Home > Vintage Car Maintenance > MOT Regulations for Vintage Cars

MOT Regulations for Vintage Cars

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Mot Regulations For Vintage Cars

Of course, any motor vehicle owner in the UK knows that without the annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificate, a car is deemed 'unroadworthy'. Not only is driving a motor vehicle without the MOT certificate illegal and considered a hazard, without a valid certificate you will not be able to secure car insurance.

Keeping your vintage car roadworthy can be a bit of a challenge. Because of the car's age, regular maintenance checks are vital to keep the engine and all mechanisms ticking over adequately. Problems such as rust can not only degrade the car's performance, but also become hazardous and potentially cause your car to fail.

Knowing how to spot potential MOT test failures will help your vintage car to coast through it's test. This article takes a basic look at some of the checks that you can make before booking your car in for that all-important test.

Exceptions and Considerations

You should consider that an MOT pass is not necessarily a guarantee that your vintage car is completely mechanically safe. A pass merely indicates that on the day of the test, the car passed only on the specific legal requirements of the MOT test. The passes may have only passed by the bare minimum standards. A regular service will help to ensure that your car is running safely.

Of course, vintage cars were designed in the days before things such as carbon emissions became an issue, and seatbelts and ABS became the norm. Therefore, vintage cars will have to meet slightly different legal requirements to pass an MOT compared to modern cars. Generally, vintage cars will only fail on their emissions if there is an excessive amount of smoke during the test.

The MOT regulations also have a clause relating to 'Original Design'. It basically cites that for certain design elements that might otherwise cause a vehicle to fail should be accepted. However, it's not all plain sailing, as there may be certain requirements (such as how any seatbelts are secured to the seat or vehicle) that may pass or fail at the discretion of the MOT tester. Speaking with your mechanic before you undertake an MOT may enlighten you as to whether your vintage car will be subject to any 'grey areas'.

Basic Pre-MOT Checks

There are 6 basic parts to an MOT test - 'General' (fuel and exhaust system, registration plates, condition of vehicle etc), the lights, the seat belts, the brakes, tyres and wheels, and the steering and suspension. Some basic checks that you can undertake before your test can include the following:


Check the registration plates are correct and legal, and not obscured by any cracks, rust etc. Any VIN numbers should match the logbook. Check that when the car is idling, there aren't excessive plumes of smoke erupting from the exhaust, or any leaks or large rust areas in the exhaust system. Also be sure that any cracks or chips don't obscure your view through the windscreen, and that the windscreen wipers are in good condition.

You should make sure that the general condition of the car is sound. This includes the floor panels and bulkhead should be free of rust holes and any other degradation. There shouldn't be any protruding parts of the bodywork or chassis. The wheel arches can be particularly prone to this sort of corrosion. All sills should be in tact and relatively rust-free - any large holes in this area can be particularly problematic. All catches - bonnet, inside and outside door - should be in working order. Finally, your horn should also be working properly.


Check that all lights are working properly, and that the right switch or indicator works with the correct light. Vintage car wiring can be a notoriously messy affair, so tinkering with the wiring can be unsafe and cause more harm than good! Make sure that any semaphore indicators should also be in good working order.

Seat Belts

This tends only to be applicable if your vehicle was originally fitted with seat belts, or has since been modified. Any seat belts should be of a good standard without degradation, rips or frays. The seat belt securing should ideally be fixed to the vehicle and not the seat. Make sure that the shut and release mechanism is working properly.


You should test that your brakes allow you to stop straight, rather than askew! It's really important to make sure that there are no leaks in this area that could affect the capability of the brake system. Any leaks should be attended to as soon as possible. Make sure that brakes are relatively free of build ups of dirt and grease or any rust that could cause binding.

Tyres and Wheels

The tyres should have good tread and be appropriate to the vehicle. Also check for any rust in this area that could be deemed unsafe.

Steering & Suspension

Excessive play in vintage car steering can be a fairly common problem. The steering should be smooth and relatively jolt-free. The steering column and steering mechanisms should all be as rust-free as possible, and without leaks. Any suspension should be leak-free and in good working order.

Remember that this is by no means a comprehensive checklist, but it does provide you with a good starting point for making your pre-MOT check.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: