Halloween horrors: frightful MOT failure finds

halloween horror MOT finds

Halloween looms. As we carve our pumpkins and prepare for trick or treat, it’s worth considering the real-life horrors our country’s MOT testers face all year-round. 

To illustrate that, the Driver and Vehicle Standard’s Agency (DVSA) has shared some of the scariest sights MOT testers have seen in their daily lives. “Just when we think MOT testers out there have seen it all, something else comes into their garages to make them gasp,” says the DVSA’s website. Let’s get into it.

Frankenstein bolts

halloween horror MOT finds

In the face of a bolt deficiency, after the originals fell out, a Suzuki motorcycle rider secured his brake caliper with monster bolts. If they’d fallen out and the calliper broke free, that’s the front brakes out of action.

And to think the owner rode the bike to the test station in this condition…

Twisted terror

halloween horror MOT finds

If you’ve ever used a hose, and the water stopped, and you found kinks in that hose were the cause, you’ll be able to empathise, and cringe, at this one. 

Imagine that, but with a brake pipe designed to feed precious brake fluid to your stoppers. The new flexi hose spun the pipe to the point of strangling fluid supply.

Suspension at stake

halloween horror MOT finds

A lot is made of how Morgans are part-constructed out of ash wood. In the case of this classic British sports car, it’s quaint. In the case of a bit that’s chucked in by an ‘ingenuitive’ owner to stop suspension falling apart, it’s scary.

Witches brew

halloween horror MOT finds

In the car world, few concoctions are scarier than when oxygen, water and a little bit of salt set to work on steel. Rust is the car enthusiast’s equivalent of the poison lacing a chalice.

And it really can riddle your ride, to the point that desperate measures are resorted to. In this case, someone re-purposed a lager can, in combination with some filler, to create something resembling a safe wheel arch. It definitely didn’t work…

10 easy pre-MOT checks to make sure your car passes

MOT test checks

It’s October, which means a new batch of September-registered cars recently hit the road. It also means that many of 2016’s new cars will be due their first MOT test.

Following a raft of changes introduced in May 2018, the MOT test has never been more challenging. Under strict new rules, faults are graded depending on how dangerous they are, and greater emphasis has been placed on diesel car emissions. It’s as a result of this that MOT emissions test failures have nearly doubled.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), nearly 50 percent of all faults found on MOTs could be avoided by carrying out regular maintenance or by checking some basic items before the test.

Further MOT analysis reveals that around 40 percent of cars fail their MOT at the first attempt, costing motorists time and money. We can’t guarantee that these simple steps will result in a pass, but they should minimise the chances of a failed MOT.


This one is blindingly obvious, but so many motorists forget to check the lights before the MOT test. Indeed, a surprising 30 percent of faults found during the MOT test relate to lighting and signalling.

Make sure you check all of the lights – headlights, sidelights, rear lights, hazard lights and indicators – and be sure to include the brake lights in your inspection. Either ask a friend to press the brake pedal, or reverse up to a reflective surface. Make sure the high-level brake light is functioning correctly.

Number plate

Number plates (also known as licence plates) must show the car’s registration number correctly. You could be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT if you drive with incorrectly spaced letters or numbers.

The number plates will also be inspected for condition, secure attachment and colour. Give yourself plenty of time to order a new set of plates – you can only order from a registered number plate supplier. You will need to prove your identity and show that you’re entitled to the registration number.

Wheels and tyres

Pre-MOT checks

Firstly, check that the wheels and tyres are undamaged – you can do this yourself or at a local tyre fitter. The minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6mm, and anything less than this will be marked as a ‘fail’.

However, we’d recommend changing the tyres when the tread reaches 3mm. While spare wheels and tyres are not inspected, it’s worth noting that cars first used on or after 1 January 2012 will be checked to make sure the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is working.

Note: 10 percent of all MOT faults are related to tyres.

Seats and seatbelts

Check that the driver’s seat can be adjusted and that all seats are securely fitted. It’s essential that the seatbacks can be fixed in the upright position.

