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 Extra safety on the roads

May 2018

Old red vintage car
Cars over 40 years old will be exempt from the new MoT test

For car owners, the MoT test has been a part of our lives since 1960, when it was introduced by the then Minister of Transport Ernest Marples. MoT simply stands for Ministry of Transport.

However, later this month, on May 20th, there are some big changes taking place to the MoT test and it is worthwhile being aware of the new regulations in good time before you need your vehicle checked.

Generally the test is becoming stricter to bring it more in line with the EU Roadworthiness Package, a European Union directive.

New categories are being introduced to indicate the level of problems found. Problems will now be classified under Dangerous, Major or Minor defects. Dangerous defect indicates there is an immediate risk to road safety or impact the environment. Major defect means the vehicle is not as safe as it should be, could put other road users at risk and could have an impact on the environment.  A Minor defect implies the problem has no significant effect on safety or impact on the environment.

If your car is classified as having a Dangerous or Major defect, then this results in an automatic MoT test failure. Cars with Minor defects can pass the MoT test, but the faults will be recorded on the MoT test certificate and also on the online MoT test record.

Briefly the categories are summed up as below:

Item result

What it means about the item

How it affects your MoT test result


A direct and immediate risk to road safety or has a serious impact on the environment.

Do not drive the vehicle until it’s been repaired.



It may affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk or have an impact on the environment.

Repair it immediately.



No significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment.

Repair as soon as possible.



It could become more serious in the future.

Monitor and repair it if necessary.



It meets the minimum legal standard.

Make sure it continues to meet the standard.


During the MoT test, some new things will be tested, including running lights on vehicles first used from March 1st this year. This isn’t an immediate problem as most of these cars won’t be due for their first MoT test until 2021 when they are three years old.
However, other checks will now include:

  • Underinflated tyres
  • Contaminated brake fluid
  • Fluid leaks (posing an environmental risk)
  • Brake pad warning lights; missing brake pads or discs
  • Headlight washers on vehicles first used from September 1st 2009 (if fitted)

The new MoT test will also introduce tougher tests on diesel cars.  There will be stricter limits for emissions for cars with a diesel particulate filter (DPF); if smoke of any colour comes from the exhaust; if there is any evidence that the DPF has been tampered with

There will also be some changed to the actual MoT test Certificate once issued, including a change in design and a listing of any defects under the new categories.

There is also a change on the testing of old vehicles. At the moment, only vehicles first built before 1960 are exempt from the MoT test. With the new regulations, cars, vans and motorcycles won’t need an MoT test if they are over 40 years old and haven’t been changed substantially. The 40 years is taken from the date the vehicle was first registered.

One thing that many of us don’t probably know is that it seems a lot of drivers in the UK are being refused an MoT test because their vehicles are too dirty. According to Scrap Car Comparison, over 2,000 people were refused an MoT test because either their vehicle was too dirty to allow a full MoT test to take place, or because of environmental health grounds.  A 4x4 that turns up covered in mud can be given a refusal which means it avoids the failure and can drive back to clean up before being tested.

Evidently the most common issues that cause a problem with the MoT test are lack of tyre tread depth (falling below the 1.6mm limit); worn out brake pads or a lack of windscreen washer fluid.

Of course the objective of all this is to ensure only safe vehicles are driven on our roads, and anyone with a car should be grateful for this. But it is worth being aware of the new changes coming in so that you are not met with any nasty surprises when you go for your next MoT test.

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