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The History Of The MOT In The United Kingdom

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The History Of The MOT In The United Kingdom

Graham Baylis
September 24, 2012

In the UK virtually all cars and light commercial vehicles over 3 years old need by law to undergo an annual comprehensive examination known as the MOT to ensure that they are roadworthy. This testing has undergone amendments since its inception in 1960. During the 1940s and 50s motor vehicles were becoming more common on the roads and many of these vehicles were produced before 1940 and were not serviced very regularly or if at all. This meant that there were many cars on the road that were potentially hazardous with the most common faults being with the brakes, lights and steering. In 1960 Ernest Marples, the then Minister for Transport ordered that all vehicles of more than 10 years of age must have their steering systems, lights and brakes tested each. This testing became known as the Ministry Of Transport Test, which was then shortened to 'MOT'. In April 1967 the testable age was lowered so that all vehicles over the age of 3 had to undergo testing every year.

The MOT has changed over the years to become more inclusive and it is continuing to develop. In 1968, new tyre tread regulations are introduced so that there is at least 1mm of tread across three quarters of the width of the tyre. In 1978 the test is updated to cover windscreen washers, wipers, horn, exhausts, spotlights and indicators. In 1991 petrol emissions, anti-lock braking systems and rear seatbelts are included in the test. The next update comes in 1992 when a review of tyre tread is changed to a minimum depth of 1.6mm. In 1993 additional changes are introduced to include mirrors, rear fog lights and registration plates. 1994 sees diesel emissions added to the test. New changes in 2012 are set to include examination of the electronic parking brake, electronic stability control, towbar and trailer/caravan electrical socket and the function of warning lights. As our vehicles become more complex, more can go wrong with them and this is why more components are added.

From the very beginning, the British Government decided that the MOT test should be able to be carried out at local garages so that motorists have the handiness of a test centre near where they reside. There are about 19,000 testing stations in the United Kingdom and only the Ministry of Transport had the power to award a licence to the test station. These days the system is run by another government agency called Vehicle Operator and Services Agency, or VOSA but they still answer to the Secretary of State for Transport. The test has a identical set of standards throughout the country, so whether you have your MOT done in Caithness or in Cornwall the same set of tests are performed on the vehicle. The local MOT garage is liable for the quality of the testing at that individual testing station. These garages become known as an Authorised Examiner, having been granted a license by VOSA to perform MOT tests. In turn these AEs have the authority to appoint specially trained people to carry out MOT Tests on vehicles. These MOT Testers become known as Nominated Testers. Anyone hoping to become an NT will have to train at a testing garage before attending a 2 day course run by VOSA so that they can be nominated as testers by an AE.

The selection of the correct oils and lubrication fluids is a vital part of the safe ownership of any mechanical equipment, be it a car, chain saw or industrial / commercial plant. Graham Baylis is working with some of the best experts in the field, Exol Lubricants. They have a wealth of information on the use and storage of oils and lubricants . See http://www.exol-lubricants.com

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