While you’re there, check the entire length of the seatbelt for damage and pull on them sharply to ensure that they react appropriately.


Take a look at the windscreen to ensure that there are no cracks or damage to the glass. Any damage larger than 40mm will result in a ‘fail’, as will any chips or damage wider than 10mm in the area swept by the wipers.


Checking a windscreen wiper blade

On the subject of wipers, make sure they are able to clear the windscreen of rain. If it’s not raining, use a watering can or a hose. The wiper blades should be free of damage or tears – it’s likely to be cheaper to buy a set of new blades in advance rather than relying on a distress purchase at the MOT test centre.

Note: 8.5 percent of all MOT faults are related to ‘Driver’s view of the road’. So, if you have stickers, toys or air-fresheners obstructing your view, remove them before the test.


Your car could fail its MOT for having no screenwash, so make sure the washer bottle is topped up in advance. You’ll also be turned away from the MOT test centre if the vehicle has insufficient engine oil or fuel. The MOT tester will also check the power steering oil.


Again, it’s a simple one to check, but when was the last time you used your horn? Make sure it works and is the suitable horn for the vehicle.

Warning lights

If your car’s dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree you could be in for a rough ride at the MOT testing station. A failed main beam warning light will result in a fail, as will the ABS light, engine warning light, brake fluid light and airbag warning light. Get all dashboard lights checked out in advance.

Suspension and brakes

Pressing the brake pedal

One in 10 of all MOT fails are related to brake issues, and you can minimise the risk by testing the brakes every day. If you hear any strange noises or the car pulls to one side, consult a garage.

Similarly, the MOT tester will check the suspension, so press down on each front wing to check for worn shock absorbers. If the car ‘bounces’ up and down rather than returning to the correct position, they may be worn. Also, listen out for knocking noises

These simple checks should only take a few minutes, but it’ll be more hassle arranging for any repair work to be carried out or booking a re-test. For a full list of the car parts checked during the MOT test, visit the government website.

Remember, an MOT test isn’t the same as having your car serviced and doesn’t provide an accurate description of the vehicle’s general mechanical condition. Regular service and maintenance will almost certainly improve your chances of an MOT pass and fewer advisories.

Read more:

Offensive MOT advisory notice ‘completely unacceptable’

offensive MOT advisory note

An offensive MOT advisory notice for a 2004 Smart has been branded “completely unacceptable” by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Forget failure notices for diesel particulate filters, this MOT advisory requires a profanity filter.

An item on the car’s MOT history has been dubbed “the most offensive MOT advisory ever”, following widespread sharing on social media.

The MOT advisory – which isn’t safe for work – was entered by an MOT tester at an independent garage, and called the Smart’s owner a rather crude word.

To compound the misery for the owner, the Smart failed its MOT on account of a registration plate lamp not working.

The DVSA is investigating the MOT advisory notice

Offensive MOT advisory

Neil Barlow, DVSA’s head of vehicle engineering, told Motoring Research: “DVSA’s priority is to help everyone keep their vehicle safe to drive.

“The comment posted on the MOT history service is completely unacceptable and how now been removed. We are investigating this further.

“Since 2017, there has been a profanity filter in place to stop MOT testers being able to include these words on a certificate.”

Last month, the DVSA published a new guide setting out 15 important points to ensure MOT testers carry out each test to highest possible standard. There are penalties for failing to meet the required standards, and the DVSA can ban a garage from running an MOT centre for up to five years in the most serious cases.

MOT test stations are required to check at least one MOT test from each tester every two months and must check that new staff are eligible to meet the standards. All MOT testers must complete their annual training and assessment programmes by the end of March every year.

A total of 31 million MOT tests were recorded on the DVSA database in 2018, each one free of swear words and offensive remarks. That said, we suspect the responses to many MOT failure notices were greeted with phrases that aren’t necessarily safe for delicate eyes and ears.

‘Problem area’ for car MOT failures in Scotland

Scotland has an MOT fail epidemic

An investigation into where most MOT failures occur in the UK reveals a problem area in Scotland.

