Prepare your van for the annual MOT test

It’s bad enough having your van off the road for its MOT test in the first place, so you don’t want it to fail. Our MOT tips might help.


It’s bad enough having your van off the road for its MOT test in the first place, so you don’t want it to fail and need to spend more time in the workshop. Our tips might help.

Like road tax and fuel, sooner or later your van is going to need an MOT test. You’re ok for three years, but, once their third birthday comes round, vans must have this annual safety and emissions check in order to be allowed to stay on the road.

Brought in by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in 1960, the yearly check is today managed and monitored by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) and ensures all vehicles on the road meet minimum legal safety requirements.

It costs £54.85 to put a small or medium van up to 3,000kg gross weight through the test, while larger vans up to 3,500kg will cost £58.60.

Since 2018 any defects found on a vehicle are listed as minor, major or dangerous. A minor listing does not necessarily mean a fail but the fault should be repaired as soon as possible. The MOT tester can also give an ‘advisory’ note: a particular fault could get worse and should be monitored, or a ‘pass’, which is of course the best outcome.

Any ‘major’ or ‘dangerous’ listings attract an MOT ‘fail’ and will have to be repaired before your van can be driven again, leaving you without the wheels you need to deliver your business. There are fines of up to £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence for driving a dangerous MOT failure, and £1,000 for driving a van that hasn’t been tested at all – and it would be unwise to drive an unsafe van or ask one of your employees to do so.

While some of the test procedure is quite complex, such as suspension, steering, the exhaust system and electrical components, and needs to be carried out by an expert, many items can be checked easily yourself and put in a fit state before you get anywhere near the MOT testing station.

By looking after your work vehicle and checking the fundamental features that keep it operating for you day after day, you can greatly improve your chances of a first time pass. Here are 12 easy things to check which could turn your van from a certain failure into a potential pass.

Bodywork: A few small dents won’t put paid to your MOT pass, but body panel damage must not be serious, nor leave exposed or jagged edges. Your van is your office and shop window anyway, so it pays to keep it looking damage free.

Exhaust: Testers won’t like blown or leaking exhausts as this can affect the van’s emissions output so start the engine and have a look and listen for signs of pipe damage.

Fluid levels: No test can be carried out if there are insufficient fluid levels in the van and that includes petrol, or diesel, and oil. Fill everything up to give yourself the best chance of a pass. Make sure no fuel, oil or coolant is leaking – this is an environmental hazard and could be a fail point.

Horn: One of the simplest checks to do yourself – give the horn a quick toot to make sure you and everyone else can hear it.

Lights: They don’t just help you see, but they help to be seen. That’s why lights are vital to driving and therefore a major part of the MOT. Go round the vehicle checking headlights, indicators, reverse and hazard lights and replace any that have gone out.

Number plates: These should conform to legal standards, must be fixed properly and should not be damaged. While you’re about it, give them a wipe over to make them clean.

Seat belts: These should not be frayed or damaged. Sit in the driver and passenger seats and buckle up in each one to make sure they engage properly and hold you and your colleagues safely in place.

Tidiness: Give the van a quick tidy round before you head for the test. If an examiner can’t get to somewhere he wants to look, such as the seatbelt mountings, he could fail the vehicle. Keeping the cabin tidy and the load area clear for the test gives a better impression too.

Tyres: It’s easy to check your tyres as they’re so accessible. Correct tyre pressures will be listed in your van’s handbook and tread depth should be at least 1.6mm. Have a look all-round the tyres for signs of bulges, cuts or damage.

Warning lights: You shouldn’t be driving around with a warning light showing in your dashboard anyway, but if you have, now is the time to sort out the problem. If there’s a warning showing during the test, the van will fail.

Windscreen: You are allowed 10mm of chipped damage in front of the driver side and 40mm anywhere else on the screen, so have a good look at the glass and make a decision on whether you need a new one. Check your side mirrors for cracks while you’re at it.

Wipers: Make sure your wipers clear the screen properly without smears when it rains. The blades should be free from damage, while you should make sure the washer pump is working and that there is plenty of water or cleaning fluid in the reservoir.

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.

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