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Servicing and MOTs – exactly what is the difference?

Updated: May 20, 2020

When you think about vehicle maintenance and measures you can take to keep your car in roadworthy condition, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? We’d hazard a guess that you answered either a regular service or an annual MOT. Both are good answers but many drivers confess that they don’t know the difference between the two or what goes on when they bring their car into the garage for these essential check ups. In fact, our latest research shows that as many as 59% of Britons are confused by what’s included in their MOT and service, so we thought we’d take a moment to explain the differences and also dispel a few common myths.


What is an MOT test and what does MOT stand for? In a recent survey we found that 85% of drivers didn’t know what the acronym MOT stood for, so what better place to start than this. Despite being defunct since 1970, MOT stands for Ministry Of Transport. But while the Government department responsible for our transport network has gone through several identity changes in the four decades since and has been known as the Department for Transport since 2002, the name has stuck as far as the MOT test is concerned. The test is an annual inspection of your vehicle that is required by law which follows a strict checklist of criteria set out by the DVSA that determines if your vehicle is fit for purpose and in roadworthy condition. Your vehicle may require additional work in order to pass your MOT but the test itself does not include any repairs or replacement parts. 


The test ensures the vehicle is safe to drive but doesn’t mean the car is running as well as it could be. That’s where a service will help…

What is a service?

A service is a vehicle inspection based on guidelines set out by your vehicle manufacturer rather than the DVSA that keeps your car in a reliable, safe and fully-functioning condition. In some ways an MOT test and service are quite similar and both include checks such tyres, brakes and seatbelts. However, a service is more thorough and includes the replacement of some parts, primarily the engine oil, to maintain the smooth running of your car. A full service can also include replacements spark plugs, fuel filter and air filter (where applicable) to further improve vehicle performance. Here’s a full list of what’s included in a service and how our service packages differ.

To put it another way... To help explain how an MOT test differs from a service, let’s imagine a mountain climber preparing to climb Mount Everest. Before setting off, you need to make sure that your body is up to the task. You visit a doctor who checks your general health to make sure you meet the minimum requirements for such a demanding expedition and have no health conditions that could put you in danger. This is like your MOT, the test ensures your vehicle is roadworthy and meets minimum safety requirements set out by the DVSA. With a bill of clean health, you could at this stage attempt the expedition but that might not be such a good idea. Instead you visit a fitness trainer who gets you into peak physical shape to take on the climb. Without this training you may find you are exhausted and have to give up, or even seriously injure yourself in some way. The fitness trainer is like your vehicle service which prolongs the life of your car. By not servicing your vehicle, you may end up breaking down and, in a worst case scenario, doing irreparable damage to the engine.

Some common myths surrounding MOT and Servicing

As well as confusing an MOT for a service and vice versa, there are also a lot of misconceptions about what it means to have an MOT or a service carried out on your car. Here's just a few.


FALSE: “An MOT guarantees the general mechanical condition of your vehicle” An MOT pass certificate means the vehicle meets the minimum road safety and environmental standards set out by the DVSA. The MOT tester is not permitted to dismantle any components on the vehicle therefore the MOT test does not give any indication of its mechanical condition.


FALSE: “Servicing your vehicle is a legal requirement” While regular servicing is highly recommended to keep your vehicle in good shape, unlike an MOT test, an annual service is not a legal requirement, nor is it a pre-requisite to insuring your vehicle. But if you think you’ll be saving a few notes by putting off your service, you could end up forking out a lot more down the road if your car requires expensive remedial work that could have been avoided if flagged early during your service. Skipping a service really is a false economy.

FALSE: “Your vehicle is deemed roadworthy for the length of the MOT test certificate” While the MOT test certificate lasts for 12 months, the MOT tester can only make judgments on the condition of the vehicle on the day it was tested. A lot can happen to the condition of your car in a year so you can’t rely on the MOT certificate to reassure yourself that the vehicle is safe. Regular checks and maintenance such as tyre condition and pressure, topping up oil and fluid levels, and replacing blown bulbs are essential to make sure you stay safe on the roads.


Why should you have an MOT and Service? The reason why you should have an MOT is very simple, if your car is 3 or more years old, it is a legal requirement to have an in-date MOT certificate for your vehicle. Not only is it against the law to drive a car without an MOT but your insurance will also become invalidated. Need we say more?

Having your vehicle serviced is up to the driver but here are 4 reasons why we think regular servicing is essential:


  • Improved safety: wear and tear builds up over time and just because your car feels ok, that doesn’t mean all is well. Regular servicing can highlight out-of-sight issues and provide peace of mind that the vehicle is safe and roadworthy

  • Vehicle lifespan: the better you look after your car, the longer it is likely to last. Regular servicing is crucial if you intend to keep your vehicle for a longtime and want to enjoy many years of trouble-free driving.

  • Save money: the upfront cost of a service may be off-putting but avoiding your service can be much more costly in the long run. Regular servicing can help to identify issues early on that could later become costly and expensive to rectify. In addition new oil and filters replaced during your service can make your car more fuel efficient.

  • Increased resale value: when it comes to selling your beloved car, evidence of regular servicing or better still a full service history is likely to attract more buyers who will be willing to pay a higher price for such a well-maintained vehicle.

MOT and Service at MKD Automotive MKD Automotive offers MOT testing and servicing at both reasonable and affordable prices. If your MOT and car service dates are close together, why not book your MOT and service at the same time? In doing so not only will you save time but also money as we offer a discount when you book combined services. Click here for all the latest prices, information and online booking for your Service and MOT.

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