Hundreds of cars were denied an MOT this year because they were too dangerous – or too excessively dirty – to test. A Freedom of Information request to the DVSA revealed that in the first five months of 2023, more than 7,000 vehicles suffered an embarrassing “MOT refusal” – distinct from an MOT ‘fail’, since testers refused to test the vehicle in the first instance. Of that figure, 526 vehicles were ordered to turn around because they were simply “too dirty to examine.” Select Car Leasing made the FOI request for the top reasons for MOT refusals in 2023 between January and May 2023.
A further 785 MOT tests were refused on the grounds that the state of the vehicle was ‘too dangerous’ for a proper inspection to be carried out – with a threat posed to the tester, surrounding property, and the car itself.
In 302 cases, the car wasn’t ‘fit to be driven’, while 139 MOTs were snubbed because the owner couldn’t prove the vehicle had been serviced and maintained properly.
Meanwhile, 87 vehicles were refused an MOT test because they were carrying a dodgy load, and 57 vehicles were too smokey to be granted access to the MOT test station.
Graham Conway, managing director at Select Car Leasing, says the stats are a shocking reminder about the state of some of the cars on UK roads: “Our research proves that not all vehicles are someone’s ‘pride and joy’ – and hundreds are seemingly neglected to the point of being downright dangerous.
“It’s one thing for a car, van or motorcycle to fail an MOT, quite another to be in such a sorry state of disrepair and cleanliness that an inspection can’t be granted in the first place.
“The stats highlight the need to present your car to an MOT testing station in a clean and tidy condition. Make sure all the doors open and close as they should and empty the boot of detritus to make inspection simple and easy.
“And if your vehicle’s cabin is piled high with sandwich cartons, empty crisp packets, spent vapes, and dirty clothes, an MOT tester has every reason to refuse to set foot in it.
“After all, a discarded plastic bottle that rolls underneath the brake pedal could be catastrophic during any road test.”
MOT tester talks about refusing to conduct test
One MOT tester recently opened-up about refusing to inspect filth-ridden cars, saying he declined the customer ‘point blank’ as he didn’t know what he might ‘catch’ from sitting inside the vehicle.
Select Car Leasing also points out that MOT test centres often display posters highlighting the fact that cars can be refused a test if the owner can’t prove a solid service and maintenance history.
When it comes to the MOT refusal reason of ‘suspect maintenance history of diesel engine’, Select Car Leasing’s Graham Conway explains: “When a car is put through its MOT, the engine needs to be revved hard so that the tester can check for emissions and general road worthiness.
“With a diesel engine, the car is often revved right to the redline limit. But if the tester suspects that your car hasn’t been well maintained, he or she will be reluctant to put it through the test in the first place, in case the testing process actually obliterates the engine. As well as evidence of service history, a tester might also ask for proof that the timing belt has been changed on time.”
Overall, the most common reason for an MOT test refusal this year (2,988 cases) is that the test centre wasn’t equipped to carry out an inspection on that particular class of vehicle. Some centres can’t test larger minibuses or ambulances, for example.
The second most common reason for refusal, contributing to 1,112 cases, is the inability to open essential parts of the vehicle, such as the doors, boot, fuel filler cap or engine cover.
An MOT is a maintenance check-up carried out once a year on cars over three years old.
It’s a crucial part of ensuring the cars on UK roads retain a basic level of roadworthiness. You can be fined £1000 if caught driving or parking your vehicle on the road without a valid MOT.
There are some quick things motorists can do to give their vehicle the best chance of both being accepted for an MOT, and also passing it:
- Keep your car clean, inside and out
- Give number plates a clean as they need to be readable to pass the MOT
- Check the windscreen wipers are in good condition, with no tears
- Seats and seatbelts should be in working order with no cuts or fraying
- Check all lights are in working order. Ask a friend or family member to stand outside the car and confirm lights function properly
- Check tyre tread using the 20p test, and tyre pressure too
- Top up all fluid levels - screenwash, brake fluid and oil
- All of your mirrors should be intact and secure to ensure you can use them safely.
- The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in your car’s V5C logbook should match that marked on your car’s bodywork.