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Break in MOT testing must not be excuse to neglect vehicle maintenance

IAM RoadSmart is urging drivers and riders to undertake vehicle maintenance checks following today’s announcement that vehicle owners will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing.

The much-anticipated legislation will come into effect from 30 March 2020 and will be recognised by insurers and the police.

It’s intended to enable drivers to carry on with essential travel, including for work where this absolutely cannot be done from home, or to shop for necessities, as laid out in government guidance.

However, the DfT has stressed that vehicles must still be kept in a roadworthy condition during this period, and garages will remain open for repair work where essential.

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, said: “The break in MOT testing must not be seen as an excuse to neglect your regular maintenance. If there is an issue with your vehicle, get it fixed. Garages remain open for essential repairs, although they will be working under restrictions. You do not want to be stranded at the side of the road, or worse involved in a collision, because you took a chance.

“The police may also be more active in stopping vehicles during this period to check on the purpose of your journey. If they pick up on any obvious faults, it’s likely they will choose to issue a fine or even seize your vehicle. Regular checks will help you stay safe, avoid being stranded and allow your essential travel to take place.”

IAM has published a set of tips on how to help ensure your vehicle remains in good condition for any essential journeys:


Inspect tyres frequently for cuts and bulges – and remember to include the tread depth. The minimum tread depth on a car is 1.6mm and you can test this using the ‘20p test.’ Simply put a 20p coin into the tyre groove and see if the outer band of the coin is still visible or not. If it isn’t, your tyre is above the legal limit, and if it is, your tyre needs replacing. Motorcycle tyres must have a minimum of 1mm, in both cases this must be across the central ¾ of the tyre. Remember to check the tyre pressures as well, preferably when cold.


Checking your engine oil levels is quick and easy with many new cars now having a self-checking system in place. If you have to do it the traditional way then make sure your engine is switched off and cool. You can check you have the right amount of oil by using the dipstick or on some motorcycles a sight glass in the side of the engine casing. Remember to keep the bike vertical when checking this by getting someone to sit on the bike whilst you check the oil. Bear in mind that overfilling will also cause damage, so top up slowly and check the level regularly.


Making sure your car or bike lights are in good working order is essential. When it comes to checking them, you should make sure that your headlights, indicators, reversing lights, fog light and brake lights all work properly. This check is simple, but you may find it easier to ask someone to help you. Alternatively, you could park near a window or garage door and use the reflection to see if your lights are fully operational.

Water and screen wash

Running low on water or engine coolant can usually be checked visually by looking at the side of the coolant reservoir. If the level is low or your temperature gauge shows the engine is running hotter than usual you may need to check the levels, but ideally this should be done by a professional as the systems are under pressure and can be very hot. If you do have to top up, remember to carefully follow the information in your car or bike manual.

Filling up the screen wash is quick and easy and it could save your life by being able to react to hazards safely and appropriately. Don’t ignore that reminder displayed on your dashboard.

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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