Changes to the MOT will come into force this May, making it more difficult for dirty diesel cars to pass air quality tests. A three-tier rating for the severity of faults on all cars will also be introduced.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) claims the revisions to the MOT will make it tougher for anyone trying to cheat emissions tests and help keep vehicles in a dangerous condition off the road.
However, at the same time hundreds of thousands of cars more than 40-years old will no longer be required to take the annual road worthiness inspection. Here’s what motorists need to know about the changes.
Dirty diesels face stricter smoke test
We’ve all seen them: cars or commercial vehicles that belch out thick clouds of black smoke. Now the MOT is being toughened to remove vehicles with harmful pollution levels from the road.
Since 2014, MOT testers have had to check that a car’s original diesel particulate filter (DPF) – part of the exhaust system fitted to every new diesel from 2009 – is present. The aim was to deter the removal of the filters but testers didn’t have to see that it functioned correctly. That was a problem as DPFs often stop working properly.
Now a tougher emissions test means that a diesel with a DPF that ’emits smoke of any colour’ will automatically fail the MOT.
The DPF smoke test is an important step. Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at Kings College London, says a car with a faulty or removed DPF has a particulate count 20 times higher than one with it.
New MOT defect categories
Faults found during the new MOT test will be categorised in one of three areas, ranging from minor to dangerous. It will be for the tester to follow the correct procedures and standards when judging the severity of a problem. The faults are:
Minor defects: these have no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment and other minor non-compliances. A test certificate will still be issued.
Major defects: these may affect the safety of the vehicle, have an impact on the environment or put other road users at risk. The car will fail its test.
Dangerous defects: they constitute a direct and immediate risk to road safety or the environment. The car will fail its test.
Cars over 40-years old: no MOT test required
From 20 May, most cars more than 40-years old will not need an MOT test.
However, the Department for Transport has included a caveat. This says any vehicle that has been ‘substantially changed’ must still be submitted for an MOT each year. And it still recommends regular maintenance and stresses the law requires all vehicles to be roadworthy.
This has led to confusion amongst classic cars owners. That’s because drivers need to understand the definition of ‘substantially changed’ to ensure they remain on the right side of the law.
If the technical characteristics of the main components have changed, the car will require an MOT. Replacing like with like is not considered a change.
The main components are the chassis or monocoque bodyshell, suspension or steering and engine.
Plans for the first MOT in fourth year dropped
A public backlash against plans to extend a car’s first MOT to its fourth year has led the government to abandon the idea.
Following overwhelming objection as part of a public consultation, a car will still require its first MOT at three-years old. Around 360,000 vehicles fail their first test each year.