The MoT Files: Top 10 causes of van MoT failure

Most MoT failures could be avoided if van drivers spent a few minutes each week inspecting their vehicle. From blown bulbs to worn out brakes and suspension springs, these are the most-common MoT failures for vans and pick-ups.

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Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment - 653,352 failures

Over half of all van MoT failures are caused by some type of lighting problem.  More than 246,000 vehicles fail because the registration plate lamp is defective, while a further 154,000 are denied an MoT because of faulty brake lights. More than one in 10 vans will also fail because the headlight aim is dangerously adjusted.


Suspension – 406,488 failures

Given the packhorse nature of the modern van, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see so many fails due to suspension issues. However, while wear and tear to the springs, anti roll bars and suspension arms are to be expected, it’s worrying to see how many drivers are ignoring obvious problems. Does your van take you for a bumpy ride? It might be time to have it checked.


Brakes – 369,863 failures

A third of all vans will fail the MoT because the brakes are dangerously defective. Again, like suspension issues, this is often caused by the fact that vans carry heavy loads that can significantly increase wear and tear. And again, the tell-tale signs are usually easy to find, with a spongy pedal feel and/or vibrations being an indication that something is wrong.


Driver's view of the road – 240,020 failures

A quarter of a million vans fail the MoT because the driver’s view of the road is hindered in some way. Faulty or worn out windscreen wipers is the most-common cause of failure, with 124,000 vans needing work before they are granted a fresh certificate. Blocked or broken washer jets account for an additional 91,000 failures.


Tyres – 169,267 failures

Insufficient tyre tread depth accounts for 100,000 MoT failures every year, while an additional 80,000 are denied a new certificate because the tyres show dangerous signs of damage. As a bare legal requirement, a van tyre should have 1.6mm of tread - most tyres have a wear bar in the pattern that makes it easy to see where the legal limit lies.   


Steering – 113,046 failures

It’s a shocking stat, but over 100,000 vans fail the MoT because there is a dangerous defect with the steering. Common causes include fluid leaks and/or damage to the pipe, hose or wiring. Get into the habit of checking the fluid levels as part of your weekly inspection. Any knocks or strange sounds from the column should also be investigated.


Exhaust, fuel and emissions– 95,736 failures

Diesel emissions are under the microscope, with cities introducing pollution charges for older vans. If your engine is idling above its normal speed or emitting dense blue or black smoke then it will need attention from a trusted mechanic. Signs that the DPF - diesel particulate filter - has been tampered with will also result in an instant fail for most modern vans.


Body and structure – 84,3786 failures

Vans are a lot tougher than they use to be, which means MoT failures for rust account for fewer than 10 per cent of all failures. However, damaged bumpers or loose bodywork causes thousands of vans to fail every year. Some 20,000 will also fail because there is an issue with the chassis caused by damage or corrosion.


Seat belts and restraint systems – 16,052 failures

Like many of these MoT failure points, the seat belt system is easy to inspect. Drivers should regularly check the belt buckle and locking mechanism for all of the seats. They should hold firm and release when the red button is pressed. MoT failures are issued when the locking mechanism fails or the retractor does not pull the belt all the way back to the housing.


Registration plates– 24,118 failures

Thousands of vans fail the MoT because the number plate is obscured, damage or delaminated. A number of fails are also caused by the fact that the number plate uses the incorrect space and font, which is usually caused by cheap aftermarket plates that don’t meet the required standards.