/ Motoring

Warning lights on? Your car will fail its MOT test

New tougher MOT rules will require your car dashboard’s warning lights to be working. If they don’t, your car will fail its MOT test. Is this a much needed safety improvement or a route to more rip offs?

The MOT test now includes a ‘Malfunction Indicator Lamp’ check. This requires the examiner to visually check that warning lights for electronic stability control, safety restraint systems, anti-lock braking systems and tyre pressure monitoring systems are not permanently illuminated.

The requirement came into effect on 1 January to comply with a revised European testing directive. It will be highlighted as an ‘advisory’ item only until 31 March, but from 1 April onwards, vehicles will fail an MOT if these lights are illuminated.

It’s just a visual check – so doesn’t require any diagnostic equipment to evaluate the actual cause of the light being on, but you can bet your bottom dollar the garage will charge you to investigate why a light is on (it will scan the system for a fault code, pointing to the cause).

The risk of rogue warning lights

When I recently asked my Renault dealer to investigate a warning light, the first thing they said was that there would be a £45 charge for a diagnostic check, then additional rectification costs depending on what that revealed.

My ‘fault’ was a service warning to check the handbrake (not covered by the new MOT rules as far as I can tell) which came on after the battery was disconnected.

As an ex-mechanic, I checked the physical components of the handbrake and there wasn’t an actual handbrake fault. In my view, it was simply a rogue indication because of the loss of power to the system. But to find that out for sure, I have to stump up £45, without even thinking of any consequential costs.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that these lights are important – and if functioning correctly, they can let you know of a genuine safety risk.

So it seems sensible to make these an advisory notice. But, to me, the idea that they constitute an automatic MOT failure (without a proper investigation) leaves motorists open to being charged extra, perhaps simply because modern electronic systems are still too quirky and can display rogue signals from time to time. Would your car pass these new MOT rules?

Mot Tester North says:
9 April 2012

I have read this thread in great detail, sometimes I`m in agreement with what has been written & sometimes I am not. what I havent seen anyone mention is the fact that Many cars that get presented for mot have been involved in an accident of some sort , be it a light bump with only minor damage or a category C writeoff. Many of these cars have had the airbags deployed and suspension damaged, Many will have been repaired to a satisfactory standard at an approved garage but more often than not they have been repaired by the DIY mechanic. I have tested many cars over the years that have been presented with airbag light`s illuminated and superglued plastic where the airbags used to be and I have not been able to do anything more about it (other than simply advising that I have noticed it) . Some of the repairs I have seen have been diabolical but as they meet the requirements set out by VOSA again all I can just do as a tester is simply advise. I for one are all for the new legislation coming into effect even if it is just to make sure these poorly repaired cars meet the new minimum standard set by VOSA (after all the warning lights are there for a reason) & with some garages charging as little as £20 for a code read & reset I dont think as a motorist it is unreasonable (The higher cost is implemented if the customer decide`s to go ahead with the diagnosed repair) after all a fault is a fault regardless of what is causing it ! Another point I would like to make is that it is always the Tester who is met with the angry customer ranting that we are just out to make money from them when their car fails the Mot because of some new legislation that has been brought in. We don`t make the rules, but we do have to deal with the aftermath of them every time a car fails “the dredded Mot test” I feel it wont be long now before we will have to employ security guards to be with us when we present them with the fail cerificate.

Steve says:
16 July 2012

The main problem is though that a vehicle owner depends on someone with the right computer, perhaps even the main dealer.
There have always been specialist tools required for specific tasks but ECU manufacturers have found diagnosis software to be a money maker. The aftermarket for good tools (VAG-COM is an exception) is still too small.
Does an owner really own the vehicle??

“a light bump with only minor damage” or a cracked bumper can be a category C writeoff, sadly. And the insurance just pays…

amc says:
23 July 2012

Hi to the mot tester north
I have a ford Galaxy. The airbag warning light is on. Ford want £84.50+vat to read the fault befor repair starts RIPOFF.

