What’s covered in an MOT vs a full service?

Many of us have been driving for years, or even decades, without knowing exactly what happens when we take our car to be seen at a garage

It’s not just first-time car owners who don’t know exactly what’s covered in an MOT or a service.

Many of us have been driving for years, or even decades, without knowing exactly what happens when we take our car to be seen at a garage, and might still need to consult the internet every now and again when checking our oil and water.

Fortunately, the average driver doesn’t need to be an expert on cars; that’s what garages are for, right?

Unless you’ve got an interest in cars or work with them, you’re not going to know (or care enough to know) the intricate details of how your engine works. It is, however, important to know the difference between an MOT and service in order to prolong your car’s health and ensure that it’s running in the best condition possible.

What’s covered in an MOT

A Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is an annual test that your car has to pass (if it’s older three years old) in order to be classed as road-legal. During the MOT, the following parts of your car will be tested:


Your car will be checked to ensure that your exhaust emissions are within the specified guidelines.

They will also check that your exhaust hasn’t got any serious leaks and is silenced efficiently.

Steering and suspension

The MOT tester will check to ensure that your steering and suspension components are in the correct condition.

Wheels and tyres

An integral part of the MOT is ensuring your car’s wheels and tyres are safe. To pass the test, your car’s wheels and tyres must meet the minimum specifications for condition, security, tread depth, tyre type and tyre size.


Your lights will be checked based on their brightness and overall condition. The test will also check to see that your headlight aim is correct.


The MOT tester will check your seats are all secure.

Fuel system

Leaks are the most common problem with fuel systems; during the MOT your fuel tank will be checked to rule any leaks out, as well as checking that your fuel cap is secure.

Wipers and washer bottle

Your wipers and wash bottle will be tested to ensure that you get a clear view of the road when driving.


During the MOT your horn will be tested for sound level and suitability.


Your doors will be checked to make sure that when they’re closed, the latch is secure and not at risk of opening accidentally.


Brakes are one of the most important parts of the MOT; during the test, your brakes will be tested on their performance, condition and operation. This will usually be done on a roller brake tester.


All seatbelts in your car will be checked to ensure that they fasten properly and are in a good enough condition to serve their purpose.


Your mirrors will be checked to ensure that they give you a clear view of the road.


The MOT tester will check your car’s windscreen to make sure that there aren’t any chips or cracks in it. The maximum damage your car’s windscreen can have and still pass the MOT is 10mm in the driver’s line of vision or 40mm elsewhere in the remaining area that’s swept by the wiper blades.


Your car’s bodywork will be looked at to ensure that your car hasn’t been damaged or suffered any excessive corrosion since your last MOT test.

Registration plate

Your car needs to have its registration plate clearly displayed at all times, and as such the MOT tester will check to make sure that the spacing and lettering on the plates is in line with regulations and hasn’t been altered in any way.

Vehicle Identification Number

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique code containing a serial number that every vehicle has. The MOT tester will check that the VIN is clear and legibly displayed on the vehicle.

How a full service is different to an MOT

Everything listed above is considered as an essential part of your car, and as such has to meet the minimum guidelines set out by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to be considered safe and roadworthy. It’s because of this that an MOT is a mandatory test that has to be completed once a year.

A full service works much differently to this.

Whereas an MOT checks that the most vital parts of your car meet the minimum standards to be considered roadworthy, a full service is a much more thorough, in-depth and comprehensive look at your car, and it’s recommended that you have one done every 12,000 miles that your car travels.

During the service, a mechanic will survey virtually every component within your vehicle to check that your car is running at optimum performance and efficiency, and may make suggestions to help your car run more smoothly even if they’re not essential fixes.

A full service will usually be split into different parts, including:

Under the hood

During a full service, a wide range of components under your car’s bonnet will be looked at that aren’t covered during an MOT. These include your car’s battery and its wiring, test electrics, coolant levels, high-voltage cables, brake fluid levels, power steering fluids, drive belts and brake pipes.

Vehicle interior

This includes checking things such as engine diagnostic codes, Adblue/Eolys warning lights, climate control systems, clutch operation, instruments, gauges, warning lights and interior lights.

Vehicle exterior

A mechanic will look at your mirrors, interior and exterior lights, doors, fuel cap and boot.

Under the vehicle

During the full service a mechanic will also check under your vehicle. This will include a checking your fuel pipes, engine transmission, rear axle train drive, shaft joints, gaiters, exhaust systems and mountings. They’ll also perform a full brake inspection.

Pre-alignment checks

Pre-alignment checks will include checks on your car’s steering, shock absorbers and springs, suspension linkages, ball joints and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) inspection.

Service item replacements

During a full service, the mechanic will replace your engine oil and filter if necessary. They’ll also top up your windscreen and washer fluid and replace your air filter.

Final checks

As the final part of your service, the mechanic will complete a vehicle road test and stamp your service book.

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to get regular full services on your car and pass your annual MOT with flying colours. Unfortunately, breakdowns still happen and you never know what’s around the corner, so why not ensure you’ve got great value breakdown cover through Cover My just in case?

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