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Will My Car Pass or Fail the MOT?

A defect in your car does not necessarily mean that your car will fail the MOT. It depends on how serious the problem is. The official MOT Inspection Manual categorises each defect into one of three severity categories:

  • Minor: Defects that have no significant impact on the environment or vehicle safety, plus other minor defects
  • Major: Defects that may harm the environment, impact the safety of the vehicle, put other road users at risk, plus other more serious defects
  • Dangerous: Defects that have a "direct and immediate risk" to road safety or the environment

If the defects found on your car are "minor" then your car will pass, but with an advisory. It's cars with any "major" or "dangerous" defects that fail the MOT. You can see which defects are minor, major and dangerous by checking the list of MOT fail codes. If you know that something is wrong with your car, you can figure out ahead of time if this defect is likely to fail your car or not.

Below we've answered 20 of the most commonly asked questions regarding whether or not specific faults will cause your car to fail its MOT. We also link to further guidance on each specific issue so you can learn more.

MOT Fail FAQs

According to Section 4 of the MOT Fail Codes (specifically 4.7.1.(b)), a missing or inoperative light source is a "minor" defect when the plate has 2 or more lamps, but a "major" defect if the plate has only one lamp or all lamps aren't working. A major defect results in a failed MOT.
Yes, according to 8.2.2.2.(g) of the MOT Fail Codes, an engine malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) or engine management light (EML) that is inoperative or indicating a malfunction is a "major" defect and will result in a fail. The same would apply to a dash fault.
It depends on how much oil is leaking. According to 8.4.1.(a)(i) of the MOT Fail Codes, excessive leaking of fluids that is likely to harm the environment or to pose a safety risk to other road users is a "major" fail. 8.4.1(a)(ii) stipulates that a continuous leak is a "dangerous" fail.
It depends. Section 5.2.3.(l) of the MOT Fail Codes says that tyres obviously under-inflated are a "minor" defect—which should be fixed but will not fail your MOT. However, if the tyre pressure problem stems from a seriously damaged tyre value or a lump, bulge or tear caused by separation or partial failure of its structure, for example, these count as "dangerous" fails and you won't be able to drive away without it being fixed.
Your vehicle can fail the MOT if the windscreen wipers are missing or obviously not clearing the windscreen. However a defective wiper that still clears the windscreen is just a "minor" defect and should not fail the MOT. (See Section 3.4 of the MOT Fail Codes.)
Section 8.1.(a) of the MOT Fail Codes says that exhaust noise levels in excess of those permitted will fail the MOT on a "major" defect. How loud is too loud? Since 2016, the car exhaust noise limit is 74 dB (see Gov.uk).
Cracked tyres won't necessarily fail the MOT, but Section 5.2.3.(i) of the MOT Fail Codes says that a cut in excess of the requirements deep enough to reach the ply or cords is a "major" defect that will fail the MOT.
A mirror that is slightly damaged or loose counts as a "minor" defect that will not fail your MOT. However an inoperative, excessively damaged or insecure mirror or one not providing an adequate view to the rear would be a "major" defect that could cause a fail. See Section 3.3. of the MOT Fail Codes for more information. That said, regular passenger cars are only required to have at least one functioning mirror (interior rear-view mirror or an external wing mirror). Satisfy this requirement and your car should pass.
It depends on the level of damage. Minor bumper damage should not fail your MOT. However, Section 1.6. of the MOT Fail Codes says that a bumper that is insecure or with damage likely to cause injury when grazed or contacted counts as a "major" fail and a bumper likely to become detached would be a "dangerous" fail.
Yes. According to Section 6.1.4. of the MOT Fail Codes, your car will fail its MOT if the anti-lock braking system (ABS) warning device is not working or shows a system malfunction.
Yes, an airbag light counts as a "major" defect which will fail your car's MOT. See Section 7.1.6.(a) of the MOT Fail Codes, which says that a Supplementary restraint system (SRS) malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) indicates a system malfunction.
Yes, Section 1.1.13. of the MOT Fail Codes covers brake linings and pads. A pad worn down to the wear indicator is a "major" fail and one worn below 1.5mm is a "dangerous" fail which means it must be fixed before you drive away. Brake pads contaminated with oil, grease, etc. or incorrectly mounted will also fail an MOT.
Your spare tyre is not checked as part of the MOT inspection. However, if your spare wheel carrier is fractured or insecure, or if the spare wheel itself is insecure or likely to become detached, your car will fail its MOT. See Section 6.1.5. of the MOT Fail Codes for information on the Spare wheel carrier, which only applies if one is fitted.
According to the MOT inspection manual, failure for windscreen damage is only justified if the damage significantly affects the driver’s view of the road. Specifically, inspectors check for damage in a zone in front of the driver of more than 10mm in diameter or damage in the rest of the windscreen’s swept area of more than 40mm across. Read more in 3.2. Condition of Glass in the MOT Fail Codes.
A headlamp reflector or lens that is seriously defective is a "major" defect and will fail the MOT; however a slightly defective light with a small crack would be a "minor" defect that would not fail your MOT.
Yes, suspension is checked under Section 5. Axles, Wheels, Tyres and Suspension of the MOT Fail Codes, specifically subsection 5.3 Suspension. The inspection will cover springs; shock absorbers; suspension arms, rods, struts, sub-frames, anti-roll bars etc.; suspension joints, pins and bushes; gas, air and fluid suspension; as well as the strength of the whole suspension structure.
Under Section 7.12. Electronic stability control (ESC) of the MOT Fail Codes, if the ESC malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) indicates a system malfunction your car would fail the MOT. The light on indicates a malfunction which is a "major" defect.
Yes, tyres are checked on an MOT under Section 5.2. Wheels and tyres. The inspection checks for pressure, cuts, lumps, bulges, tears, valves, tread depth and more.
If the MOT inspection only finds "minor" defects with your car, it will pass the MOT and you'll get your MOT certificate. However if any "major" or "dangerous" defects are found then your vehicle will fail its MOT and you'll get a refusal notice.
You can drive your car with a failed MOT if your current MOT certificate is still valid AND there were not any ‘dangerous’ defects identified in your MOT inspection. If you drive with a "dangerous" defect then you could be fined £2,500, be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points on your licence.
It depends on when you get the retest. You may get the retest for free if you get it retested soon enough.

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