Nicholas Keeble says:
10 April 2012

Further to my earlier post re. ABS light not performing on a Citroen XM… garage found the bulb had been removed and the wires to the ABS block had been damaged, but nothing at all was wrong with the system. To fix the problem the whole dash had to be removed, so the total cost was £188 for just labour. I blame the irresponsible previous owner rather than the tester who was after all just doing his job. My advice to anyone coming across a warning light not working is to first check that the bulb hasn’t been removed.

ali says:
10 April 2012

Bought a ford focus off a local dealer 4 years ago. noticed the engine management light was on. After 3 investigations the dealer said that there were no faults with the car and the light was on due to a ghost of a memory. 4 years on I book it in today for an M.O.T. and after notifying them of this light they tell me it won’t pass the M.O.T. So due to clitches in modern car manufacturing and despite faults that may cause this light to come on not being part of a M.O.T it will still fail! I refuse to pay £45 as the investigative work has already been done and it has passed 3 subsequent M.O.T’s since my purchase of it and has never shown any faults that would make such a light come on. Marvellous, simply marvellous!

So go back to the originaldealer and insist they fix the problem or refund the cost you paid for the vehicle as it was clearly NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.

They will of course refuse to do this so take them to the small claims court and lets see what happens.

wayne says:
15 April 2012

I think there needs to be people power in act here. E petition etc. There must be thousands of cars with lights on including mine for last two years. Will cost already skint motorist more .

Mot tester north says:
15 April 2012

Wayne, If the lights are on then you have a fault simple as , I can guarantee you there was no lights on when the car left the Showroom so why do you think it should now pass an mot with a light on ?


If there is an e-petition to get manufacturers to address the problem of unreliable warning systems I will offer my support. I suspect that you believe that it is OK to drive around ignoring warning lights. The potential hazards have been explained above, and you will be breaking the law and invalidating your insurance if you knowingly drive a car in a condition that would fail an MOT.

I can understand your frustration but you should get the problem fixed and take it up with the repairer if the problem recurs.

Steve says:
13 July 2012

I’d support this.

Yellow warning lights should never fail an MOT. Real hazards should be indicated by red lights (as e.g. the oil pressure light). There is no way it should be illegal to drive around with a yellow engine management light on. It could be the auto-gearbox having an intermittant fault with no safety implication. So a faulty auto-gearbox could you make break the law and invalidate your insurance? What a mad idea!

Once someone bought a car and it’s out of warranty you should be completely independent from the main dealer with regards to fixing such faults. This is just an attempt to chain the users to the main dealers. Where is VOSA supporting owner’s independence?
Btw. “DIY” mechanics can do really good jobs. It’s mainly DIY mechanics e.g. that got diesels running on cooking oil. Most professionals would never do that, they are too afraid of having to be responsible if something goes wrong.
Oh and btw. cooking oil can trigger the EML though there’s nothing wrong, just different fuel that the manufacturer didn’t want.

For Volkswagen VAG COM works fine. So lets hope for the aftermarket to develop more VAG-COMs for other makes.

Steve says:
16 July 2012

@ Wayne: “you will be breaking the law and invalidating your insurance if you knowingly drive a car in a condition that would fail an MOT.”

Nonsense. You will not be covered if this condition is responsible for an accident. But that’s all. They may try to construct what you mentioned above to avoid payment but this can and must be challenged in court.
Otherwise you would go to jail if the EML comes on while you’re out on tour because you wouldn’t pass MOT with it and you know it. LOL

@wavechange – “invalidate insurance if you knowingly drive a vehicle which would fail MOT”

1. How do you know if the light will cause a failure of MOT as the instrumentation doesn’t tell you enough.

2. Lets take it to the extreme, if a warning light comes on then the car should automatically switch off the engine regardless of where you are as you are driving a vehicle which would fail MOT.

Absolute crap – I am driving down the motorway and a warning light comes on – what should I do? You seem to say stop as I am not insured, outside lane I stop immediately and cause a major accident, insurance companies will HAVE to come into the new world!

I have never had a warning light come on but if it happened I would take advice from a motoring organisation. I hope that others would do the same.

Manufacturers need to face up to the fact that there are far too many warning light problems but drivers need to acknowledge that their responsibility for the condition of their vehicles.

Commonsense indicates that you should stop as soon as it is safe to do so, and not in the outside lane.

@wavechange – commonsense – but I will be driving illegally! Are you suggesting that I drive a car unfit as it will fail MOT?

