MOT pass.

Dangerous faults resulting from an MOT test


In all cases, dangerous faults deem the vehicle unroadworthy.

There is the option to have the vehicle repaired at a different workshop although it will need to be transported (or towed) rather than driven. Consider the costs of transportation compared to the money saved having the vehicle repaired elsewhere.

Obtain quotes from the MOT centre and at least one other car repair garage.


Car breakdown insurance may cover for transporting the vehicle from one garage to another. In such cases, there is a reasonable chance of saving some money on repair bills.

How to pass an MOT


A vehicle is deemed safe, legal and roadworthy at the time it passes its MOT. This does not mean the vehicle remains roadworthy for the duration of its test certificate (usually 12-months).

The law makes it advantageous for motorists to keep their vehicles in good condition.

Image displaying a motorist performing an MOT pre-check

pre-checking a car for an mot test

Getting a vehicle ready with an MOT pre-check


(The rules for commercial vehicles are different)

Criteria set out by DVSA. If you are prepared to spend a little time examining your vehicle, MOT preparation is a handy way to save some money and avoid a potential retest.

General items


Switch on the ignition to run the following quick tests, ensuring:

  • Windscreen wipers and washers are working
  • Screenwash is filled up to the top
  • Wiper blades are not frayed, stretched or broken in any way. Often, a worn blade will have a strip of rubber hanging off. Wiper replacement is easy for most vehicles and a cheap enough item to buy
  • The horn works well
  • Seatbelts are in perfect condition. Look out for frayed or cut edges that easily lead to MOT failure
  • To test all seat belts when they are plugged in. Pull each belt from the base to test the mounts are secure and free from any corrosion.



MOT tyre check

As the tyres are the only part of the vehicle in contact with the road, DVSA takes them very seriously as treads in good condition can make a real difference to road safety.

Inspect all tyres and ensure:

  • Tyre tread is a minimum of 1.6mm deep. Modern tyres have a depth gauge to help. These are small nodules inside the main tyre tread. When nodules are equal in height to the rest of the tyre, it is a signal the rubber is worn and nearing its legal limit
  • There are no cuts or bulges in the tyre walls
  • Tyre size is the same on each axle. Ideally, tyre dimensions will match all four wheels
  • The spare tyre (or space saver/ tyre repair kit) is in good working condition




Blown bulbs are a common reason for failing part of the test. They are inexpensive to replace and are often easy to fit.

Check that:

  • All bulbs work correctly
  • Light lenses are free from damage such as cracks or frosty surfaces
  • Main beam, reverse and brake lights are functioning correctly

These tests can be carried out with the ignition on but engine off



Car bodywork

Particularly important for older vehicles that are susceptible to corrosion and aged bearing damage:

  • Ensure front and rear bumpers and properly secured. Look for any sharp edges or broken bodywork that could injure members of the public
  • An MOT test requires all doors (including the boot) to be accessible from the outside of the vehicle




An accurate brake test is not really possible with a visual inspection, but you can ensure brake fluid levels are correct.

If you have noticed grinding noises whilst braking, it is likely that brake pads are worn to their legal limit. You may wish to have these replaced before an MOT test.



Mirrors and windscreen

Ensure the screen is clean and free from cracks. Small stone chips are permissible in an MOT test depending on their proximity to the drivers viewing area. Generally, 1cm diameter stone chips are acceptable.

Most full-comprehensive car insurance policies will pay to have stone chips repaired although there may be a small excess to pay (£25 or something similar)



Exhaust system

A sound test can often determine if an exhaust is worn, corroded and blowing. Damaged exhausts are a common failure item as DVSA and the government work to improve air quality.

Rev the engine and listen for any loud blowing noises from the engine, rear or main body of the vehicle.

MOT retest after a repair


Having a vehicle repaired and retested within 10 days of its failure allows for a “partial retest“.


As previously mentioned, a motorist can take their vehicle away for MOT repairs if the MOT certificate is still valid.

If the vehicle’s MOT has already expired, it can be removed to have defects repaired or to attend a pre-arranged MOT test appointment.

The vehicle must meet minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times.

Next day retest


Using the bullet points below, a vehicle qualifies for a free retest if carried out at the same test centre on the next working day:

The items that allow for a free, partial retest are as follows:


Failed items that were repaired or replaced

  • Car battery
  • Bonnet
  • Bootlid
  • Access panels
  • Anti-slip brake pedal
  • Doors (including pillars and hinges)
  • Fuel filler cap
  • Electrical wiring
  • Mirrors
  • Number plates
  • Horn
  • Headlamp levelling or cleaning
  • Rear reflectors
  • Seats
  • Steering wheel
  • Tailgate
  • Windscreen wipers and washers
  • Towbars
  • (VIN) Vehicle Identification Number
  • Tyres and wheels


This is a common list but there are other car parts that can be included. Visit the website for a comprehensive list of items.


Partial retesting is only needed should the vehicle be removed from the test centre. In these cases, it must be retested at the same centre within 10 working days. There is a small fee applied in such cases.