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Why MOT changes are a bad thing

Phil Curry discusses the MOT test and why it should remain as it is, rather than change to a four-year grace period for new vehicles.

Were you aware that the chancellor has proposed postponing the first MOT for new cars until they are four-years-old? Currently the MOT is only taken after three years. Many drivers believe this is a good idea, saving them money, however on closer inspection it could lead to a catastrophe.

Do you like the MOT? You probably believe it’s a burden, a necessary evil. You wouldn’t be alone, unfortunately many drivers do. Yet it is a legal thing, just like paying vehicle tax and having car insurance. However, it’s the most important ‘legal’ thing you can do with your car. Following the first delayed test, it becomes annual, checking the safety of your vehicle over and over.

What is the MOT?
So why is it necessary? Let me start by asking you a question. When did you last check your tyres? Or your brake pads? Or your wheel bearings? When did you check for rust around critical areas of your car? You probably check oil and water; perhaps you also check tyres and listen out for your brakes squealing. The MOT is a safety check, not a service. Testers are not allowed to replace parts, fix them, and put them into place. All they can do is report on the issues. They have a 45-minute slot and they are timed from the moment they press go on the computer to the moment they end, to reduce the chance of MOT fraud.

So after four years, a car should still be safe, shouldn’t it? Recent figures released by the DVSA shows that 40% of vehicles fail their first MOT. This is almost a million cars each year. Factor in how many fail their second test and that figure gets even higher.

Now another question, do you really want to be driving around with over a million cars on the road that are unsafe? Could the car coming towards you be three years old and have tyres that are about to blow out? Or have defective brakes?

The MOT is important, garages are only testing the safety of your car and the price is capped and quite often doesn’t come near to the workshop hourly rate.

In order to educate drivers, a lobby group has launched the proMOTe campaign, which is calling on the government to scrap the idea of moving to a four year first MOT. They are working on the grounds of safety. The UK has the safest roads in Europe and they argue that this move could destroy that record. The website, www.promote.org.uk, gives you more details on what the MOT is, why it needs to be kept as it is, and highlights that saving money on a year’s MOT being missed could cost drivers more, as worn items could cause problems with other components, increasing the repair bill. That is of course the best-case scenario, should the worn component fail completely it could cause a serious accident.

Conflicting advice
Even the government department, the DVSA, which regulates MOTs, is highlighting issues. The latest MOT testing data for Great Britain shows that around 40% of cars fail their MOT at the first attempt.

The most common reasons for MOT failures have been identified as:

  • Light bulbs – 30% of all faults related to lighting and signalling
  • Tyre condition and pressure – 10% of all faults related to tyres
  • Mirrors, wipers and washers – 8.5% of all faults related to ‘Driver’s view of the road’

DVSA Interim Chief Executive, Paul Satoor, said: “You shouldn’t wait for your MOT to check if your car needs maintenance. All drivers have a responsibility to make sure their vehicle is properly maintained and safe to drive at all times.

“Carrying out simple checks on items like lights and tyres will help motorists to stay safe and legal, as well as saving time and money when their vehicle is due its MOT.”

So, is changing the MOT a good idea? It will impact road safety; increase servicing bills and could lead to fines if drivers fail to maintain their vehicles. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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