What is checked in an MOT and a service?

A complete guide to everything on your car that's checked during an MOT and service.

What Is Checked In An MOT and a Service?

One of the questions we get asked a lot here at OSV is whether an MOT is the same as a car service. A car MOT and a car service are two different checks. Both must be performed regularly on your car so that it’s safe for the road, but what is checked on an MOT is different to what is checked when you take your car in for your service.

Both are important, but only an MOT is a legal requirement. In this article, OSV will take you through the ins and outs of an MOT and a car service, including what MOT stands for and what is meant to be checked on an MOT and service.

If you would like to know how this impacts your lease vehicle you can find out more here.

What MOT Stands For

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. When you car goes in for its MOT test, it’s graded against the qualifying structure laid out by the Ministry of Transport.

The test checks a whole host of elements with a primary focus on a cars safety features. A garage can only offer MOT test certificates if they are approved by the Ministry of Transport.

All private vehicles that are three or more years old cannot be driven on public roads in the United Kingdom unless they have been issued a VT20 or VT32 safety certificate (MOT test certificate) by an approved MOT garage. MOT certificates last for 12 months so it is important to keep track of when your MOT is due.

The only exception to the rule is that you are allowed to drive the vehicle on public roads to a registered MOT approved garage to obtain a MOT certificate.

Auto mechanic checking car engine at the garage

What Is Checked on an MOT?

The MOT checks core elements and safety features of the vehicle from the inside to the outside, as well as checking parts of the engine.

External Checks

  • The registration plate and mirrors are in good condition and attached securely.
  • The lights are checked to ensure they operate correctly and have the correct colour and aim.
  • Wipers and wiper blades are checked to ensure they’re operated properly.
  • The windscreen is checked for chips and cracks. The maximum damage size is 10mm in the drivers line of vision, or 40mm elsewhere in the remaining area swept by the wiper blades.
  • Vehicle structure is checked during the MOT for corrosion or damage in core areas of the vehicle. Any sharp edges can result in an MOT failure.
  • The MOT tester will check that the doors open and close correctly. They will also check that the latch is secure in a closed position.
  • Wheels and tyres are checked for condition, security, tyre size and type and tread depth.

What’s Checked on an MOT Under the Bonnet?

The MOT checks under the bonnet of your car looking specifically at:

  • The efficiency of the vehicle’s braking performance, condition and operation.
  • The MOT test checks your exhaust emissions, ensuring that the vehicle is within the specified guidelines and that the exhaust is complete, secure, without serious leaks and silences effectively.
  • The fuel system is checked for leaks. The test also includes checks that the fuel cap fastens and seals securely.
  • The steering and suspension components are checked for their condition and correct operation.


What’s Checked on an MOT Internally?

Your MOT check includes internal features:

  • The vehicle’s front seats are checked for safety and security.
  • All seat belts, including those in the rear, are checked for type, condition, correct operation and security.
  • The horn is checked for operation for effectiveness.

What Is Included in a Check MOT Service?

There are three types of car services covering various stages in the cars life.

An ‘anytime’ service covering essential car care should be undertaken as often as required.

Then, an interim service should be carried out at 6 months or 6,000 miles, before a full service is carried out at 12,000 miles or 12 months.

Regular servicing keeps your car running as it should. It’s used to identify potential problems with your vehicle before they cost you a lot in repairs later on.

Ensuring your car is serviced regularly means that it stays in good condition. A full-service history on a vehicle helps to keep its value higher, too. If you plan to re-sell your vehicle in the future, you should try to maintain regular servicing to ensure you can sell it for the best possible price.

If you would like to know whether lease cars include servicing, you can find out all about that here.

External Service Checks

  • The exterior lights and lamps are checked for brightness and operation – All service options
  • Vehicle’s doors are checked for secure locking –Interim and full service
  • The boot is checked for secure locking – Interim and full service
  • Checking that the fuel cap is properly secured – Interim and full service
  • Check that mirrors are clear and operational – Full service
  • Full tyre inspection (tread, pressure and alignment check) – Interim and full service

Under the Bonnet

  • Replace engine oil and filter – All service options
  • Top up windscreen washer fluid – All service options
  • Replace fuel filter (diesel vehicles) – Full service
  • Replace air filter – Full service
  • Visual brake check – All service options
  • Full brake inspection – Full service
  • Look at the fuel pipes to check for routing, damage & corrosion – Full service
  • The engine is checked for transmission and rear axle Train Drive – Full service
  • Driveshaft joints and gaiters are checked for wear and damage – Full service
  • Exhaust system and mountings are checked for wear and tear – Full service
  • Vehicle’s battery – All service options
  • The battery wiring – All service options
  • Test electrics including the battery, alternator, starter motor – All service options
  • Check coolant level for strength and condition – Interim and full service
  • Brake fluid is checked for boiling point and condition – Interim and full service
  • The bonnet catch is checked to ensure it operates properly – Interim and full service
  • Brake pipes & hoses – Interim and full service
  • Power steering fluid is checked and topped up if required – Full service
  • Check the auxiliary drive belt and adjust if required – Full service
  • The radiator and coolant hoses – Full service

