Can Faulty Windscreen Wipers Cause an MOT Failure? Get the Facts
Can Faulty Windscreen Wipers Cause an MOT Failure? Get the Facts

Can Faulty Wipers Cause an MOT Failure? Get the Facts

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Windshield wipers serve as an integral part of a vehicle’s safety system, enhancing visibility in various weather conditions by removing obstructions like rain, snow, and dirt from the windshield[1]. These components, propelled by a wiper motor across the windshield, utilize a thin rubber or silicone blade to clear water, ensuring clear vision and safe driving during inclement weather conditions[1][3]. Despite being a minor component compared to other car parts, the importance of windscreen wipers cannot be overstated, especially when considering MOT history and the role they play in preventing an MOT failure[1].

Understanding the significance of windscreen wipers extends beyond their functionality; it’s also about recognizing their contribution to overall vehicle safety and preparation for the driving test[3]. Regular inspection and maintenance of these components are not just about meeting MOT standards but are a crucial investment in driving safety[1][3]. As we delve into how faulty windscreen wipers can lead to an MOT failure, it’s essential to remember that their upkeep plays a fundamental role in driving safety, influencing MOT history, and ensuring compliance with MOT testing standards[3].

The Role of Windscreen Wipers in MOT Tests

In our exploration of the role windscreen wipers play in MOT tests, we uncover several critical aspects that are meticulously assessed to ensure vehicle safety and compliance.

  • Operational Assessment:
    • The MOT test rigorously checks the condition of the windscreen, wipers, and washers, focusing on their operation, position, and functionality[4][6][8].
    • Windscreen wipers must be able to clear the windscreen of dirt effectively[8]. If they fail to do so, it results in an MOT failure.
  • Physical Condition and Maintenance:
    • Wiper blades should be in pristine condition, without any tears or damage, and must be the correct size for the vehicle[4].
    • Blocked washer jets, often caused by washer bottle contamination or wax blockages, can lead to MOT failure[5]. Regular cleaning and lubrication of wiper blades are advised to extend their lifespan and functionality[7].
  • Visibility and Safety Considerations:
    • Windscreen damage, such as chips and cracks, is closely inspected. The maximum damage size allowed is 10mm in the driver’s line of vision and 40mm elsewhere[6].
    • Properly functioning wiper blades and washers are crucial for passing the MOT test as they directly impact visibility and safety[7]. Rear windscreen wipers are also checked during an MOT test if the vehicle is equipped with one[9].

This detailed assessment underscores the importance of maintaining windscreen wipers not just for MOT compliance but for overall driving safety.

Understanding MOT Tests

To ensure a comprehensive understanding of MOT tests, it’s crucial to grasp the foundational elements that govern this mandatory evaluation. Our journey through the MOT test landscape reveals:

  • Basics and Necessity:
    • Initiated to ascertain that vehicles meet stipulated road safety and environmental standards, the MOT test is a compulsory requirement for vehicles over three years old in the UK, and four years in Northern Ireland [11].
    • Conducted at authorized centers, identifiable by a blue sign with three white triangles, the test encompasses a wide array of vehicle components [12].
  • Scope of Inspection:
    • The inspection meticulously examines brakes, fuel system, lights, mirrors, seatbelts, and notably, windscreen wipers among other components. However, it distinctly excludes the engine, clutch, and gearbox [11][12].
    • The comprehensive checklist includes body structure, exhaust emissions, tyres, steering, and even the driver’s view of the road, ensuring a thorough assessment of the vehicle’s condition [13][14].
  • Historical Context and Adaptations:
    • Since its inception in 1960, named after the then Ministry of Transport, the MOT test has evolved, now covering twenty different parts or systems [15].
    • Notably, vehicles first registered forty years prior are exempt from the test in England, Scotland, and Wales, reflecting regulatory adaptations over time [15].

This exploration underscores the MOT test’s critical role in maintaining road safety and environmental standards, emphasizing its comprehensive approach to vehicle inspection.

Inspection Criteria for Windscreen Wipers

In our comprehensive examination of Inspection Criteria for Windscreen Wipers during an MOT test, we identify several pivotal factors that inspectors meticulously evaluate to ensure optimal visibility and safety:

  • Windscreen Visibility:
    • Significant obstruction of view due to scratches or damage necessitates a failure[8].
    • Cracks or chips exceeding 1cm within the driver’s field of vision, or larger than 4cm elsewhere on the windscreen, are grounds for automatic failure[8].
  • Windscreen Wiper and Washer Functionality:
    • Wipers must efficiently clear the windscreen of dirt, with failure to do so resulting in an MOT failure[8][10].
    • Washers must supply adequate cleaning fluid to the wipers; a deficiency in this area, including a depleted screen wash bottle, will also cause a failure[5][8].
    • The condition of the wiper blades is critical; they should be of the correct size, in good condition, and provide the appropriate range of wipe. Torn or damaged blades that do not effectively clear the windscreen are cause for failure[5][10][16].
  • Defects and Categories:
    • Inspectors assess the operation, position, and functionality of the windscreen wipers and washers[5].
    • Defects are categorized for clarity: (a) Wiper not operating or missing is considered a Major defect[16]. (b) Wiper blade defects are categorized as Minor if defective, but Major if missing or not clearing the windscreen effectively[16].