Lets say I am ‘intelligent’ and I elect to stop as soon as it is safe AKA probably at the next service station, on the way there is an accident which I am involved in, who pays for the repairs, I am uninsured according to you?

It’s not up to me to say whether your insurance company will be happy for you to continue driving with a warning light illuminated on the dashboard.

Perhaps others cam form their own opinion of whether your view or mine is the ‘intelligent’ one. 🙂

@wavechange – intelligence – I don’t think that comes into it when we talk about insurance, ‘rules is rules’ to quote someone else.

Insurance companies will seek every possible way out of paying for an accident, so IMHO it is up to all insurance companies to state where they stand with the stupidity of this legislation.

Most drivers would seek assistance if a light came on eventually, why is this a problem? It’s a problem because legislation is blind to circumstances, the tendency is to forget cause and effect and rather to look only at the letter of the law.

So lets see if someone from insurance would like to put some input here, ‘is my insurance invalidated as soon as a warning light comes on or not’?

Mind you I think I am losing the gist of this convo, we have cars that are on the road with virtually no sensors and then we have cars on the road with sensors to detect if you fart, why are the car drivers of the ‘farters’ penalised when the same fault is not identified in cars without those fart sensing sensors?

Well you think the legislation is stupid and I think it is sensible. There is little point in continuing this discussion, David.

Steve says:
17 July 2012

What is it with you all being scared when a light comes on??

> I have never had a warning light come on but if it happened I would take advice from a motoring organisation. I hope that others would do the same.

Nope I certainly wouldn;t. I’d make myself familiar with the vehicle I have and take my own responsible decision.
I can expect this to be covered by the law.

> Manufacturers need to face up to the fact that there are far too many warning light problems but drivers need to acknowledge that their responsibility for the condition of their vehicles.

Agree but that does not mean to declare it a breakdown when the EML comes on as in the example I have described earlier.

> Commonsense indicates that you should stop as soon as it is safe to do so, and not in the outside lane.

No it doesn’t because you cannot do anything about it if e.g. the EML comes on. I’d continue on until the next service station and have a look into the engine compartment.
All plastic covers of the engine are removed anyway so I can see upcoming faults (like blow by on the injectors or I can check the condition of the timing belt).
I also wouldn’t worry if it’s the ABS light, because all it can do it turn off the ABS system.
If nothing is found wrong, no strange noises I will happily continue until I get to my VAG-COM to find out what it is and fix it.

Anybody who thinks you become illegal with a warning light on thinks the law is something automatic. Chances are that nobody cares but if there is an accident and the other party’s insurance tries to get outn of it this way a court will decide. Honestly this wouldn’t happen in Europe. I’ve been in Germany and their car insurances don’t ask for convictions, don’t ask for points not do they ask abt any mods on the vehicle. If it passes MOT then fine. If a technical problem is responsible for an accident then the driver will be held responsible- simples.

Looks like there hasn’t been a ruling yet hence all the myths…

wayne says:
15 April 2012

People have spent hundreds with socalled munfound faults and scrapped good cars.I’m sure anyone in the garage trade will have a very nice pay rise this tax year.

wayne says:
18 April 2012

EBay 25 quid will cancel warning lights problem solved.

Mot Tester North says:
19 April 2012

Wayne – Buying a device for £25 off eBay to turn out the lights is not solving the problem ! In most cases the lights will still continue to come back on until you actually replace the part that is causing the lights to come on in the first place. Anyone who is trying to turn out their lights just to pass the mot confirms to me that their obviously not bothered about the condition of their vehicle after it has passed it`s Mot. And it is these kind of people that have prompted Vosa to bring in such legislation. I do hope that the local constabulary are brought up to date with legislation so that any vehicle stopped that is showin warning lights is given a proabition notice to keep them off the road, because in reality it would be on the road with a defect that would not allow it to pass an Mot, just as a it wouldnt pass if it had a bald tyre.

Steve says:
13 July 2012

@MOT tester: Don’t be so legalistic. As mentioned above the EML e.g. does not differentiate between hazardous and non hazardous faults. So you want a gearbox with a sensor problem would trigger a prohibition??

