From May 20th this year, the standard UK MOT test is changing, with new tougher guidelines set to be introduced. With stricter limits on diesel emissions, and new categories being brought in to classify common defects including dashboard warning lights, there’s a lot to remember. So, to make sure you’re properly prepared the next time your car goes in for its MOT, you need to familiarise yourself with the new rules and regulations.

Here, we offer a complete guide on everything you need to know about the new MOT test changes.

What Do the New MOT Test Categories Mean?

mechanic fixing car wheel

Defects found during your MOT will now be categorised as minor, major or dangerous. Issues classed as either major or dangerous will result in your car failing its MOT. Minor faults will be listed on your vehicle’s MOT certificate and online MOT record but your car will still pass. Here’s how it works:

  • According to gov.uk, a minor defect is any issue that has “no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment.” If the inspector finds a minor defect your car will still pass its MOT, but they’ll tell you to repair it as soon as possible.
  • A major defect is anything the tester thinks may “affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk or have an impact on the environment.” If your vehicle has a major defect it will fail its MOT, and you’ll need to fix it to make it roadworthy..
  • A dangerous defect is one that poses “a direct and immediate risk to road safety or has a serious impact on the environment.” Again, this is a direct fail, and you will be told not to drive until it’s been repaired.

I Drive a Diesel Car – How Will I Be Affected by the New Rules?

If you drive a diesel you’re going to be affected by the rule changes more than most. There’s been a lot of focus on pollution and emissions recently, especially with the diesel cars emission scandal, so lots of the changes have been made to try and deal with this.

Major defects for diesel cars include if the tester:

  • Sees smoke coming from the exhaust.
  • Discovers that the diesel particulate filter (DPF) has been tampered with in any way.

There’s some leeway on this second point if you can prove that you’ve altered the DPF for a legitimate reason, like cleaning the filter temporarily, but these new regulations go much further than the previous rules – in the past your DPF had to be totally removed for you to fail.

mechanic man checking car

These tougher checks have been introduced following recent reports that thousands of drivers are ripping out the filter to stop it from clogging and causing a breakdown, leading to dangerous increases in pollution. If your DPF bothers you, check out our cleaner to see how you can avoid having to remove it or pay for it to be cleaned.

What Other New Checks Are Included in the MOT?

There will be a number of extra items tested under the new MOT guidelines. Here’s what else your mechanic will be looking for:

  • Any obviously underinflated tyres.
  • Whether your brake fluid has been contaminated.
  • Any fluid leaks that might pose an environmental risk.
  • Whether your brake pad warning lights are working correctly.
  • If your brake pads are badly worn, and if any brake pads or discs are missing.

There’ll also be new checks for vehicles first used from 1 September 2009. These are:

  • Making sure reversing lights are working as they should.
  • Checking headlight washers are working correctly.

As well as these new checks, dashboard monitoring is also set to get stricter as any lit warning light will result in failure of the test. It’s vital that you deal with any problems which are causing a warning light to show on the dashboard before the test, or it could mean an instant failure under new guidelines.

mechanic with checklist

Finally, there’s a new test for daytime running lights on cars first used from 1 March 2018; although the majority of these vehicles won’t need an MOT test until 2021, when they’re three years old.

I Own a Classic Car – How Will I Be Affected?

There’s good news for classic car owners, because as of May 20th, any car manufactured or first registered 40 years ago or more will no longer have to pass an MOT test. At the moment only cars registered before 1960 are exempt from MOT testing – around 197,000 cars on UK roads – but this will now be extended to include any vehicle built before 1978. Your car will still need an MOT though if it’s had major changes, including::

  • If the chassis or bodyshell of your vintage car, including sub-frames, have been replaced or altered. Replacements made with the same pattern as the original spec are OK.
  • Major alterations to the steering and suspension.
  • Replacing the engine with one that has a different number of cylinders than the original, and so cannot be considered alternative original equipment.

Your classic car may also fail to qualify if:

  • It has been issued with a Q registration.
  • It is a kit car or kit-converted car.
  • It is a reconstructed classic, as defined by DVLA guidelines.

If you’re unsure whether your classic car meets the criteria for exemption, we’d recommend consulting a historic vehicles expert. You can also find help and information on the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs website.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Here are some important factors that will remain the same after the new rules are brought in on May 20th – and they’re worth remembering:

  • There’ll be no change to the maximum fees MOT centres are allowed to charge.
  • A new vehicle will still need to have its first MOT at three years, after a recent proposal to extend it to four was scrapped.
  • If your vehicle has been issued with a Statutory Off Road Notification (or SORN) and you want to drive it on public roads again, you need to re-tax the vehicle, at which point the SORN will automatically expire. You can then drive the vehicle to and from any pre-arranged MOT appointments.
  • You can still be fined upwards of £1,000 if you’re caught driving a vehicle without a valid MOT.

So there you have it – everything you need to know about the upcoming MOT test changes. Be sure to read through the new guidelines carefully, so you can go into your next MOT fully prepared.

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