Passing your MOT in autumn 2021

Give your car the best chance of passing its MOT with our guide to checks and tasks you can do yourself, plus how to source basic spare parts from eBay.

Car keys sitting on an MOT Test Certificate form

by Chris Williams |

When the government granted extensions on MOTs between March and August 2020, the result was a horde of people trying to get MOT tests in September, October, and all the way up to Christmas. With MOTs being an annual check, that mass of people will be repeating the exercise at the same time in 2021.

Therefore, if your car’s MOT is due soon, the last thing you want is for it to fail now because the MOT centres are backlogged with test bookings, so it could be some time before you can get another one.

What this article will do is guide you through common MOT failure points, preparing your car for an MOT test, simple tasks you can do yourself, and how to source any simple replacement parts you require from eBay.

Using eBay My Garage

The eBay garage feature
©Photo: eBay

Before we dive into the 'what', we wanted to first dive into the 'where' of basic car parts. That is, where is a good place to get them from?

The eBay My Garage tool (available on desktop only) is a valuable resource here. What you do is enter you car's details manually or simply enter is registration number. Once the car model is logged, you can then search and filter parts (windscreen wipers, tyres, light bulbs etc.) that will fit the car model in question. No more unsure guesswork and long-winded site trawling.

Common MOT failure points

Lighting: This is the most common area for MOT failure. It’s usually due to blown bulbs, which is an easy fix on most cars and one we will address below. It’s important to know that registration plate lighting is also checked during an MOT.

Brakes: We’ll leave it to you to consider what a car would be like without brakes, but the concerning statistic, according to the RAC, is that 10% of MOT failures are due to braking issues. Any problems with your brakes should be rather apparent to you.

A symptom of worn brake pads, for example, is squeaking. Do your brakes judder when in use? Does your car pull to one side under braking? Does your handbrake hold the car even on a steep hill? Does the brake pedal feel more spongy than it did? If there are any problems with your brakes, you must get them addressed prior to an MOT, otherwise, you can wave goodbye to a pass.

Suspension: Problems with suspension can be less obvious than those with brakes. But you need to pay attention here too because many MOT failures are due to suspension issues. If you hear knocking noises when driving, or the car doesn’t ride like it used to, or the body doesn’t sit level, get your car checked prior to an MOT.

Tyres: The rules could not be clearer here. Tyres need a minimum of 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters of the tyre. Get a ruler, a 20p coin, whatever you need and check those tyres. Need new tyres? We'd recommend getting them fitted professionally, but you can save some money by buying the tyres yourself. More on this below.

Preparing your car for an MOT

Checking car oil level
©Photo: Getty Images

There are several easy but important checks and tasks you can undertake to give your car the best chance of passing its MOT this year.

Clean your car

A very muddy Jeep Wrangler
©Photo: Parkers

In addition to general courtesy, a clean car is easier to assess than a dirty, cluttered one. Examiners need to assess various parts of the car, inside and out. A clean car is more likely to be accurately assessed than one covered in muck and strewn with litter.

One of the specific requirements for passing an MOT are clear, readable number plates.

There are numerous effective car cleaning products and equipment in the relevant section of eBay. However, as a quick tip, if you want a fast and effective car cleaning kit, we suggest the cleaning kit from Greased Lightning. It’s waterless, so a wash is must faster than the hose and bucket method but the Showroom Shine is still very effective. Also included is a Bug Buster that can be used for cleaning the number plate, plus one of the best stain removers around, and a tyre and exterior trim dressing.

Have a clear view

driving with a clear windscreen
©Photo: Getty Images

Examiners can and will fail you if your view of the road is obscured. This includes not only windscreen wipers (see below) and windscreen chips and cracks, but also the placement of aftermarket sat-navs in foolish places right in front of the driver. Therefore, have your windows and mirrors clean with chips or cracks fixed, and sat-navs and phone holders positioned somewhere sensible.

Fluid top ups

Topping up car windscreen fluid
©Photo: Getty Images

Windscreen fluid, coolant, and engine oil are all very important to a car’s operation and therefore passing an MOT.

Windscreen washer fluid is straightforward. It can be bought either as a ready-mix or a concentrate. The latter is better value. Simply get yourself some windscreen washer fluid and top up the reservoir in the engine bay. Below is our recommendation, and below that is a Parkers video on how to top up windscreen washer fluid.

