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get it right Top 11 ways to make sure your car passes the NCT test

Our motoring expert Eddie Cunningham breaks it down for you – so you know what to look out for ahead of the NCT

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Quite often it is the little things that fail you at the NCT.

It can be infuriating to discover something small cost you the test – and potentially added to your motoring bill.

Not noticing a slight crack in a tail light or not removing the hub caps so the inspector can see the wheel nuts mean you have to re-test.

You might as well get it right first time around.

Motoring is expensive enough these days; a little bit of pre-test attention for the little things can save you money.

And be careful you don’t believe some of the myths around the test.


  • You can’t claim ignorance

Claiming ignorance is no good. Saying you didn’t know the seat belts needed to be fully visible and in proper condition is no excuse. If one of them is frayed or cut you’re likely to fail.

Likewise, if you leave child seats in the car, the operator can check to see they are properly fitted. You could fail if they are not.

  • Clean the car

Your car has to be clean too or you could fail. Make sure the lights, windows, mirrors and registration plates are spotless. Clean under the body with a brush. The tester needs to access and see all areas. If they can’t you lose out.

  • Top-ups

Check and top-up the oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, windscreen wash and wipers. Obvious but forgotten with people often believing they don’t need to because they had the car serviced six months previously.

A lot can happen in six months.

  • An empty boot

Make sure the boot is empty. Also take out unnecessary stuff from the cabin that could get in the way of the tester.

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  • Lights test

Like brakes and tyres, lights are a big reason for NCT failure.

As a final run-through, check your indicators, the number-plate light, parking lights front and back, fog lights, brake lights and the dipped and dimmed headlights. Take your time and be sure you have everything covered. It’s too late when you arrive at the test centre.

Lots of cars fail because their headlights/dims are cracked, waterlogged or not properly focused. I always advise drivers to get them seen to, and aligned, at a garage.

  • Tip-top tyres

The one area of the car often heavily overlooked in our everyday driving are tyres. They are a dead cert to bring you down in the NCT if you don’t pay particular attention.

Again you probably reckon you can do much of the visual checking yourself. But can you? Can you check for sure that the treads are the legal depth of not less than 1.6mm? They may be that at some junctures of the tyre but are they all over? If not, you fail. Like you fail if there are bulges or cracks on the tyre wall.

  • Suspension

People think they can check the suspension by ‘bouncing’ the car from each corner and seeing how many bounces it takes to return to stationary. If you have doubts about that area of your car, bring it to a mechanic. Lots of cars fail on suspension.

  • Look for warnings

And if there is a warning light illuminated on the dash you need to get it sorted well before the test date.

  • The big stuff

Generally speaking, leave the big stuff, such as brakes, brake lines, warning lights, exhaust/emissions to the mechanic. Not alone do you risk failure but by tinkering with them you are potentially putting occupants’ lives at stake in the longer term.

  • Warm up

It is always a good idea to warm up the car before the test.

  • The important stuff

And, finally make sure you bring all the relevant documentation with you on the day. Like I say, it is the little things that catch us out.

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