Tips for keeping your car road-safe and MOT-ready

Have you fully embraced getting out and about in your car again? If not, the government’s plans to further return us to normality over the next couple of months will most likely see this change. You may not have used your vehicle during the last year anywhere near as much as you’ve done previously, so it’s important to ensure it’s still fully roadworthy before using it more regularly or for longer journeys.

Booking a service or mini-service is always an option, but with many garages still busily working through backlogs as a result of the government’s 6-month MOT extension last year, you might find you need to do a few checks yourself, especially if your MOT isn’t due for another few months. You can, of course, book an MOT a month ahead of its due date without it affecting your certificate expiry date next year. This means if you book your MOT a full month before your renewal date, it’s effectively valid for 13 months – providing your vehicle passes first time. According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, for those vehicles that don’t pass first time, nearly 50% of faults could be avoided by carrying out some simple maintenance, such as replacing bulbs, wipers and tyres.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that because of the government’s MOT extension this time last year, September onwards is due to be a particularly busy time for testing centres and garages, so plan ahead to avoid the rush and keep costs down with the following handy tips.

Check all your lights work

The easiest way to do this is to get someone to help you. With one of you sitting in your car, the other can walk around checking that everything is working. Don’t forget fog lights, hazard lights, indicators, brake lights and reversing lights. This short video will explain further. You can buy replacement bulbs and change them yourself following the guidance in your handbook or by watching how it’s done on one of the many YouTube videos available. Alternatively, many garages – as well as Halfords – will fit a new lightbulb for a small fee.

Have a close look at your tyres

Consult your car manual or a suitable source on the internet to check what your particular car’s tyre pressure should be – it may even be noted on a sticker inside the driver’s door. Then top them up at a service station or by using your own pump. Also give your tyres a visual check for cuts, bulges and other signs of damage. The tread should be a minimum of 1.6mm. A quick way to test is to take a 20p coin and place it into the grooves of your tyre – if you can see the outer rim of the coin, you should get your tyres properly checked. Check out this short video for guidance.

Test your brakes

Testing your brakes can be done every time you set off. If they make any strange noises or your car pulls to one side, get it booked into a garage immediately. You can also check the brake fluid levels. Look for the high/low markings on the reservoir and top it up if necessary.

Check you’ve got a clear view of the road

It’s easy to assess your windscreen wipers and washers. Top up your washer fluids if necessary and replace wiper blades if they show signs of damage or if they are more than a year old. Also check your view of the road is clear of any stickers, toys, air fresheners and chips or cracks. Your rear-view mirror must be adjustable and in good condition too.

Review your car’s MOT history

This can be done easily – you can do it for any vehicle, so bear it in mind if you are ever looking to buy a second-hand car. It’s also worth doing before you present your car to an MOT testing station so you are as prepared as you can be for any points of possible failure. Having said that, anything under the ‘Advisories’ section of your current MOT certificate can be dealt with at any time during the 12 months before your next MOT is due. 

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