Holts All Seasons Windscreen Screen Wash 5L

Holts All Seasons Windscreen Screen Wash 5L

View offer

A concentrated five litre solution of highly effective windscreen washer fluid with a dilution rate of 1:9.

Coolant (also called antifreeze) is equally simple to top up and can also be bought as a ready-mix or concentrate. Refer to your car’s manual to check which coolant to use before buying.

Oil: Check your car’s oil dipstick to see if the engine oil level is correct. If low, you should top it up before an MOT. Engine oil is model-specific and you need to check your car’s manual to see which type of oil it uses (5W-30, for example). Some car manufacturers have their own engine oil specifications too. It’s not a big deal, you just need to make sure that the engine oil you buy adheres to the specifications outlined in your car’s manual – it will say this on the bottle.

Need guidance on how to check and top up your engine oil? See our video below.

A quick note: While you’re attending the fluids, check the bonnet latch is still in good order and holds the bonnet firmly in place. Also, check the horn works.

Windscreen wipers

Windscreen wiper being used on rainy window
©Photo: georgeclerk on iStock

If your windscreen wipers are not clearing water properly and instead smearing the windscreen or juddering across it, you must replace them prior to your MOT. If you need your wipers and it isn’t raining (though, it is England, give it a minute), check by spraying windscreen fluid instead.

Use the eBay My Garage tool to filter the correct wipers for your car. You can then set about getting yourself a good deal (good quality blades come from Bosch or Heyner, for example). You can even buy the rubber strips only if the wiper bracket is still fine. Find a below, for example, high quality wipers for the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf:

Wipers are easy to replace, and simply require unclipping or unhooking then sliding out the old pair and installing the new pair.

Lighting

Volvo XC60 headlight
©Photo: Parkers

Do an all-round check of all your car’s exterior lights: headlights, park lights, fog lights, indicators, brake lights, reversing lights, and even the number plate lights.

[We have a guide on headlights](https://products.parkers.co.uk/car-maintenance/parts/headlight-bulb-guide/b-guide/ ) and how to choose the correct ones. Once you understand bulbs a little more, you can go about sourcing any replacement ones you need from eBay. Like wiper blades, you can filter bulbs by car details.

Reputable aftermarket brands include Osram and Philips. It's important to stick to established and trusted names. For example, are tail light bulbs for a Ford Fiesta.

Replacement is easy for most car bulbs. For headlights and those in the front housing, it’s a case of accessing from behind the light, inside the engine bay. Rear ones are usually easier, given most cars have all rear lights inside a single housing on each side – they just need unscrewed and unplugged before changing the bulb. Side indicators usually just pop out (carefully), and number plate light bulbs are often simple cases of unscrewing and replacing.

For model-specific tutorials, there are numerous video guides to help you, including from car manufacturers themselves.

If your plastic headlight covers are getting hazy and yellowing, this also needs to be addressed. Check out Parkers' guide on how to restore headlight covers.

Tyres

Jeep Wrangler tyre
©Photo: Parkers

Tyres must not only meet tread requirements but they (and the wheels) need to be in good order too, and free from damage.

As we suggested earlier, get new tyres professionally fitted, but you can absolutely source new ones yourself, saving you money. To understand tyre sizes and which brands produce the best tyres, Parkers has guides on the respective subjects. Once you know what you need, you can turn to eBay to find the right ones. Here, it's easier to go to the tyres section and enter the tyre size from there because you get a more accurate filtering of appropriate options.

Below is an example of quality Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2 tyres in the common 205/55 R16 size.

Summary

With these simple checks complete, your car stands a better chance at passing its MOT. Remember that in addition to the common reasons for MOT failure, examiners will also be checking other things such as seatbelts and bodywork condition (see the full checklist here). If anything is clearly awry with your car, it is sensible to get it addressed before sending your vehicle in for its MOT.

Read next:

Tyre sealant: Parkers' guide

Car air filters: the expert's guide

Rust converters and rust repair: Parkers' 'how to' guide

Sign up to the Parkers Newsletter to keep up to date with more of the latest reviews, news, and recommendations from the Parkers team.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us