Another example: I once had a Vito on with (red) SRS light on. It’s been taken to the battlefields of the Somme. Airbag unit regietered an impact but did not trigger the airbag due to low speed (acc to the computer). But you cannot reset the airbag controller. The customer has to buy a NEW one!
This might have disabled the airbag function now. But be real, I’m using a 1987 built Caravelle. I’m not worried that it’s got now airbag. Nowadays people get scared if there is no ABS or airbag because they just don’t know how to handle this. Previously we used our brain and defensive driving, cadence braking etc. to keep us safe. And in fact ABS keeps you going in your direction but it does not shorten your stopping distance as most people seem to think.

As for the SRS light: The customer did the sensible thing- he decided to live with it until he finds a used controller from a scrap yard or on Ebay. You would have given him a prohibition and forced him to buy from the dealer eh? Common sense replaced by robotic enforcement?

david says:
19 April 2012

hi would my zafira pass m.o.t as i hav the engine managmeant light is on as is my antyskid light

Mot Tester North says:
19 April 2012

Hi David, The new legislation on lights was supposed to come into affect on the 1st of April 2012 I can confirm that the legislation has been delayed being put onto the VTS system (Vosa have listed the reason as a bedding in period ?? ) Any lights on your dash up to this point should still be logged as an advisory, however Some Mot Stations are failing them now, The new legislation WILL be coming into affect this year and Rumour is that it will happen within the next few weeks possibly May !!

YulandManes says:
27 April 2012

I have justtaken my car for an MOT and it has failed because the ABS light stayed illuminated a second longer than the regulations when the ignition is started. What is this crap meant to be? The light goes out with all the other lights once the engine is started. Is the garage trying to rip me off?

Mot Tester North says:
27 April 2012

Hi YulandManes, Sounds like your tester has been a bit unfair, Speaking from an mot testers point of view we dont have a stop watch to count exactly how long lights take to go out, As long as they go out & stay out then there really shouldnt be a problem. On occassions however I have seen some crafty customers who have looped the abs light circuit with the airbag light or engine managment light if they have had a problem on the abs system, What they dont realise however is that the lights go out in sequence. If this has happened on your vehicle then the tester is within his rights to fail the car. What was the reason for refusal on the fail sheet ? There is an appeal process to follow if you are unhappy with the testers reason to fail it, it will state the details of this process on the fail sheet. But be warned Vosa will retest your full car again & won`t just look at the bits it failed on.

roelo umpha says:
30 April 2012

The EU is a bag of manure!!!!!!!1

That’s a bit unfair to bags of manure, the EU is populated by a group of conniving b…ARS who only want to line their pockets and damn anyone else.

stuart says:
14 June 2012

so if old cars are so unreliable,how come they are still being drive after 30+ years,new cars will be in a scrap yard after 20 years or so,so why are they so sophisticated electronically,ok so they start first time or maybe a few turns after,but you know when a old car is going to start,so as for the peugeot 206 well what can i say except they should never been made they are just rust buckets and no one can argue with that,yes i agree warning lights are there for a reason but why after all these years do they come into a m.o.t people have had warning lights lit on their dashboard for years and still nothing has happened to them,no crashes etc so your saying get these warning lights repaired as they could cause accidents….only if you look at them whilst driving as your eyes are not on the road,get real,it like saying bikers should wear gloves to save their lives,many of them don`t and only wear shorts in the summer..is`nt it up to them if they want to choose to wear them or not….point said

daveg3 says:
7 July 2012

Can anyone say if this change is in force, yet? As far as I can tell, the MOT guide on the VOSA site still does not appear to contain any mention of this check. I’m still unclear on exactly which warning lights are covered – can Which? please update us with an article on this subject, which is obviously of great interest to a large number of members?
On the general subject of reliability, it appears from reading Which? reports over many years that French cars do not have a particularly good record, when it comes to the electrical systems – buyer beware?

daveg3 says:
8 July 2012

Oops! Have found the April 2012 article on the lights (p.8), detailing those affected – missed this first time round. Also appears that I should have added Volkswagen to “French cars”, re. poor electrical reliability.
Perhaps we could still have an update in Which?, please?

david king says:
14 July 2012

my 03 mercedes c2oo komp, suddenly showed the engine light on the speedo. i had it checked at a local garage , they said it showed that my variable valve timing was at fault. it would make no differance to the engine, was probably a sensor but may cost up to £1000 to find and fix it. they said to leave it on, and they would put it out for me, just before the mot ( it takes about 60 miles before it comes on again) i dont like being put in this position,but £1000 for a light that makes no difference is hard to take. what shall i do , is the engine mot able?

