History of the MOT Test

Compulsory vehicle testing was introduced in Great Britain in 1960 when the Motor Vehicles (Tests) Regulations 1960 came into operation. The test was initially confined to vehicles that were ten years old or more, but the testable age was progressively reduced to three years by April 1967. On 1 January 1983 the testable age for ambulances, taxis and vehicles with more than eight passenger seats, excluding the driver’s was reduced to one year.
Initially the test – which became known as the ‘MOT’ test – was limited to braking, steering and lighting equipment. New items and different standards have been introduced from time to time, including:
1968 – A tyre check;
1969 – A check for the presence of legally required seat belts;
1977 – Checks of windscreen wipers and washers, direction indicators, stoplights, horns, exhaust system and condition of the body structure and chassis together with a more detailed check on seat belts;
1991 – Checks of the exhaust emissions for petrol engine vehicles, together with checks on the anti-lock braking system, rear wheel bearings, rear wheel steering (where appropriate) and rear seat belts;
1992 – A stricter tyre tread depth requirement for most vehicles;
1993 – checks of the rear fog, hazard-warning and number-plate lamps; and of the driver’s view of the road, body condition, body security, load security, doors, registration plates, fuel system and mirrors;
1994 – A check of emissions for diesel engine vehicles, after minor procedural changes were put into place;
1996 – New and stricter emissions checks for spark ignition engine vehicles;
1998 – Seat belt installation check introduced for minibuses and buses;
2005 – Introduction of a computerised administration system for issuing non-secure test certificates;
2012 – Checks of secondary restraint systems, battery and wiring, ESC, speedometers and steering locks.
Note: This lists the more significant changes to test content and standards. It is not a full list of all changes.

Background to the Test

Sections 45 to 48 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provide the legislative basis for MOT testing. The detailed requirements are contained in the Regulations – see Abbreviations and Definitions. The MOT Guide and the MOT Inspection Manuals are issued by VOSA under the Regulations. All Authorised Examiners, as a condition of authorisation, Designated Councils as a condition of designation, and Nominated Testers or Inspectors, as a condition of approval, agree that they understand and accept those requirements. Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), some goods carrying trailers and certain other goods vehicles such as articulated vehicles are tested under
Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Testing under that section of the Act is not dealt with in this guide.
Tests are organised and facilities provided by AEs to meet the requirements. Suitably qualified and approved testers nominated by AEs and under their supervision carry out the tests.
It is an offense to use, or cause or permit to be used, a vehicle of testable age on a road at any time, unless:
• It has a current valid test certificate;
• It is exempted by the Regulations from the need to be tested; or
• It is exempted by the Regulations from the need of a current test certificate in certain special circumstances – for example traveling to or from a prearranged test.
Northern Ireland has a separate scheme covered by different regulations, and vehicles with valid certificates issued there are exempt from the scheme applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Purpose and Scope of the Test

The purpose of the MOT test is to ensure that cars, other light vehicles (including some light goods vehicles), private buses and motor bicycles over a prescribed age are checked at least once a year to see that they comply with key road worthiness and environmental requirements in the Road Vehicle Construction and Use Regulations 1986 and the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989 as amended.
A test record is created on VOSA’s MOT database and a Test Certificate issued following successful completion of an examination.
The Test Certificate relates only to the condition of testable items at the time of the test and should not be regarded as:
• Evidence of their condition at any other time;
• Evidence of the general mechanical condition of the vehicle; or
• Evidence that the vehicle fully complies with all aspects of the law on vehicle construction and use.
The test does not require the dismantling of parts of the vehicle although doors, boot lids and other means of access will normally need to be opened. In the case of motor bicycles, cover panels may also need to be removed or raised to examine the vehicle structure.
The MOT Test Certificate or record will normally be checked with an application for a Vehicle Excise Licence unless the vehicle is not subject to MOT testing by virtue of its age or type. In addition, police officers are entitled to require production of an MOT test certificate in respect of a vehicle liable to such testing. Certain enforcement agencies can access this information directly from the computerised database.