Fail-safe MOT preparation - what you should be doing

Car Check
Car Check

A staggering 40 per cent of cars fail their MOT tests each year. But what's more surprising is that many of these failures could have been prevented by making some simple checks. For a small outlay, some could even be fixed at home. We've compiled a list of checks and repairs to help you make sure your car passes its all-important MOT test.


Tyres connect your car to the road, so making sure they're in good condition, correctly inflated and correctly fitted are essential safety checks that form part of your car's MOT test. UK law requires that car tyres have tread of at least 1.6mm in depth, though many specialists advise that tyres be changed before this limit is reached. This is because tyre thread depth not only affect a car's cornering ability, it can also drastically reduce its stopping distances on both dry and wet roads. recommends this easy test to check the depth of the tread on your tyres. Simply place a 20p piece into one of the main tread grooves of the tyre - if the outer band of the coin is obscured, then your tyre's tread is above the legal limit. If you can still see the band around the coin, your tread depth may be beneath the legal limit and it could be time to buy new tyres.

eBay offers a fantastic range of tyres for all vehicle makes and models and its tyre finder tool will help you to easily narrow down the choices to find the options that are correct for yours.

Tyre tread
Tyre tread


Cars fail their MOTs on light bulb faults more than any other issue. Even a simple blown indicator light can cause a car to fail. Ask someone to stand outside your car while you check the headlights (dipped and full beam), parking lights, fog lights, hazard lights, indicators, reverse lights and the lights over your registration plate, making sure they are all clean and shining in the correct colour and the same brightness.

If any bulbs are unlit, tap the housing - if the light flickers, the bulb probably needs tightening into position or if it doesn't flicker, it may need replacing altogether. According to the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, the top MOT light fail of all is 'headlamp aim incorrectly set', so ensure that your car's headlamps are shining at the same level by shining them onto your garage door or wall.

If you feel confident replacing a faulty bulb, eBay's Bulbs & LEDs section features a wide variety of replacement bulbs, assemblies and lenses for all makes and models of car. Use the search filters to find all the products suitable for your car's make and model.

Close up of engine oil cap
Close up of engine oil cap

Oil and other essential fluids

Engine oil is the blood to your engine's heart. Let it get too low and your engine won't run as efficiently or smoothly as it should. A low oil level could also cause your car to fail its MOT test, so follow these easy steps to make sure it's topped up.

First, run the car for a little while to warm the engine - this will help you to get an accurate oil reading. Leave the engine running until the car's temperature reaches the centre of the temperature gauge and then turn it off. Open the bonnet and remove the dipstick - these often have a yellow handle to make them easier to find. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Then return it to its tube and set it in place. Finally, remove it again and you'll be able to see the oil level at the bottom of the dipstick. If it's below the line, then your car needs an oil top-up.

There are a vast range of oils available and because different types are designed to be compatible with the latest engine technologies and service schedules, it's important that you choose the right one for the make and model of your car. Check your handbook to make sure you buy the right grade - eBay has a fantastic range at great prices in its Engine Oil section.

While you're underneath the bonnet, it's worth checking the brake fluid and windscreen wash fluid levels. The brake fluid reservoir is a see-through bottle normally located toward the back of the engine on the driver's side. Check the min/max markings on the bottle to find out if your brake fluid needs topping up - if it does, add Brake Fluid to the "full" line. Make sure you choose a brand and type recommended for your car.

Not only could a dry washer bottle cause your car to fail its MOT, but it could even earn you a fine should the police check it. Look in your engine for a bottle with a blue cap. If you're having trouble finding it, check in the boot of the car as some vehicles have it fixed there. If your car has a rear windscreen washing function, there may be an additional bottle in the back. You'll be able to find many different Windscreen Fluids on eBay where two litres of fluid can be had for as little as £3.99. Just make sure you check which type you have bought before adding it to the vehicle - concentrated washer fluid must be mixed with water before it is added to the car, while ready-to-use can be poured in straight from the bottle.

Visit eBay's MOT event to shop for bulbs, tyres, fluids and more, and get prepared for your MOT test.

Prices quoted are subject to change.