Mot Tester North says:
15 July 2012

@ Steve, As a tester we have to inspect the vehicle that is presented to us for examination, If there is an engine management light showing on the dash we do not plug a machine into it to see what the fault is. That is a problem for the customer to sort out before they bring the vehicle for examination. I agree that in most cases the light is not pointing to anything that would be considered as serious BUT there is a large number of people who bring their cars in for examination prior to then selling on the vehicle to an unsuspecting person, The new legislation should ensure that these vehicles with an engine managment fault will be repaired before the car gets sold on to some poor guy who thinks his new car is the bee`s knee`s only to find out after a 100 miles or so that theres a problem with one part or another and gets that old chestnut ” well it was ok when you took it & it`s just passed it`s M.O.T so it must have been ok then” from the seller. So in my personal opinion I think the new legislation is a good thing for people who want to buy a fault free car. I`m not being legalistic as you put it but rules are rules and it`s the same for every-one & we all have to abide by them cause unfortunately not every-one is law abiding, and if you had seen some of the vehicles presented for test you would be shocked to say the least. This is why Vosa are continually updating the testing system to try & stop these bodgers selling on cars to ususpecting customers.

Mot Tester North says:
15 July 2012

@ David King – I`m Sorry but if my garage told me I had a problem with my variable valve timing and it was nothing to worry about I would seriously consider finding a new garage !! Variable valve timing adjusts your engine ignition timing as you drive and will advance or r****d the timing as the engine needs it, if there is a fault on the system stopping it from doing it`s intended purpose then the engine will suffer for it in the long run & at some point you may even lose the engine. Your car as it is at the moment with the faulty sensor may not even pass the emmissions check as the timing will need to advance or r****d to suit when it is having the test done, bare in mind when the check is being done the rpm can be as high as 3000 rpm & the average rpm while driving at 70mph is only 2500 rpm depending on engine size !!!! My advice is find another garage !!!

Steve says:
16 July 2012

Well… first of all on MOT you get an accelerated idle, no load. This does make a difference.
And the valve timing is a good example: It can ruin the engine if it’s not just a sensor. £1000 if it’s just the sensor would be disproportionate. Otherwise it’s the customer’s decision whether he wants to burn the exhaust valves or not.
The environmental impact is minor as the variable valve timing works within a limited range. Ignition/injection would still advance, just the exhaust valve would not open any later. So it wouldn’t really increase NOx. He might feel reduced torque at lower revs. Good example of where one should lobby for rules with more common sense.

Mot Tester North says:
15 July 2012

also @ Steve re cooking oil, Professionals dont use cooking oil in thier vehicles because we have seen the damage that can be done by using it if it isnt refined correctly ! There is a correct way & an incorrect way, I have serviced vehicles than are running on cooking oil & can tell you the fuel filter after a while gets compacted with what appears to be Lard !! If regular filter changes are not done this then gets through the fuel lines to your injectors and it then block`s them, Injectors are not cheap !! add that to the cost of new fuel pipe`s then you have an expensive fix on your hands.

Steve says:
16 July 2012

@MOT tester:
Rules are rules…yes but what’s your opinion? Rules may change over time and there is always a way to lobby for a specific change in rules. Rules are for the people not for the sake of the rules themselves. And in this case the rules do not support the people. They create a nanny state attitute in people. Using your example this would mean people would expect to buy fault free cars and wouldn’t make an effort to check out the car themselves! It’s like “I’ve got ABS so I can go a bit faster”- well no you can’t (…switch off your own thinking)!
Everyone who buys a car privately should be aware there can be faults and should check.

