Skip to main content
0 items

2021 MoT test: everything you need to know before your car goes in

are mot test stations open

The MoT test has been updated for 2021, with changes that affect cars, motorcycles and buses – here's how the MoT changes for 2021 may affect you.

What does MoT stand for?

MoT stands for Ministry Of Transport. Oddly enough the Ministry hasn't actually existed since the 1970s, but the name has carried on being used to this day.

What is the MoT?

In short it's an annual test of vehicle's roadworthiness, safety, and emissions. It's a legal requirement to have your vehicle tested each year once it's over three years of age.

What does the MoT test include?

While not an exhaustive test, the MoT inspects a wide variety of aspects including:

  • Bodywork and associated structures (bumpers etc)
  • Brakes
  • Driver's view of the road
  • Steering and suspension
  • Seat belts
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel and emissions
  • Tow bar and its associated electrical connections (if fitted)
  • Wheels and Tyres

Don't miss our new one-job manuals for fixing common problems with your car!

What doesn’t the MoT test include?

Contrary to popular belief the MoT doesn't check the condition of the engine (other than for emissions), or gearbox.

The tester is forbidden from dismantling or removing any part of the car, so they can only test what they can observe.

If they cannot access an area of the car that would fall under their test they can state that it's untested as an 'advisory'. The spare wheel is not tested, or checked.

What happens during an MoT test?

The test takes approximately 40mins to 1hr. You are allowed to remain with the car, and all test stations have to provide a viewing area should you wish to watch the test.

It's not permitted to communicate with the tester (although some are not averse to a bit of a chat!).

The tester will carry out the checks with the vehicle on the ground, and up on a car lift.

The MoT also requires the vehicle to be tested on a set of brake rollers, although on a 4x4 vehicle this could cause damage, so they may take a short drive in the vehicle to test the brakes using a 'G-meter' to measure braking force.

Is the MoT test strict?

While the MoT is a thorough inspection of the vehicle, it's generally a very fair test. And 'fails' are usually for dangerous, or potentially dangerous issues.

Around 40% of cars fail at their first attempt with the vast majority failing for basic things such as wipers, bulbs, or tyres. With routine maintenance and inspection, most of these fails could be avoided.

What MoT changes have been made for 2021?

A couple of revisions have been made to the MoT test in 2021:

Headlamp conversions – Some cars and motorbikes that have had their halogen headlamp units converted to use used with HID or LED bulbs are no longer an automatic fail. For bikes, the only criterion is that ‘Headlamps must comply with all other requirements of the test and headlamp aim’. It's a different story with cars, though, because only those that had headlamp conversions before 1 April 1986 won't fail the test – and we're not aware of LED or xenon bulbs being available for use in cars before the 1990s.

Age limit on tyres – This affects minibuses with nine or more seats. The tyres on all four wheels (vehicles with single rear wheels) mustn't be more than 10 years old. 

What if you disagree with the result of the MoT test?

If you don’t believe that your vehicle should have failed, or even that it should have passed you can complain to the DVSA either via an online form, or by writing to them.

It's likely that you'll have to have the vehicle retested at your expense, however.

Once the car has left the MoT test station and something fails you cannot blame it on the MoT as it is no guarantee of roadworthiness other than at the actual moment of the test.

So if you buy a car with an MoT, don't assume it's entirely free from defects.

Can you still drive your car if it fails its MoT test?

There is much confusion over this, but the law is fairly clear: if your vehicle fails and your existing MoT has elapsed then you can only drive it to and from wherever you intend to get the vehicle fixed, and to a pre-arranged MoT.

If however your car has failed but you still have some existing MoT left then you can drive the vehicle as normal - but ONLY if the vehicle is roadworthy, and none of the 'fails' are likely to be dangerous.

The DVSA's legislation regarding this has changed over the last few years, so its best to ask your MoT tester if in doubt in case the legislation changes again.

Can you put your car in for MoT early?

You can, and it's a good idea to do so. You are entitled to book it in whenever you wish, but if you take the car for a test more than one month before it expires you will only get 12 months MoT.

If however you take the vehicle in less than one month before expires then the expiry date will be preserved and you can end up with nearly 13 months MoT. Taking the test early is good practice as it enables you to drive the car after the test, legally, should it fail.

Do I have to fix advisories on the MoT test?

On your test certificate you will get a reason for rejection (if it fails) but if not you may have a list of 'advisories'.

These are areas that are at fault, but not so significantly that they pose a danger. If they are ignored however, it's likely that they will compromise the safety of the vehicle.

While there is no legal obligation to address the advisories, we'd always recommend rectifying them at your earliest convenience

How do you check a car’s MoT history online?

Head here and you'll discover you can put in your car's details and it will give you a list of your recent MoTs, noting any failures or advisories. This can be very useful when you're looking at buying a new car, and want to check the history.