Four towns within a hundred miles of each other in northern Scotland all come in the top 10 places cars are most likely to fail an MOT. More than one in three motorists faces an MOT fail in Perth, Aberdeen, Dundee and Kirkcaldy.

The latter two towns have a particularly poor track record, with nearly four in 10 cars failing. Respective MOT fail-rates are 33.03 percent for Perth, 34.30 percent for Aberdeen, 39.40 percent for Dundee and 39.45 percent for Kirkcaldy.

The figures come from Department for Transport (DfT) data, as collated by CarTakeBack. 

The worst places for MOT failure

Scotland has an MOT fail epidemic

  • 1. Kirkcaldy – 39.45%
  • 2. Dundee – 39.40%
  • 3. Truro – 35.56%
  • 4. Plymouth – 35.36%
  • 5. Aberdeen – 34.30%
  • 6. Exeter – 33.60%
  • 7. Torquay – 33.52%
  • 8. Hull – 33.35%
  • 9. Perth – 33.03%

What causes the most MOT fails?

The most likely cause of MOT failures is lighting, reflectors and electrical equipment (12.8 percent). Make sure all your lights on the outside are working, and that your reflectors are where they need to be. Also, be sure there are no warning lights on your dashboard.

Scotland has an MOT fail epidemic

The next reason for failing is suspension (9.1 percent) followed by brakes (7.5 percent) and then tyres (5.8 percent).

Visibility is next (5.2 percent), and is an easy one to sort. Make sure your wipers are clearing your windscreen properly, and there are no chips. This comes from DVSA data on failures between May 2018 and March 2019.

Top 10 reasons for MOT failures in the past year

  • Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment – 12.8%
  • Suspension – 9.1%
  • Brakes – 7.5%
  • Tyres – 5.8%
  • Visibility – 5.2%
  • Body, chassis, structure – 4%
  • Noise, emissions and leaks – 3.3%
  • Steering – 1.9%
  • Seat belts and supplementary restraint systems – 1.3%
  • Identification of the vehicle – 0.4%

The cars most and least likely to pass an MOT

MOT test winners and losers

The dreaded MOT test: it’s something we all face with cars over three years old, and you can never take a pass for granted, regardless of how meticulously your car is maintained. Now, we reveal the top 10 winners and losers at MOT testing stations across the UK, according to figures obtained by What Car?.

The cars least likely to fail an MOT

MOT test winners and losers

Firstly, the winners. These are the cars to consider buying if you want your MOT test to be smooth sailing. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that even these cars don’t offer a free pass. Maintenance and sympathetic driving are still integral to the ongoing performance and safety of your car.

Smart Fortwo

MOT test winners and losers

This might come as a surprise to some, but the 2007-2014 Smart is the 10th-placed MOT hero here. Just 14.4 percent fail when they show up for a test.

Ford Ka

MOT test winners and losers

A trend you might note is that many of the cars in the top performers are quite new. That’s no coincidence. The 2008-2016 second-generation Ford Ka does well, with a 13.5 percent fail-rate. Read on and you’ll discover its predecessor isn’t such a strong performer…

Hyundai i10

MOT test winners and losers

Hyundai’s city car is competent and deservedly popular. Not too stylish, mind, but it’s clearly dependable, with just 12.5 percent of 2008-2013 models failing the MOT test.

Suzuki Alto

MOT test winners and losers

Suzuki is famous for producing affordable, dependable and likeable little cars. The Alto is a bit quirky, but it delivers the goods when it comes to MOT tests. The 2009-2015 model manages an impressive 11.7 percent fail-rate.

Seat Mii

MOT test winners and losers

Seat’s tiny tot joins its Volkswagen Group siblings on this list of MOT stars. Just 10.8 percent of Miis fail the annual test.

Vauxhall Adam

MOT test winners and losers

Much-derided by car journalists, the Vauxhall Adam is at least decently reliable, achieving a mere 10.6 percent fail-rate.