In the ~90s there was a flash code system which would tell you what’s wrong. Now there is VAG-COM vor VW and some Volvo’s and there are lots of affordable OBD scanners that tell you all emission related faults at least. But automatic MOT failure due to an unspecified light/fault does not help anyone take any self-initiative or make an informed decision.
Want an example: Had a Sprinter minocoach driver this week. EML came on while he was taking passengers to the airport. he paniced, thought he couldn’t take it on the motorway. He declared it a breakdown, called for a replacement vehicle and waited for Merc warranty service. Turned out the air filter intake plactic pipe got dislocated slightly and the MAF registered a fault. A clear message would have avoided a big bill but the EML made the driver panic.

Reg cooking oil: Again if you use cooking oil, it’s your own responsibility not the state’s. If your car breaks down you got to deal with it.
After using cooking oil 1st time it usually blocks the fuel filter quickly because dirt in the tank doesn’t settle as fast as with diesel so it all gets sucked in.
Oil can contain too much water, be badly filtered, contain too much fat etc. But what has this got to do with the mechanic who might do the conversion? You can give advice (strangely most people want dual tank systems) but have the customer sign that he/she is responsible. As long as this is a free country everyone should have the freedom to take the risk of destroying or not destroying one’s own engine. And sustainalbly grown (!) cooking oil is carbon neutral, could de-centralise the fuel market. Big business won’t deal with it due to the ties with the oil industry. It needs to come from small businesses, private developers. As with all things there are good and bad jobs- not just in this field.

It’s just like TfL’s LEZ regulations: You shall only buy a filter from an approved dealer and even have it fitted by them. You shall not: find a suitable filter from a comparable engine, adapt it to yours (that includes fitting it), have it tested/certified so it meets the targets and run the vehicle. If you want to do that you need to: become an ISO 9001 certified and approved manufacturer, an approved fitter, get the device certified and finally have it checked on MOT again. That’s only for large scale commercial productions, nothing for the private or small business inventor. So many vehicles get scrapped because there is no “approved filter” as it would be too expensive to go through all tbhis for a small scale certifications though technically there would be solutions. TfL says it’s all for the environment but a skilled mechanic could certainly at least fit a certified device according to instructions without much bureaucracy.

It’s all the same message as with the EML… “if you are not approved/dealer qualified/have invested large sums… you don’t know what you’re doing, you cannot be trusted. So go and spend money and trust your expert.” Hence just a yellow light, no plain text messages.

In all cases we should give back roads users their self-responsibility and self-determination!
If you are an MOT tester with common sense, I’d think you’d lobby for rules with common sense not for nanny state regulation that makes people think the state takes care of everything. It’s the people who are responsible for the kind of rules they get…

Mot Tester North says:
17 July 2012

@ Steve My personal opinion doesnt count when it comes to examining vehicles ! There are set rules that as a tester I am legally bound to follow. The days of giving the “benefit of doubt” to the customer are long gone I`m afraid. Vosa regularly do spot checks on garages on a daily basis across the country to make sure that examinations are carried out correctly. They can also stop your vehicle at any time and inspect it to make sure it is at a standard that allows it to be on the road, If any defects are found (including management, abs, light`s etc) then a proabition notice can be issued, the vehicle is then required to pass a full mot examination before it is allowed on the road again !! This may seam harsh but the rules are not there just for the sake of it, they are there to ensure that all vehicle`s are in a safe condition to be on the road, You sound like you would be the first person to point the finger at the poor examiner who had used his “common sense” & passed a car with an EML Abs fault showing that then go`s into a skid after driving from the test centre & crashes into your car & I quote what you wrote in an earlier post ” in fact ABS keeps you going in your direction but it does not shorten your stopping distance ” your right in what you say but you forgot to mention the bit about it stopping you from skidding & allows you to steer while braking !!! You also mention the driver taking people to the airport and calling for recovery, There was obviously something wrong with the vehicle in question as you say the pipe had dislodged slightly ( prob down to shoddy workmanship as I have been repairing & driving vehicles for over 30 years and never have i had a pipe dislodge in all that time) The driver in question did the right thing by calling for recovery as if he had continued and god forbid something serious happened then the driver would have been liable !!!! So there is conclusive proof that the EML system is doing what it is supposed to do !!! You appear to have issue`s but not only with vosa & vehicle examiners but also with Insurance companies who may void your insurance if you have an accident and just happen to have a light on your dash & also with the car dealers for not making the EML more readable by joe puplic, not to mention having to use their own brand of filters !!!! (God help the weather man should he predict sunshine & it turns out rain !) You sound as if the world owes you a favour !! Well I have news for you It does not, And to quote a line from your statement “It’s the people who are responsible for the kind of rules they get…” It is because of people like yourself that these rules have been made in the first place so give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done !!!! you should change your name to Victor Meldrew ……….

