“They had no right, of course. Instead, it’s the owner’s choice whether they wish to break the law and drive their vehicle away, which they will be doing without an MOT and with their car in a dangerous condition.”
In addition to these two defects is a third, called a minor. It’s not serious enough to trigger a fail but the difference between it and a major can come down to something as simple as a light bulb.
“Take the example of a numberplate with two bulbs,” says Ball. “If one has blown, it’s a minor defect since the plate can still be read. But if both have blown, it’s a major.” The revised test also brought in an updated list of items to be examined, including checking if tyres are seriously under-inflated and brake fluid is contaminated. However, despite these additional checks, the biggest single cause of failure by a mile remains faulty lights.
For all the changes there have been to the MOT, Barlow says the DVSA has seen no increase in drivers appealing against test verdicts. “Drivers understand the new defect categories are a way of reminding them of the law regarding dangerous vehicles, and most of them see value in that,” he says.
However, Ball believes the MOT test is not keeping up with changes in vehicle technology. “It’s still the old business of observing and prodding,” he says. “We’re doing things in an ‘analogue’ rather than a ‘digital’ way, at a time when cars are becoming packed with more technology.”
Barlow is working on a solution. “We’re developing ways to connect test stations to our central computers so that we can see in real time what’s being tested and what the results are,” he says. “By extension, we could do diagnostic testing for stations, remotely.”
If his plans bear fruit, it looks like time and money could be about to get even more onerous for those whose cars fail their MOT.