How to avoid 5 of the most common MOT failures

Don't let the annual MOT test take your car off the road. Keep on top of the bits that could go wrong through the power of online shopping

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The MOT test is the annual compulsory mechanical check that most UK cars over three years old need to prove that they're roadworthy. Very often it's a piece of cake to pass, but as cars get older, the chances of something failing increases, and that risks falling foul of the MOT tester.

Much of the time, an MOT failure isn't anything serious to worry about. Change something, fix something up a bit, and it'll pass the retest. But retests usually cost money, and time, and they show up on the car's permanent record, which can be a bit of a blot when you're trying to sell it on; any conscientious buyer will have checked the car's MOT history before bidding, and a fail could be cause for concern. Or a discount, at least.

"What do you mean, a couple of advisories?" (Photo: Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash)

"What do you mean, a couple of advisories?" (Photo: Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash)

But never fear. All you need to do is run through a few basic checks of your car before it goes in for its test, and make sure things are ship-shape. Then if you need to replace anything, do it before you get told off.

One very quick and easy way of getting replacement bits is through eBay, which has its own dedicated car parts department, housing loads of official manufacturer stores. These range from carmakers like BMW, Ford and Toyota to major suppliers like Bridgestone, Mobil and Shell. That means you could get any replacement bits and bobs quickly and easily, but safe in the knowledge that what you're getting is legit.

So, here are five of the most common ways your car could fail its MOT, and how you can stop that happening with just a few taps on your smartphone. Assuming you have the eBay app.

Lightbulbs

One of the most frequent causes of MOT failure is a blown bulb, and they're so simple to fix. Well, usually anyway; some manufacturers make it easier than others to get into the back of a headlight... But that's what YouTube tutorials are for.

"One of these should be fine, right?" (Photo: Juan Carlos Becerra on Unsplash)

"One of these should be fine, right?" (Photo: Juan Carlos Becerra on Unsplash)

Anyway, get in your car and activate every light you can – headlights, rear lights, brake lights, indicators, fog lamps. Get someone to watch from the outside and make sure they're working, or video it on your phone. If any don't work, replace them. A new bulb could be yours on eBay for just a few quid. There's a dedicated section of the site for them, and if you enter your car's details, eBay will even tell you which bulbs will fit your motor. Then you can filter by genuine OEM parts or aftermarket bits and find exactly what you're after. While you're at it, check the headlight aim too, as that's another regular fail point.

Tyres

This is a pretty important one. Tyres, after all, are the only bit of the car that makes contact with the road. Unless something's gone seriously wrong. So it's vital to make sure they're in good nick, and not just because you'll fail the MOT if they're damaged or worn.

To check them, first make sure they're inflated to the correct pressure; you'll find a guide either on a label in the car, or in the handbook. Then get down to ground level and inspect the sidewalls for any cuts, nicks or bulges. Better safe than sorry; if it looks a big dodge, replace it. The last thing you want is a blow out at 70mph.

Yes, that will do nicely

Yes, that will do nicely

Lastly, check the tread depth. This will wear over time, and the legal limit is 1.6mm from tyre surface to the bottom of a groove. Lower than that and you'll fail your test. To be honest though, you should really replace them earlier than that; we'd get rid once they dip below 3mm, as you won't be able to brake as well, or displace surface water in the wet. You can get a dedicated tyre measuring gauge for next to nothing if you want, but you can also check tread depth with a 20p. Hold it in the groove, and if the tread is below the border around the edge of the coin, you'll need to replace the tyre. eBay has LOADS to choose from, from pretty much every manufacturer and in all sorts of sizes. Get 'em ordered and your local tyre fitter will whack them on for you before the MOT.

Brakes

Sure, driving's great, but you know what else is great? Stopping when you want to. And you can't do that if your brakes are knackered. Most aspects of the braking system are best left to the experts to fix, but it's easy to check if your brake pads are near the end of their life, and you can order new ones on eBay. A telltale sign that your pads are on their way out is if the brake pedal feels less firm than it used to, and has a bit more give.

Rest assured that you won't fail your MOT for not having gold brake calipers

Rest assured that you won't fail your MOT for not having gold brake calipers

You may well be able to check your pads without getting your wheels off. You're looking to see how thick the pad is, so get a torch and have a squizz at the calipers. You'll see the pads mounted either side of the disc, and many pads have a wear indicator slot on them. If that's worn away, it's time to get some new ones. Watch out also for a squealing noise while braking, or on some vehicles a notification on the dashboard. If in any doubt, get an expert to check.

Wipers

"Ah, wiper, we meet at last. Prepare to die"

"Ah, wiper, we meet at last. Prepare to die"

This is a fairly easy one; do your wipers work? If they don't clear water effectively from the windscreen, then that's an MOT fail waiting to happen. Changing a wiper blade is one of the easiest fixes on a car, so get onto eBay, get yourself some spanky new blades and get them fitted.

Fluids

It's easy to only worry about your car's fluids when they run out, but NO. You need them, so make sure you've got enough. Washer fluid's an easy one, but don't forget about engine oil. To check it, make sure the engine's cold and open the bonnet. Take out the dipstick, clean it with a rag or tissue, and dip it back in again. Then remove it and make sure the oil level is between the Min and Max markers. Need more? Then eBay has you covered. Get it, pour it, job done.

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