Top tips on on how to make sure your van passes its MOT

ust like all other cars, vans need to undergo an MOT test once annually, before the expiry date listed on the certificate. There are very few exceptions to this rule. If your van is under three years old, it’s temporarily exempt until it reaches its third birthday. A second, significant exception to this rule was introduced this year, as millions of MOT tests were deferred due to the onset of Covid-19.

The coronavirus pandemic threw a whole lot of things all out of step this year, and one of the many casualties of the national lockdown was the common MOT test. But now that the strictest national measures are over, your van’s rescheduled MOT test may be approaching. Failing it can be a big hassle, and it can be especially annoying if the fail was due to a small issue that could have been easily fixed in advance.

As the home of the best van deals, we know a thing or two about keeping these vehicles in shape, so we thought we’d share a quick handy checklist to help you make sure your van passes first time.


Faulty or non-functioning lights are one of the most common reasons that cars fail their MOT tests, and it’s a pretty common scenario for van drivers too. To avoid that, take a quick walk around the vehicle and check that your headlights, rear lights, fog lights, indicators and side lights are all fully functioning. If any of them aren’t, it’s often a very simple and cheap repair – if it’s just a matter of a bulb replacement, you might even be able to do it yourself.

Windscreen wipers

Again, your windscreen wipes need to be fully functional, and capable of clearing any dirt, grime or stray fluids from your windscreen. Speaking of your windscreen actually, make sure you inspect it to see if there are any cracks or chips in it.

Even small cracks can be grounds enough for a fail, as they can easily end up growing to the point where they obscure your vision, or dazzle you by refracting sunlight or headlights shining into your van. Plus, they can obviously weaken the structural integrity of the glass, which is dangerous enough on its own. If you spot any, make sure to get it repaired in good time. You won’t regret it!


Tyres can be a particularly common cause for MOT fails amongst vans, largely because commercial vehicles tend to cover a lot of miles in relatively short periods. Happily, it’s pretty straightforward to check they’re up to par. All tyres have a depth indicator, and you can also check the depth using the ridge of a 20p piece. Place the 20p into the main tread grooves of your tyre – if you can see the outer edge of it, it’s probably time to think about getting them replaced.

Number plate

This one’s pretty quick too. You don’t need to be an expert to know that your number plate needs to be fully visible, and secure on its fittings. If you’ve recently bought a new one, don’t forget that they check the font and spacing too, so make sure that this matches regulation!

Bodywork and doors

Check the doors first, as they need to be able to open and latch securely, so that they don’t pose a risk of injury to anyone. Same goes for your bonnet.

On a similar note, give your bodywork an inspection to ensure that there are no pieces that are coming loose, or have actually fallen off. If the examiners find any sharp edges anywhere for example, this obviously poses a tangible physical risk and is therefore grounds for an immediate fail.

While you’re checking over everything, keep a wary eye out for any rust. This can sometimes interfere with the smooth function of the suspension, or similarly critical components, so can therefore again be grounds for a fail.

On the inside of the van

Seatbelts should obviously be top of your list when you start your interior checks – these all need to be functioning correctly, and the seats themselves need to be fixed securely down. Your mirrors all need to be clean and intact, so that the driver can maintain full awareness of the area immediately surrounding the van.

Give the horn a try – it should be clear, audible and easy to use. Oh, and it’s worth taking the van for a quick spin before you take it to the garage, to make sure that there are no faults with the steering or suspension. (If they’re noticeable when you’re driving, you can bet they’ll be noticeable to the examiners!)

A few more things

Don’t forget to make sure that there are no leaks of any fluids in or around your van – keep a particularly sharp eye out for fuel, oil or coolant, as they can pose severe environmental and health hazards. The exhaust needs to be intact, and free from leaks, and you might want to give your catalytic converter a quick check too.

Check the brakes too! These are a naturally wearing component, so you’ll need to brace yourself every so often for them to be changed anyway.

What are my options if my van fails its MOT test?

The garage will explain your options to you if your van fails, but we’ll give you a summary of what you can expect. They’ll normally offer to fix the issues themselves. If you can arrange for this to be done within 10 days of the fail notice, then there will be no fee for the re-test. (That obviously doesn’t mean the repairs themselves will be free, though.)

If for whatever reason you’d rather not go for that option, you can take it away to have it repaired by another garage. If you’re able to bring it back within 24 hours, again there should be no fee for the re-test. Or if that’s not possible, then as long as you can bring it back within 10 days, then you’ll still be able to benefit from a reduced fee. But don’t forget that doing things this way is only possible if your van’s existing test hasn’t yet expired. It’s just one more reason why it’s wise to organise your MOT test in plenty of time, rather than leaving things right down to the wire.

Sometimes, of course, particularly old or heavily used vans can end up being more troublesome and expensive to repair than they’re worth. And if you’re thinking about replacing any of your commercial vehicles, you’re in exactly the right place.

Here at Van Discount, we’re able to save our customers up to 40% off the price of a new van. We supply all sorts of vans, from versatile panel vans to jumbo Luton vans. With our in-house expertise and experience, we can even offer bespoke conversions for our customers. You can shop cheap van deals right here, and if you’ve got any questions or need some advice, we’re just a phone call away on 01282 872 530!