Interior Checks

  • Instruments such as gauges and warning lights are checked for operation – All service options
  • The horn – All service options
  • Windscreen wipers – All service option
  • Interior lights – Interim and full service
  • Clutch operation – Interim and full service
  • Seat belts – Interim and full service
  • Reset service light – Interim and full service
  • Climate control/ air con system – Interim and full service
  • Engine diagnostic codes – Interim and full service
  • Steering, suspension linkages and ball joints for wear, damage and condition – Interim and full service

Other Checks

  • Suspension – check shock absorbers & springs – Interim and full service
  • Visual brake check – All service options
  • Full brake inspection – Interim and full service
  • Fuel pipes are checked for routing, damage & corrosion – Interim and full service
  • The engine, transmission and rear axle Train Drive are checked – Interim and full service
  • Driveshaft joints and gaiters are checked for wear and damage – Interim and full service
  • Exhaust system and mountings – Interim and full service
  • Replace engine oil and filter – All service options
  • Top up windscreen washer fluid – All service options
  • Replace fuel filter (diesel vehicles) – Full service
  • Replace air filter – Full service

So, What’s the Difference Between a Car Service and an MOT?

There are a number of key differences. What is checked on an MOT is (mostly) different to what is checked on a service, but the biggest difference is that a car MOT is a legal requirement, while a service isn’t.

Accordingly, what is checked on an MOT is based on the basic government safety standards, and it misses out some pretty important bits, such as fluids and pipes – and these are bits that a service covers. As such, OSV recommends you take your car for an MOT when required (because it’s cool to do legal stuff) and we also recommend that you maintain regular servicing.

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Rachel Richardson
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  • Cars Store| 22nd June 2020 at 12:24 pm Reply

    Much obliged to you for the data, it is certainly something we will include the article as it’s something that will be helpful to our perusers.

  • danny| 26th February 2020 at 9:37 pm Reply

    Very useful article thanks

    • Rachel Richardson| 27th February 2020 at 8:25 am Reply

      Hi Danny,

      Thank you for your comment.

  • Derek Frost| 20th June 2019 at 9:03 pm Reply

    Having recently taken my 2 yer old Twingo for a service. The only report requiring attention was undue wear inner front offside tyre. On changing tyre at a tyre specific agency I was informed that it was caused by the tracking being out of line, and also that it is rare for Main Dealer to have tracking equipment. As this is an important part of the cars stability, should this not be included in both regular service and MOT tests.

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st June 2019 at 10:39 am Reply

      Hi Derek,
      The MOT has changed over time, so new testing processes are being added yearly. This is an interesting comment regarding tracking equipment and main dealers, and we are sure that you are giving our readers something to think about when they are getting their cars serviced.

  • Nadeem| 27th April 2019 at 10:37 am Reply

    About 52 inspection/check: I am not able to understand what check it’s include in 52 check list for example a car dealer like Cabdirect.com advertising they do 52 check on car before delivery but they don’t disclose the list of check any where it’s hiden or confidentail report from public, why the car dealers hide the list of items which part of inspection from public it’s legal to do so even when you make request to have that list?

    • Rachel Richardson| 29th April 2019 at 2:15 pm Reply

      Hi Nadeem,
      We can’t comment on the supplier you have mentioned as we do not know them. Normally, when a dealer mentions ‘x’ number of points mechanical inspection check they are quite open with advising what it includes as it’s a sales tool. Most dealers count them as in ‘how many items they are checking on the car’ for example; headlights work = 1 check, front indicator – 1 check, rear foglights working = 1 check, seatbelt works = 1 check, etc. This is how they usually end up with their specific point number. I hope that this helps. If you don’t feel confident then you should not purchase until you are.

  • Michelle B| 23rd December 2018 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Maybe worth mentioning here that full mot history can be obtained on the DVLA website for free and includes valuable data like test centres and their contact details in case of any issues.

    • Rachel Richardson| 2nd January 2019 at 8:52 am Reply

      Hi Michelle,
      Thank you for the information, it is definitely something we will be adding to the article as it’s something that will be useful to our readers.

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