These testing times!
It’s that time we all know and love again – yes, the dreaded MOT looms…
There are many things in the world that drive me insane with rage, hatred or fear, examples of which include: Jenny Eclair, Peterborough, BBC Radio One, woodchip wallpaper and unwittingly finding a chocolate raisin in a bag of Revels. However, ever since the age of 17 or, more to the point being (legally) able to drive, NOTHING gets me more wound up with stress than the wretched MOT test – I really do go into meltdown.
I try to make a point of having my own cars tested a month early – that way, you have a cushion to fall back on and a little time to put items right. I have only ever had two of my own cars fail in the 22 years I have been driving and have had 30+ cars pass through my ownership – not, though, without a thorough inspection beforehand and leaving nothing to chance. By now, I ought not to get so worked up over this seemingly trivial annual event but I can’t help it and, besides, it keeps me on my toes.
Anyway, as I’m sure many of you will agree, finding the right MOT station is like walking through a mine field. When I resided in Northamptonshire there were many Testing Stations that offered a test while – u – wait service with no booking needed but, owing to the fact all they did was MOT and related repairs, the consensus of opinion often dictated that your car stood a higher risk of failing. Back in the days of old, before online testing and computer-generated certificates, everybody knew someone that would provide a pass for a sum of money- aka: a bent ticket, and there were quite a few Motor Traders whose cars never even saw the Tester’s lead lamp but were sold with a “fresh ticket” nonetheless.
My idea of an MOT tester is one who is firm but fair – a Tester I used to use often would let an item such as a noisy wheel bearing or bit of slack in a CV joint go because he knew I would deal with it right away. However, when I spent a while “on the tools”, I was often amazed at the state some people would bring cars in for test. I worked in a workshop/MOT environment firstly for a large Ford Dealer and then for a Rover Main Dealer – in that environment, much the same as with any other large garage, you soon understand why the Tester often has that “seen it all before look”. It’s quite simply because they have.
My current Tester of choice, Steve, has been in the game all of his working life and, like myself, tries to make a living while enjoying his work by being straight up and honest. I do still chain-smoke all the way through the MOT with stress but, after all is said and done, I love the ritual cup of tea and a chat. Indeed, only the other day, we were exchanging tales of some of the wrecks and ruins we have both had to work on and the way that people never seem care about the car until the ticket runs out.
I fondly remember one man who had bought a Sierra from a sole trader with almost a full MOT. He brought the car into our premises as, everytime it rained, the car misted up inside and its carpets squelched. Not being the most mechanically-minded person, he hadn’t had the vehicle checked over before he bought it – a massive no-no in my opinion. The trader the car was purchased from had gone to ground and putting the car into the air, we found the floorpan to be riddled with holes and there were even signs of Testers’ yellow chalk from a previous MOT. Time erases the cost of the repairs, but it would be fair to say it was a few hundred pounds and one very disgruntled driver. The issuing test station, was, to put it mildly, known for employing testers by the name of Stevie Wonder & Jordie La Forge – if you get my drift?
Time after time we would see cars with boots full of clutter or general tat strewn all over the back seat and floor. Some testers would fail a car on the former if the headlamp aim was too high as a result. The MOT tester makes his judgement on first impressions of the car ie: if it looks like a messy pile of rubbish from the outside, he’s bound not to be suprised to find all sorts of nasties underneath. My best advice to make the MOT less stressful and increase your chances of a pass is to, make the car clean & tidy inside and out – remove all tat or lucky charms etc from the rear view mirror and dash – have the car serviced by a reputable garage beforehand if you are not confident in crawling around under the car. And most importantly – the main causes of an MOT fail are down to matters even the most novice or technophobic car owner can easily spot – check your bulbs, tyres & wipers regularly. To have a car fail an MOT on items such as non working lights, split wiper blade or bald tyre is more criminal than a defective shock absorber owing to the fact its so basic and easy to remidy or spot.
Current VOSA (Vehicle Operators Standards Agency) rules limit the number of tests that one qualified Tester can undertake in one day. A Tester would knock out one after another in the good old days but nowadays alarm bells ring if a Tester tries to undertake the test too quickly. The test now has be completed in an alloted time and a log is recorded that works out your average pass, fail and average time. Standards now are ever higher and are set to get tougher in the none too distant future.
Why people take such a slack view over the MOT and car maintenance in general remains one of life’s mysteries. Mind you, neither Steve or I worry that much as both of us make a living out of it. A lot of hassle can be taken out of the annual test by taking advantage of the many combined servicing and testing offers many garages run at present.
Well, all my worrying was over nothing. My dear little Silver Bullet passed with flying colours and only one advisory notice for two small chips in the windscreen – once again, many thanks to Steve Anderson and the team at New Way Garage, Forgewood Industrial Estate, near Gatwick.
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications