At least 34% of vehicles fail a MOT test according to a Which? report via the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. Many are easy to avoid – this is what you need to know on the most common MOT failures and how to avoid them.


Lights and bulbs

Blown bulbs are the most common cause of MOT failures and are one of the easiest and cheapest to fix.

A RAC report has revealed that 1 in 5 cars has a MOT failure due to blown bulbs.

Walk around your car and check all bulbs are working including headlights, sidelights, brake lights, indicators and the number plate bulb.

Cracks on the headlights can also result in a MOT failure if it affects the beam.


Broken springs due to potholes are another common MOT failure. Listen for unusual clunks when you are driving.

Check the suspension by pushing it down on each corner. It should return to normal without bouncing a few times.

A look with a torch under the wheel arch will reveal any obvious defects.


It goes without saying that having effective brakes is important and a safety issue.

Check your brakes for squealing or grinding noises – these are signs that the brake pads will need replacing.

Does your car stop in a straight line or pull in different directions?

Check the handbrake on a slope as well. It should securely hold the car – if it doesn’t, get it adjusted as it will result in a MOT failure.


Check the tread depth and perished tyre walls.

If your vehicle has been standing for any length of time, it’s likely that the tyre walls will perish and crack.

Tyre tread can be checked by looking for the ‘wear bar’ that sits between the tread. If it’s close to 1.6mm and is low, get them replaced so it is not flagged as an advisory on the MOT certificate.

Uneven tyre wear is another thing to look for. Tracking and suspension issues caused by potholes will result in tyre tread being uneven.

If your tyre wear is uneven, get the tyre replaced and tracking and suspension checked. Any tyre garage can do this.

Driver’s view of the road 

Anything that obstructs a driver’s view of the road will result in a MOT failure.

Check for stone chips within the eye level and remove any obstructions such as air fresheners and mobile phone cradles.


Do the front and rear wipers work ok? Check the blades – are they clean with no tears / rips? They need to be able to clean the windows with no smears. If they don’t, you will be faced with a MOT failure.

Check the washer fluid bottle as well. If it’s empty, it’s a MOT failure and one that is easy to avoid.

Exhaust emissions

Diesel vehicles are susceptible to MOT failures based on emissions. An easy way to avoid a MOT failure is to buy a fuel treatment pack and take your car for a good run to clear the fuel lines and tank.

Seat belts

Check that all seat belts are in good condition and working order. Seat belts must retract easily with no tears or knots.


Check that the bodywork is in good condition. Any accident damage such as loose bumpers or sharp edges will result in a MOT failure.

Registration plates

Registration plates need to be clean and visible with a working light bulb at the rear. Just give them a wipe and replace the bulb if necessary, to avoid a MOT failure.

Don’t forget to clean the car

Make sure that your car is clean and tidy and the windows, doors, bonnet release and boot work. An MOT tester can refuse to test the car if it is filthy and full of junk. Another Covid / Health and Safety issue that you know will be easily used!

A final check

Walk around the car and check to see that everything is as it should be. Secure mirrors, fuel cap, horn working and no warning lights (they are there for a reason!).

You can check your vehicle’s MOT history via 

Do you know what to look for when buying a used car?

Do you know the different ways you can save money when buying and reselling a used car?

Here are my thoughts on how to avoid the most common MOT failures. Can you add anything to this?

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