Car and van MoT testing to undergo major overhaul with new ‘fail’ categories

MoT testing on cars and light commercial vehicles in England, Scotland and Wales is to undergo a major overhaul from May 20.

However, there are warnings that the changes could result in confusion and the interpretation of vehicle defects by MoT testers lead to increased pass or failure inconsistency from one test centre to another.

Impacting on Class 3, 4, 5 and 7 vehicles, the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published an updated MoT Inspection Manual for testers that outlines the changes.

The move comes after the Department for Transport announced earlier this year that it had decided, following a public consultation, to maintain the period before cars and vans had a first MoT test at three years rather than moving to four years for road safety reasons.

Although in draft form – changes may still be made before the final manual is issued in May – the major alteration is that each vehicle defect found will be categorised as either ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. Manual advisories will no longer be given.

‘Dangerous’ and ‘major’ defects will cause a vehicle to fail its MoT test and drivers will be advised not to drive the vehicle away in its current condition. However, ‘minor’ defects will be considered as being similar to advisories in the current test. A vehicle will still pass its MoT if it only has ‘minor’ defects.

The DVSA said it was hoped that the changes would make it easier for fleet operators and drivers to see which areas of their vehicle required more attention.

The changes are part of a European Union directive and, according to the RAC, while they may seem like “a sensible move” confusion could be caused among motorists.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Rather than MoT failures simply being black and white, the new system creates the potential for confusion as testers will have to make a judgement as to whether faults are ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. This will surely be open to interpretation which may lead to greater inconsistency from one test centre to another.”

The MoT Inspection Manual says: “The tester must select the appropriate category, being guided by the defect wording and using their knowledge, experience and judgement.”

How a vehicle defect should be interpreted can be seen by reading the DVSA’s draft manual. Using a faulty steering box to illustrate the categories it says that should a leak develop, a ‘minor’ fault would be recorded. However, if the oil was leaking sufficiently to be dripping, it would be a ‘major’ fault, and an MoT failure. A ‘dangerous’ fault is described as a steering wheel mounted so loose as to be “likely to become detached” and so the vehicle would also fail its MoT.

Mr Williams added: “Motorists may struggle to understand the difference between ‘dangerous’ and ‘major’ failures. The current system ensures that any vehicle with a fault that doesn’t meet the MoT requirements is repaired appropriately before being allowed back on the road.

“We should be doing all we can to make the vehicles on our roads as safe as possible rather introducing a new system which has the potential to do the opposite. We do not want to see a lowering of MoT standards and a reduction in the number of vehicles failing the test compared to current levels.”

“We understand the government has little choice in the matter, but gut instinct says if the system isn’t broken, why mess with it. But if a car is broken, fix it.”

Additionally new limits are to be introduced to the MoT for diesel vehicle exhaust emissions testing with plans underway to “lower the limits for diesel cars”. The draft MoT inspection manual says that if an “exhaust on a vehicle fitted with a diesel particulate filter emits visible smoke of any colour” it would constitute a ‘major’ fail.

Several components have also been added to the draft manual issued by the DVSA that must be checked during an MoT test.

They include: Front fog lamps fitted to vehicles first used from March 1, 2018; daytime running lamps fitted as original equipment on or after March 1, 2018; reversing lamps fitted to vehicles first used from September 1, 2009; steering gear casing; ‘fly by wire’ steering systems; endurance braking system on larger vehicles such as caravans only; noise suppression systems including exhaust silencers and under-bonnet deadening material; and anti-theft device.

The DVSA’s draft MoT Inspection Manual is available at:

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