Understanding MOT Checks – The Key To Buying Used Cars With Confidence

Buying a used car can be a daunting task. Although the cost saving benefits speaks for itself there is always a bit of apprehensions about the quality of a car not matter how good it looks.

To help give you that little bit more confidence when it comes to choosing you new set of wheels it is very beneficial to understand the components of an MOT check so you can conduct simple checks yourself to determine the quality of a vehicle. The following therefore is a very simple list of checks that are made.

Seats & Seat Belts

Checks are made to ensure that seats are secure and are able to be moved easily through sliding them on the seat runners. Seat belts are checked to see if they are all in place and that the mechanisms are fitted correctly. The locking mechanism of the seat belt is also checked to ensure they are still in working order.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) & Number Plates

Introduced in 1954, the VIN is a unique number that belongs to a vehicle to help identify its legitimacy. Your cars VIN should be consistent and visible in all the intended places as well as match with the car database system.

Both your front and rear number plates should be visible and secure. Lettering and spacing should follow the law and so if in doubt you should check with the DVLA

Bonnet, Boot & Doors

Simple checks are made on the bonnet, boot, and car doors to ensure that they can be opened and closed easily and above all securely. Car doors must be able to be opened from the inside as well as the outside.

Steering Wheel

The steering of your car is checked to make sure that the wheel is in good condition and attached securely to the shaft. The locking nuts and split pins are checked to ensure they are tight and also checked for any wear and tear. Sometimes checks will be made under the bonnet and car to ensure that swivel joints are in good working order and that steering racks are securely attached.

Car Horn

Although this may seem trivial the car horn is checked to see if it works and if it is of the correct volume.


All the lights on the car are checked to see if they work as they should. Dip and aim functions on side and front, and fog headlights are checked as well as the appropriate colour and positioning for brake lights, hazard and indicators.  Number plate lights are also checked to see if they are working.

Body Condition

The overall condition of the car body work is assessed and checked against any corrosion especially around the brakes and steering which can be dangerous. Checks are also made to ensure there are no sharp protrusions which can be a danger to others.


Checks are made on the inside and outside of the car to determine that brakes are in good order. The brake pedal and handbrake are checked inside the car to ensure they work as they should and the servo unit and master cylinder are checked under the bonnet to ensure there are no leaks. All pipes leading to and from the brakes both under the bonnet and the car as a whole are also checked against any corrosion. Lastly the discs and drums are checked against any wear and tear that could be dangerous.

Exhaust, Fuel & Emissions

The exhaust is checked to see if it is still fitted securely and whether there are any leaks. Also noise levels are checked and if it is deemed excessively noisy then it can result in a fail.

The cars fuel cap and pipes are checked to ensure they are secure and that there are no leaks. To check that there is an appropriate output of carbon dioxide your car will also be analysed via a specialised piece of equipment.

Windscreen & Mirrors

This is an area where many people can fail as even the smallest obstruction can deem your car unsuitable. Windscreens are checked for any cracks and anything over 10mm that is near the driver’s line of site is treading on dangerous ground.

Mirrors are checked to ensure they are secure and that they are visible from the driver seat. The quality of the mirrors is also checked to ensure that you get a clear view of the road.

Suspension & Tyres

Suspension joints are checked for any wear and tear and that they are secure. The springs are also inspected to see if they are in good condition and that the check absorbers are working as they should.

The condition of your tyres is checked to make sure there is no damage to them and that they are fitted to your car securely.  The tread of the tyre is also inspected which needs to be 1.6mm all the way around the tyre.

Remember that this is a very simple list just to give you that added bit of confidence when buying used cars. It is also worth stressing the importance of visiting a proven car dealership that perform rigorous checks on vehicles before they put them up for sale. These car dealerships also offer cheap car servicing compared to other garages which will help ensure your car stays in top condition providing you get your car serviced regularly.

Bristol Street Motors are a UK wide dealership specialising in new and used cars in a multitude of different makes and models. For more information visit www.bristolstreet.co.uk

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