Kia Picanto

MOT test winners and losers

Being related to the Hyundai i10, it makes sense that the funky little Picanto does well. The 2011-2017 model has an impressive 9.8 percent MOT test fail-rate.

Volkswagen Up

MOT test winners and losers

The Volkswagen Up makes it into the top three; only 6.7 percent don’t pass an MOT first time.

Peugeot 108

MOT test winners and losers

The Up is beaten by the Peugeot 108 (whose Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1 siblings, interestingly, are nowhere to be seen). It achieves a six percent fail-rate.

Skoda Citigo

MOT test winners and losers

The Citigo comes joint-top with the Peugeot, also on six percent. Cheap to buy and run, it’s clearly also very reliable.

The cars most likely to fail an MOT

MOT test winners and losers

Now we’ve seen the best, it’s time to consider the worst performers in MOT tests. Spoiler alert: many come from the same brands as the best cars. So choose wisely.

Citroen C2

MOT test winners and losers

We start with the Citroen C2, which was produced between 2003 and 2009. It’s the 10th-worst performer, with 28.1 percent failing the MOT.

Chevrolet Matiz

MOT test winners and losers

As do exactly the same proportion of 2005-2010 Chevrolet Matiz cars that are tested.

Seat Arosa

MOT test winners and losers

In contrast to the strong performance of the Mii, grandpa Arosa doesn’t have a good time at MOT test stations. The 1997-2005 model fails on 28.3 percent of occasions.

Fiat Seicento

MOT test winners and losers

The Fiat Seicento, made between 1998 and 2004, is even worse, with 31.1 percent failing the MOT.

Peugeot 106

MOT test winners and losers

Unlike the top-performer 108, the 106 has a hard time here. We suspect advancing age and lower value mean that these older models are withering away at a rate that owners aren’t willing to keep up with. In total, 31.7 percent of 106s fall short of the MOT test standard.

Hyundai Amica

MOT test winners and losers

Think of the Amica as a Hyundai i10 from another time. The 2000 to 2003 model fails its MOT at a rate of 32.7 percent.

Suzuki Alto

MOT test winners and losers

The 2004 to 2009 Suzuki Alto doesn’t fare well either. It also scores a 32.7 percent fail-rate. Remarkably, this is the second Alto here (after the top-performing 2009-2015 model), but not the last…

Ford Ka

MOT test winners and losers

Hopefully this isn’t a sign that the second-generation Ka has some hard times ahead. The first Ka, built between 1996 and 2008, has a 34.6 percent fail-rate. Another sign that the cheapest cars are potentially the least looked-after?

Suzuki Alto

MOT test winners and losers

The final Alto is almost the worst performer. The 1997-2004 model has a 36.4 percent MOT fail-rate. More evidence that age and cheapness are a killer.

Daewoo Matiz

MOT test winners and losers

The second Matiz, this time a Daewoo, is the biggest MOT loser. With a fail-rate of 38.8 percent, the 1998-2005 Matiz flunks an MOT on nearly four out of every 10 visits to the test station.

Conclusion on MOT stats

MOT test winners and losers

It’s interesting that the worst and best performers broadly come from the same brands. Does this suggest an enormous improvement in quality from one generation to the next? We don’t think so. More likely, older and cheaper models aren’t ageing well, and that – combined with not being cared for because they’re not worth much – means they get a bad record.

A car can be a reflection of its owner. Look after your car well and it should look after you.

A shocking 7 IN 10 cars are running worn brakes or tyres

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

New DVSA MOT data collated by Warranty Direct shows seven in 10 cars on the road have brakes or tyres that would warrant an MOT advisory (or indeed a combination of both).

The data was used in combination with claim stats from more than 50,000 Warranty Direct policies between March 2018 and May 2019.

During that time, there were 4.8 million instances of sub-optimal tyres and 4.6 million below-par brakes. Overall, tyres accounted for 35 percent of advisory cautions, while brakes made up 34 percent.

