Covid-19 – Here to Help: Keeping your vehicle roadworthy

By David Sholicar

As we find ourselves back in lockdown Protyre is here to help with advice on how to stay safe on your essential journeys.  Due to the circumstances of the past months essential checks and maintenance on our vehicles have probably gone off schedule.  There are many wearable components on a vehicle, being off schedule will mean they may have been running for a considerable time without being checked.  We have prepared a guide on essential vehicle safety checks that you can do at home.

oil change

In the current situation our attention is on our loved ones and helping each other through this next lockdown. The last thing on our minds is our vehicle’s roadworthiness.  We will have essential journeys to make and that’s when we need our vehicle to be ready to go.  We also need it to keep us safe when on the road.  Our guide to vehicle safety checks below can help you identify any issues.

Why check my car?

Each year roughly 30% of vehicles fail their MOT, and it’s thought there could be up to 9million drivers with vehicles whose previous advisories may have begun to pose a potential danger within weeks of its last MOT.  It is still the sole responsibility of the owner to keep their vehicle in a “roadworthy” condition, and anyone found driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition or without a valid MOT could be fined up to £2,500, receive 3 penalty points or a driving ban.

Vehicle safety check guide

Before undertaking any checks. Make sure you are wearing appropriate protective equipment. Such as gloves, safety glasses, overalls and suitable footwear.


Make sure your brakes are cool before attempting to inspect or handle them – even quick trip to the local shop to get some essential items can make your brakes very hot, so let them cool for at least an hour before inspecting them.

Most wheels have gaps in the hub or alloy that you can look through to see the brake pad. To check the life of the brake pad you will need to determine its thickness (you may need a torch to do so). If the pads look to have less than 3mm on them it might be time to get them changed. Some brake pads may have a wear indicator slot down the centre of the pad, so if the slot is gone or just barely visible then it’s time for new brake pads.

On some cars you might not be able to see the brake pad through the wheel, so you’ll need to remove the wheel to get a better look at it. Following the instructions in your vehicles handbook remove the wheel, and inspect the brake pads.

One in 10 MOTs fail because of brake issues. Call your local Protyre team for additional advice or to answer any questions you may have.


According to data from Protyre in 2019, certain car makes can be more prone to certain issues than others. For example, a Volkswagen driver is 26% more likely to fail an MOT due to suspension (compared to the average driver). The suspension bushes are exposed on the undercarriage of your car and have a number of factors to contend with – changes in temperature harden and crack them for example, while exposure to petroleum erodes them to a jelly-like consistency.

To test your suspension put the car in “park” and press down on the front of the vehicle with all of your weight, “bouncing” it a few times. When you stop, if the car continues to bounce more than two or three times your suspension may be wearing out. We offer free suspension checks if you’re unsure.


Approximately 7.4% of vehicles will fail an MOT for tyre related reasons. A visual once-over of each tyre should cover some problems – each tyre should be free from lumps, bulges, cracks, or other abnormalities. The tread of your tyre can be checked using a 20 pence piece by inserting the coin into the tread; if you can see the rim of the coin the tread depth may be below the legal limit and you will need to replace the tyre as soon as possible. It’s worth doing this in several places around the circumference of each tyre.

Checking your tread depth

Using a 20 pence piece you can easily check whether your tyre's tread depth is within the legal requirement.

To check your tyres:

  • Insert a 20p coin into your tyre's main tread grooves to determine if the outer rim of the coin is covered by the tread

  • Repeat this action in the main grooves of your tyres but ensure this is done at several points around the tyre's circumference

  • If you can see the rim of the coin at any point, your tyre may be illegal and will need replacing as soon as possible

  • Ensure your tyres are properly inflated and checked at least once a month and before any long journeys

  • Check the condition of your tyres by looking for any lumps, bulges or cracks and remove any objects embedded in the tread

  • When checking the tread, pressures and condition, don't forget the spare


Roughly 19% of MOTs fail due to lights and turn signals not working. Make sure that all of your lights are working, by asking a member of your household (or a neighbour, as long as they maintain the correct social distancing protocols) to check the external lights are all coming on when they should; or alternatively position the car near a reflective surface where you will be able to check the lights yourself.

All lights should be secure and correctly positioned, which you can test by giving them a gentle tap to see if there is any movement or wobbling. If you need to change a bulb, your vehicle’s handbook should show you how to do so; otherwise our experienced staff will be happy to help if you contact your local centre.

Fuel System

You should check that the fuel cap fastens and seals securely on your vehicle. You should also check under your car, looking at both the underside of the car and the ground underneath. If you notice any signs of a leak or dripping, you should contact your local Protyre centre.

Windscreen and wipers

Windscreens must not have any damage or obstructions larger than 10mm directly in front of the driver or 40mm anywhere else. You should make sure your windscreen is clean and clear – that smudge might not look like much now, but the sun hitting it in the right place could cause a serious obstruction to your view.

Engine oil and other fluids

Having low levels of fluids, such as engine oil and coolant, could cause serious damage to the engine if ran for long enough. Regular checks of all fluids, including screen wash, can help to ensure the smooth running of your vehicle. Consult your vehicle’s handbook to find out how or call your local Protyre team for advice.


Seatbelts should be in full working order. Take a look at them – are they frayed anywhere? Do they engage properly? Check that each belt reacts as it should (for example if the vehicle needs to brake suddenly) by severely and sharply tugging on all belts.

We remain open and here to help, so if you would like any advice please do not hesitate to contact your local Protyre centre. While essential workers can also perform these checks from home, we do recommend that all key workers maintain their MOT schedule so that they can count on their vehicles to make the journeys that count. The government has asked us to stay open for this very reason.

Book Your MOT Now

Share with your friends...

About the author

Article Author Photo
By David Sholicar
David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and expertise is dealing with the DVSA and MOT’s for Protyre. As the Authorised Examiner Designate Manager ( AEDM ) David deals with applications for changes to the many Vehicle Testing Stations ( VTS’s) including managing the growth of the Number of MOT testing stations that Protyre operate, allocating MOT tester roles, and monitoring the MOT Test logs to ensure that Protyre MOT standards are maintained as the best in the industry.
View authorArrow right
Vehicle Maintenance - Wiper Blades
Are your windscreen wipers working efficiently?  Do they squeak every time you turn them on? These are sure signs that the wiper blades are becoming worn out.
Find out moreChevron
How To Change A Bulb (Headlights, Rear Lights, Interior Lights)
Much like light bulbs in your home, the one in your car blow from time to time. They are cheap and usually quite simple to replace. Below are quick and simple sets of instructions for replacing your headlights, rear lights and interior lights.
Find out moreChevron
Vehicle Maintenance Head Gasket
The head gasket plays a very important role in the function of your car’s engine.
Find out moreChevron