Thank goodness for some commonsense. There are so many people who think they know best.

That’s not clear. I support clear rules and proper standards. That is my idea of commonsense.

Steve says:
17 July 2012

Sorry MOT tester but I disagree- still with the same name 🙂

We should stop replacing common sense with rules that don’t care, that’s all. We don’t need rule robots.
Surely you are bound to the rules when you are at work, that’s ok but you can think about them and lobby for common sense in the rules. And the world owes common sense- to everybody! Common law is based on this principle btw.

So yes I would have liked to pass a car with EML light on. I’d lobby for a change in the rules. It cannot cause a crash. As for the ABS light, I would have liked to be allowed to know what it is and yes I would have failed it if ABS wasn’t working because I need to assume the driver is poorly educated about the physics of it. You can get a free re-test. Sometimes it’s just a sensor, so would have told the driver to help him fix it and come back.

And a prohibition for an EML is no common sense.
The driver who declared it a breakdown did over-react. Nothing could have happened. The plastic pipe was a bit squashed by the main dealer on the last warranty repair so the air flow reading was found “wrong” by the ECU. It was an example to show what those lights can do if they don’t tell explicitely what’s wrong. The driver could have continued safely.
I’ve seen VOSa issue a prohibition to a coach driver because there was a chewing gum on one seat left behind by a kid- after they couldn’t find anything else!

As for the ABS, yes that’s what I meant when I was saying it keeps you going in your direction (whichever you chose). You can steer. I know and appreciate the benefits of ABS, so wouldn’t want to miss it. But there is still no need to panic when the light comes on. It’s just based on people not knowing their vehicle, not knowing the physics. It basically comes from poor driver training. Otherwise people would be able to handle this. The ABS light tells you to expect that the ABS system might not work. It tells you to be prepared and handle it. Knowing this you can then make your own arrangements without rushing to the next best garage on your way. One should get it fixed- I also said that. But it does not mean you haven’t got time to shop around.
Again, should this go to court, I’m sure common law knows common sense.

You sound like you treat yellow lights like red lights, like oil pressure warning lights. It’s people like you who make others panic because you put out warnings, prohibition threats etc. but you do not educate people so they can take their own responsible decisions. All that people should do in your eyes- as far as I can read it- is to obey some lights, be scared to lose insurance because they break the law etc. It does not encourage anyone to know more. It places all responsibility on “the law” (i.e. the letter of it, not the spirit) so people can turn up the music again…

So as menitioned above: anybody who thinks you become illegal with a warning light on thinks the law is something automatic. Chances are that nobody cares but if there is an accident and the other party’s insurance tries to get outn of it this way a court will decide. I’ve been in Germany and their car insurances don’t ask for convictions, don’t ask for points not do they ask abt any mods on the vehicle. If it passes MOT then fine. If a technical problem is responsible for an accident then the driver will be held responsible- simples….in a country without speed limits.

So finally, I’ve got no issue with you MOT testers or VOSA people. I know quite a few and they all got common sense…and use it. I also like good standards and I surely wouldn’t take an MOT tester to court if my ABS fails.
I just believe that people have been discourage to be self responsible by the inflation of rules that are applied by the letter (not the spirit). We need to reverse this development. It partly originates in a claims culture but it also comes from an “off the shelf”- culture where people don’t want to get educated anymore.

Self responsibilty means *you* decide whether your vehicle is safe and roadworthy and you are responsible for it. With this you should have covered 99.9% of all the rules. And you should not get “hanged” for those 0.01% that are not safety related anyway. But you *should* get “hanged” if you fail to keep youe vehicle roadworthy where it is crucial.

I can see this may be difficult in a CCTV and ANPR state where according to a similar principle anybody is a potential suspect by default instead of being trusted by default (like in France/B/NL/D/Lux…).