A total of 8.7 million vehicles left an MOT station between March 2018 and May 2019 with advisories on their records. The number of individual advisories topped 15 million, so each of these cars had an average of around two MOT advisories.

What is an MOT advisory?

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

An advisory is a fault that doesn’t warrant a fail at the time of the test, but should be addressed before the next MOT test. It’s generally considered that an advisory will turn into a minor or a major fault (and thus a fail) during the following 12 months.

Being a millimetre or two above the minimum tread depth on a tyre is one example of an advisory.

“The recent high number of advisory issues are of significant concern and indicate a large proportion of drivers are taking potential, unnecessary risks when it comes to vehicle safety,” said Simon Ackers, CEO of Warranty Direct.

Part-worn tyres

“Ignoring or leaving advisory issues for too long could lead to serious accidents and high repair costs for drivers. We recommend all motorists take the correct safety measures and deal with any advisory issues as soon as possible.”

Brakes and tyres top the list of defective items that cause road accidents in the United Kingdom.

Brakes took the lead in 2017, causing 570 accidents. Inadequate tyres caused 472 accidents during the same period.

Brakes and tyres: how to stay safe

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

When it comes to tyres, a minimum 3mm of tread is recommended across the width of the tyre. Anything less than 1.6mm is an MOT failure

Also look out for cracking, flat spots and damage to your wheels as other forms of degradation. Keep an eye on your tracking and wheel alignment to maximise the life of your tyre.

MOT advisories on tyres and brakes

As for brakes, pads will be a major fault if they have worn below the wear indicator. If they’re below 1.5mm, the fault is considered dangerous: both are an MOT fail. The RAC recommends your pads should be replaced if the material wears below 3mm.

For discs, significant wear will constitute a major fault. Being insecure or fractured is considered dangerous. The more discs wear down, the more likely they are to crack. 

MOT mayhem: 10 million cars fail new test in first year

10 million MOT failures 2019 UK

A year on from new MOT testing regulations and standards being introduced, breakdown company Green Flag has revealed the results.

Overall, 10 million vehicles (nearly a third) failed the MOT test during the past 12 months. Also, nearly one in 10 failed with a ‘dangerous’ fault: the most serious grade in the new three-tier MOT system, with ‘major’ and ‘minor’ coming below.

Of the 30.5 million MOT tests taken, 10 million cars failed, with 2.8 million of those for ‘dangerous’ faults. 

10 million MOT failures 2019 UK

New MOT rules say that drivers can be fined up to £2,500 if they drive a car without a valid MOT.

“Drivers should be aware of the risks of driving a faulty car,” said Mark Newbery of Green Flag.

“It not only endangers other motorists, but drivers and their passengers alike. Problems with vehicles will only worsen if not seen to, costing more money in the long run.

“We are urging drivers to thoroughly check their cars and repair any problems immediately, to give them the best chance of passing the new MOT tests.”

Where are the UK’s most dangerous cars?

10 million MOT failures 2019 UK

The South West, Wales and Scotland all ranked worse than the average one-in-three failure rate, with 38, 35 and 35 percent respectively.

The East Midlands and the North East are bang on the average, with a 33 percent fail rate. Cars in London and the East of England are the safest. Greater London had a 29 percent fail-rate, while the East had a 31 percent fail-rate.

Emissions-related MOT failures DOUBLE since last year

MOT emissions failures double inside a year

A quarter of a million cars failed their MOT tests on emissions in the six months following the changes to MOT rules deployed in May 2018. Tracking steady, that means 1.5 million emissions-related failures by May of this year.

How have emissions standards changed for an MOT?

The recent changes are described as “the most comprehensive changes to the rest regarding air quality” by vehicle data provider Glass’s. It’s predicting a record number of cars and vans being deemed beyond economic repair. Perhaps predictably, diesel cars that are feeling the worst of the heat.

