Preston mechanic warns scrapping annual MOTs could see dangerous defects go undetected

A Preston garage owner is warning that any change to how often a vehicle requires an MOT could result in “death-traps” being driven on Lancashire’s roads.

Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 5:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 5:45 pm

David Dawson was so appalled by reports that the government might consider lengthening the gap between the roadworthiness tests from one year to two that he immediately contacted the city's MP over the issue.

He says he was spurred to act after the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that he did not “rule anything out” in relation to the mooted possibility of scrapping annual MOTs.

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David Dawson fears that vehicles will be on the road in a dangerous condition if mechanics like him do not get to cast their eye over them every 12 months

Sky News reported that the secretary of state had floated the idea during a meeting at which Boris Johnson had sought suggestions from cabinet members about steps that could be taken by the government to ease the cost of living crisis.

Mr. Shapps told the transport select committee that any such move would have to “fit a very rigorous safety standard” - and that he was not in a position to announce any changes at the moment.

Currently, vehicles have to undergo an MOT every 12 months once they are three years old.

David Dawson says removing that requirement in order to ease the pressure on people’s pockets might be a laudable aim - but could have lethal results.

“The MOT is just a snapshot on the day of whether a vehicle meets the minimum standards.

“Quite often a vehicle might pass its MOT, because [say] its tyres meet those minimums - but in a few weeks they’d become illegal. So the driver goes away with an advisory [notice] saying that their vehicle will soon need four new tyres.

“But people are so relieved that it’s passed the MOT, they quickly forget about the advisories and come back a year later and still haven’t had them changed - by which point the tyres are completely bald and there are wires sticking out of the side walls

“Under this [suggested policy], that would go undetected for two years rather than one.

“There are so many things on a vehicle that can go wrong - the brakes or steering, for instance. You can accelerate up to 50 or 60mph in a few seconds and if something fails, you could become a passenger in what potentially is a lethal weapon,” warned David, who runs the Car Doctor, on Marsh Lane, with his son.

Government figures show that between October and December last year, 30 percent of the 8.7 million cars, vans and vehicles with up to 12 seats which were tested nationwide during that period initially failed their MOT. Of those, a third had at least one issue classed as a “dangerous item”.

David, who has been in the motor industry for more than 45 years, says his well-established business could sustain a drop in income as a result of less regular testing - and insists his concern is born out of genuine fear that any change could put road users at risk.

He says that the six-month grace period offered by the government on overdue MOTs during the first lockdown in 2020 brought to his door evidence of “horrendous examples” as to why a longer gap between tests would be a misguided idea.

“As well as issues with tyres, we had vehicles come in after 18 months where you could feel lots of play in the steering.

“Some of them had wear and tear on components in both the steering and the suspension, which could potentially have failed if they’d been left any longer or if the driver had hit a pothole - and that would have left them not in control of their vehicle.

“The whole idea is a double-edged sword, because when people come in for an MOT, they might also book a service, which is a more rigorous check.

“But most people haven’t got the cash to maintain their car as would be recommended by the manufacturer - so the MOT is the only time that the vehicle is looked at by a garage.

“And I say this with kindness to younger drivers - but they don't have the same interest in their cars as people who have been driving for 20 or 30 years. Some of them don’t know how to top oil up or put air in the tyres - they just get in and drive and rely on a message coming up on the dashboard to say if anything needs doing,” David added.

He said the fact that very few garages charge anywhere near the £54.85 recommended price for an MOT means that the government would not even be saving people as much money as it thinks it might by makign a change to the reguyalrity of the tests.

Mr. Shapps told select committee members that “cars have clearly become a lot more reliable than when the MOT…was put in place”.

He added: "So…I think it's always right to keep these things under review - but there's a lot of road to cover before we get to that point."