Steve says:
17 July 2012

Another thought from Victor M:

Reg the driver with a “breakdown” because of the EML: The same driver in a vehicle without an MAF sensor on the air filter or with no EML installed at all would have been perfectly “legal” according to your idea. It proves the importance for safety…lol

The difference is of pure technical legal nature and defies all common sense.

Andy says:
23 July 2012

I have a Toyota Avensis Verso, 2002. My engine warnign light has been on for the past 5-6 years. It has passed all MOT’s. I was told it could be the Cat or a sensor but still the car has passed all emission tests etc. The cost ofthe sensor is a few pound, to fit it is circa £1,500 with no guarantee the light will extinguish go out. Why woudl I pay that amount when the car is not worth much more. The warning light business is crazy, if the car passes all teh “Real” tests of brakes, lights etc then why believe a warning light…

Steve says:
24 July 2012

Hey Andy,

That’s the actual issue: Your car might not pass MOT anymore now.
If it is the cat it does make sense to repair as the emissions might be too high (under load e.g. which micht not be picked up during the test).
I’m not talking about legalities here, just think it’s common sense to take care of emissions…even though this can actually make you go illegal sometimes (e.g. if you design, fit and successfully test your own particle filter but you cannot afford the certification).

And £1500 sounds excessive. Have you asked for a breakdown of the costs to see what exactly is involved? You may be able to do it yourself or with the help of a friend depending on what it is.

Many cars are designed so the robots in the factory can assemble them efficiently. Anything else is not important, even better if the vehicle is not “repairable” at low costs. People will buy a new car much earlier if they are told by some that a yellow light is highly illegal.
A majority of the general public plays their game without asking questions as much as they queue to fill up if someone mentions a tanker strike…

Andrew Lindop says:
27 July 2012

modern cars have too many electronic devices that mis-report their status and its impossible for the home user to rectify without a 4k machine of some kind.
I wouldnt mind if the ABS were actually faulty but when its just a glitch as windows 95 has crashed on your Astra – I am not happy at all.
I am gradually regressing in time with my cars and have just bought a 1978 MGB – its only got about 4 warning lights and they only come one when there IS a real problem. My 68 Daimler has even less junk in the dash and has disc brakes all round. I feel quite safe driving my oldies and safe in the knowledge that they are not going to ‘rip me off’ as when they get an issue it is a real one, not some fantasy illness thats going to cost me.

Motor Tech says:
17 October 2012


Your comment “but you can bet your bottom dollar the garage will charge you to investigate why a light is on (it will scan the system for a fault code, pointing to the cause).”

Of course a garage will charge YOU to check why YOUR light is on.

Do you really think that the £1000’s of pounds a garage invests in diagnostic equipment and training should be used for free? Cop on and join in the real world.

My advice is to go to a garage who employ good technicians, specifically an “ATA Master Technician”. This way you’ll get the best answer in the shortest amount of time.

Go to a cheap garage, who’ll scan your car for codes and simply replace the part, and you’ll have a large bill and no resolution. If the garage says ‘ that’s what the computer told us’ then run away. A diagnostic machine NEVER tells a garage to replace a part. At best it suggests a component or a circuit which may be under performing.

The garage should verify this with further pinpoint electrical testing. A garage should use a multimeter or oscilloscope to test components, the wiring and the control unit in order to diagnose the root cause.


Steve says:
17 October 2012

Acc to my experience it doesn’t depend on how cheap or expensive a garage is. It also doesn’t depenmd on whether they are masters or not.

What I remommebd is to discuss before how they are going to check this. Technicians should e.g. ask questions (like a doctor) on the situation when the light came on etc.
If their first thought is “put the computer on”, I’d walk away…

On another note: This issue is a rule that is completely out of proportion when it comes to “being legal” etc. Let me put it in a wider “road-context”:
I’ve seen three minicoaches, two filters, three catalysts being stolen from vehicles within the last six month. Police sent a letter saying the investigations were closed usually only after one week! 3bn were invested in ANPR cameras all over the UK, which is really intrusive (www.bigbrotheriswatching.org). Non of the stolen parts/vehicles have been found. They don’t care about crime…but keep watching those who’ve done nothing wrong.
And guess what: Go to the continent and it’s as safe, if not even safer then in the UK with out all those money put into surveillance.

…and we are concerned about some yellow lights? Lets get the basics right first.