Changes to the test that are causing the most failures

Idling fines could go up soon

  • Stricter emissions limits for cars with diesel particulate filters (DPFs)
  • Automatic failure for cars with tampered or removed DPFs
  • Automatic failure for cars fitted with DPFs with smoky exhaust gasses

That makes diesel vans four and a half times more likely to fail the new emissions elements of the MOT. The raft of failures can only go up. Diesel particulate filters are expensive and sometimes difficult to change, therefore making it difficult to justify carrying out the required work to get a diesel with a dodgy DPF through an MOT.

Tighter regulations, reduced appeal

MOT emissions failures double inside a year

The associated risks of buying diesel are affecting values. A year’s MOT has never been more vital to maintaining the value of your DPF-equipped diesel car.

Weariness around diesel, both in the new and secondhand market, only continues to increase, as the fuel’s overall market share contuse to dwindle.

MOT emissions failures double inside a year

“The latest revision in MOT rules is not the biggest change since the MOT began back in 1960 when the test only affected cars over 10 years of age,” said Jonathan Brown, car editor at Glass’s.

“However, these changes that aim to improve air quality, will impact older diesels significantly with failure rates likely to increase.”

It’s now easier to replace a lost MOT certificate

lost mot certificate

It’s now easier to replace a lost MOT certificate thanks to a new online service launched by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Last year, more than 636,000 duplicate MOT certificates were issued in Great Britain after vehicle owners lost or damaged the original. That’s around two percent of all MOT certificates issued in 2018.

The new service will allow vehicle owners to view and save their MOT certificate as a PDF and print it if required. The free service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

All MOT certificates issued since 20 May 2018 are available – including passes and fails – but for now, only owners of cars and motorcycles can use the lost MOT certificate service. Lorries, buses and trailers are expected to be added later this year.

How to use the lost MOT certificate service

lost mot certificate service

The new service is part of the existing MOT history service, and the option to replace a lost certificate appears alongside the test record. To view the certificate, the user simply types in the 11-digit reference number from the vehicle log book (V5C).

Simply head to the ‘replace a lost or damaged MOT certificate’ section of the government website.

Duplicate certificates will still be available from MOT centres, but owners could be charged up to £10 for the service. 

The DVSA is warning motorists not to use one of the unofficial websites that charge people for unofficial MOT certificates. These companies do not have a licence or permission from the DVSA to produce lookalike certificates.

This new service means that there’s no reason to visit a third party website, as replacement MOT certificates are available for free from the official government website.

Click here for a list of things to check before your car’s MOT test. Also, take a look at our list of cars most and least likely to pass an MOT.

MOT misery: March to see record failure numbers

MOT failures March

Analysis of 90 million previously unpublished MOT results over the last three years reveals that March could be a record month for MOT failures. Over 600,000 more vehicles are due to go for their inspections this month.

We’re well over three years into the era of PCP, as cars bought in late 2015 and early 2016 turn three years old and consequently go for their first MOT. Though you’d expect newer cars to pass without issue, silly problems could see an unnecessarily high proportion of the 600,000 vehicles failing the test.

Bulbs, brakes and tyre tread depths make up for as much as 57 percent of MOT failures – silly things that could easily be fixed.

Just on tyres, motorists are up to £30 million down as a result of seven million failures on tyres over the last three years, with 10 percent of failures blamed on tyres.

“It is crucial that motorists understand the seriousness of driving with worn brakes or tyres given the impact it has on the safety of everyone on the road,” said Mark Griffiths, safety spokesman at Continental Tyres.

“Tyres are the vital connection to the road on all four corners, and as the leading advocate of road safety we want to make people aware of how they can save time and money through quick, simple checks.”

garages post-brexit

One in three cars will fail because of problems with lights, either because they’re out or because they’re not at the correct level. Meanwhile, as many as 17 percent of failures are due to brakes. These three parts are arguably some of the most essential components when it comes to vehicle safety.

March is by far the biggest month for MOT tests, given it’s also usually one of the most popular months for buying cars. The plate change sees buyers flocking to dealers and consequently, three years late, queueing up at the MOT station. As many as 20 percent of yearly new car registrations are made in March.