Common Failures and How to Avoid Them

To mitigate the risk of MOT failure due to faulty windscreen wipers, adhering to a regimen of care and timely replacement is paramount. Our recommendations are structured to ensure your vehicle’s windscreen wipers maintain optimal performance, thereby enhancing driving safety and compliance with MOT standards.

Routine Maintenance and Inspection:

  • Regular Cleaning: Ensure wipers and windscreen are free from debris and grime. Regularly check and top up washer fluid levels for effective cleaning [4][21].
  • Inspection for Damage: Look for signs of wear such as streaking, skipping, or damage from grit and dirt. Replace wiper blades if they show any signs of deterioration [17][20].
  • Proper Sizing and Lubrication: Use correctly sized blades and lubricate moving parts to prevent juddering or uneven movement [7][18].

Preventative Replacements:

  1. Blades: Replace every 6-12 months or at the first indication of wear to avoid streaks, smears, and inadequate clearing [9][21].
  2. Rubber Inserts: Consider replacing the rubber inserts as a cost-effective method to maintain wiper effectiveness [7].
  3. Adjustments: Regularly adjust wiper arm tension and ensure the windscreen is free from damage to facilitate proper blade function [7][17].

Pre-MOT Checks:

  • Conduct a thorough walk-around of your vehicle, focusing on the wiper’s condition and functionality. Faulty windscreen wipers not clearing the windscreen effectively are a common cause of MOT failure [19][20].
  • Engage in regular dialogue with MOT testers to understand potential failure points and preventive measures [19].

By implementing these strategies, drivers can significantly reduce the likelihood of MOT failure due to windscreen wiper issues, ensuring both compliance and safety on the road.

Changes in MOT Testing Standards

As we navigate through the evolving landscape of MOT testing standards, several key changes have been implemented and proposed, reflecting advancements in vehicle technology and environmental considerations. These alterations aim to enhance road safety while adapting to the modern vehicular ecosystem.

Recent and Proposed Changes:

  • Introduction of New Defect Categories (2018): The categorization of defects was refined to include ‘Dangerous’, ‘Major’, and ‘Minor’, offering clearer guidance on the urgency and nature of issues identified during an MOT test [23][25].
  • Enhanced Emissions Testing for Diesels (2018): Stricter standards were introduced for diesel vehicles, particularly those equipped with particulate filters, to address environmental concerns [25].
  • Consultation on MOT Frequency (2023): The UK government is considering extending the initial MOT test for new vehicles from 3 to 4 years, a move motivated by the improved reliability of modern vehicles and a desire to reduce costs for motorists [22][27].

Notable Updates to Testing Standards:

  • Visibility and Brake System Adjustments (2023): The MOT inspection manual saw updates in categories such as visibility, where new requirements were set for passenger vehicles, and the brake system, to cover all forms of Electronic Braking Systems (EBS) [24].
  • Adoption of MOT Testing App (2021): A new MOT testing app was introduced to streamline the testing process, accompanied by regulations against fitting tyres over 10 years old on certain vehicles [26].

These changes and proposals signify a commitment to keeping pace with technological advancements, ensuring vehicles on the road are safe and environmentally friendly.


Through this comprehensive exploration, it has become evident that windscreen wipers play a crucial role in ensuring vehicle safety and compliance with MOT standards. Proper maintenance, regular inspections, and timely replacements of wiper blades not only contribute to passing the MOT test but significantly enhance driving visibility and safety under various weather conditions. The meticulous assessment undertaken during MOT tests highlights the importance of these components in maintaining high standards of road safety, emphasizing the necessity of their proper function for both legal compliance and the well-being of all road users.

Reflecting on the evolving landscape of vehicle technology and MOT testing standards, it’s clear that staying informed and proactive in vehicle maintenance is key. As vehicles become more advanced, understanding and adhering to these standards ensures our shared roads are safer and environmentally conscious. To support your commitment to road safety and vehicle compliance, consider taking advantage of our exclusive offer to order your wipers through our website and get up to 20% off. This not only ensures you have top-quality wipers to meet MOT standards but also contributes to a safer driving experience.


What are the criteria for windscreen wipers during an MOT test?
The front windscreen wipers must be operational and in a condition sufficient to clean the windscreen effectively. You should test them by soiling the screen slightly to ensure they can clear it properly. Although a non-functioning rear windscreen wiper is not included in the MOT test, it is advisable to have it repaired for safety.

Will a car fail its MOT test if the windscreen washers are empty?
Yes, a common reason for failing an MOT test is the absence of washer fluid. It is important to regularly check and refill your screenwash, not just for the MOT, but also to maintain visibility in adverse driving conditions.

What constitutes a windscreen failure during an MOT?
A windscreen will fail an MOT if there is a crack or chip larger than 1cm within the driver’s field of vision or any crack larger than 4cm elsewhere on the windscreen.

What are the MOT windscreen damage regulations?
For an MOT, the windscreen must meet specific requirements. In the area directly in the driver’s line of vision, which spans 290mm wide around the steering wheel, damage such as chips or cracks cannot exceed 10mm. In the rest of the areas covered by the windscreen wipers, the maximum size for any damage is 40mm.

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