The History of MOT Testing | CCM Blog

The History of MOT Testing

MOT testing is something that all drivers know we need each year, but have you ever wondered why or how this test came about? What’s included in an MOT and what does MOT even mean? So many questions arise once you start to think about it so we’re here to clear some things up for you.

What is an MOT test?

The MOT test is a standardised test required by law in the UK to ensure that your vehicle meets the minimum requirements for road safety and environmental standards. MOT testing centres are licensed and regulated by the DVSA and the testers have to be trained and certified to perform the tests. The decision to mark a vehicle as a pass or fail is down to the discretion of the MOT tester, following guidelines set by the DVSA.

When did MOT testing become a thing?

Following the second world war and into the late 1950s many people bought second-hand cars. Most of these were manufactured before 1940 and were in less than good condition. This caused the roads in the UK to be filled with dangerous vehicles, many with faulty brakes, lights and steering. MOT testing was first introduced under the Road Traffic Act 1956 in 1960. Oddly enough, the test was actually optional for drivers until 1961.

It was originally given the nickname ‘the-ten-year-test’ as owners didn’t need to have their cars tested until they turned 10. The vehicle age dropped to 7 years in 1961 and then to 3 years old in 1967.

Currently, there are more than 23,500 MOT stations and 65,800 MOT testers in the UK.

MOT Bay at CCM Garages
MOT Bay at CCM

Are any vehicles exempt from MOT tests?

Vehicles are only exempt from the annual MOT test if they were registered more than 40 years ago and no ‘substantial changes’ have been made in the last 30 years. A substantial change would be if the main components have changed unless they fall into the acceptable alterations category.

What does MOT stand for?

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport which is the government department that designed the test. The Ministry of Transport is now known as the Department for Transport.

How has MOT testing changed over the years?

Originally, the MOT would just check over a few items like brakes, lights and steering and would only be necessary once the car had turned 10 years old. However, the modern-day MOT test is much more thorough. Click here to see every item checked on your MOT test.

The list of items checked during your MOT test has continually changed over the years, including:

  • 1968 – a tyre check
  • 1977 – checking the windscreen wipers and wash, indicators, brake lights, horn, exhaust and condition of the body and chassis
  • 1991 – the emission test for petrol vehicles, checks on rear wheel bearings, rear-wheel steering (when applicable), rear seat belts and the anti-lock braking system
  • 1992 – stricter tyre tread depth test
  • 1994 – the emissions test of diesel vehicles
  • 2005 – the introduction of a computerised administration system
  • 2012 – checks on secondary restraint systems, speedometers, steering locks, electronic stability control (ESC), batteries and wiring

The most recent changes to MOT testing were set in 2018 to reduce the number of dangerous cars on the road. These changes include steeper fines and stricter rules and even if your MOT is still in date, you could still receive a penalty fine if your car isn’t deemed roadworthy.

MOT Viewing Area Sign at CCM Garages
MOT Viewing Area Sign at CCM Garages

What to expect for MOTs in the future?

As car technology develops, so too will the MOT test. Obviously, we don’t have a crystal ball to hand to predict exactly what will happen with future technology. We do know that the test will have to stay relevant to the vehicles.

One thing we do expect to see is a reduction in the number of exhaust emissions tests. Remember the government announced their net-zero targets to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030. Hybrid and electric vehicles aren’t tested on their emissions so as these become more popular, the need for an emissions test will decrease.

There have also been discussions around extending the MOT test to every two years instead of annually. We have clearly voiced our opinion on this matter and strongly disagree with this suggestion. We see dangerous MOT failures every week after just 12 months. When the MOT extension happened during the first lockdown, we saw an increase in failures. Some of them were really dangerous and completely unknown to the driver. Not only will a 2-year MOT increase the likelihood of failures, but it will also leave much more dangerous vehicles on the road putting everyone at risk. Thankfully, this proposal hasn’t received much backing with most people seeing it from the same perspective as ourselves. More dangerous cars on the roads are a risk to other road users and pedestrians.

MOT testing history conclusion

So, for now, your MOT is still due every year after your car has turned 3 years old. It’s easy to forget your MOT date so if you are unsure, get in touch and we’ll check for you. Remember, you can do your MOT a month minus a day before the expiry date. If your MOT expires on the 10th of November, you can have it done on the 11th of October. Because you are within a month you will keep the 11th of October as your renewal date.

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