January 2012 MOT Test changes –What it means for the Aircooled VW owner PDF Print E-mail



We have recently been contacted by several customers who are concerned about the new changes to the MOT test which were introduced on 1st January 2012 and how these changes would affect them. There seems to be a fair amount of misinformation on the internet, in particular on internet forums which has lead to a certain degree of untruths and scaremongering over the new changes which has left many classic VW owners worried about their vehicles.


With over 50 new changes introduced to the MOT test, it can be a bit of a minefield trying to find out what changes affect which vehicles. While many of the changes and additional testable items that have been brought in apply to most modern cars, not all changes apply to classic aircooled Volkswagens.


In response to this, we have compiled this article so you, the aircooled VW owner, can understand how the new MOT changes affect you.


Of course, this article is not either a definitive nor exhaustive list of the new changes, but aims to give you, the classic aircooled VW owner, an idea of what to expect and which new testable items may apply to your vehicle. As usual, the result of each and every MOT test depends on the tester on the day so certain things may pass one time and not necessarily the next.


Narrow Track Vehicles

A new guideline to account for narrow track vehicles has been brought in for 2012. Aircooled VW’s with narrowed beams fall into this category. This guideline is designed to assist the MOT tester in safely carrying out a test on a narrowed track vehicle. Due to the nature of narrowed beams and lowered cars it is now entirely possible that the MOT tester can refuse to test the vehicle or even fail it for not being able to complete the test if he considers it unsafe to do so.


Vehicles with a track so narrow that the vehicle cannot be safely tested over an inspection pit or an approved four post ramp,the test may be conducted on a hard standing. However, if the vehicle is so low that the tester cannot safely jack the vehicle up, they are within their right to reject the vehicle for testing or fail it for not being able to complete the test.


Many MOT inspection pits and hoists which do not have flush sliding jacks have a hydraulic jack which sticks up approximately 13-14cm so your vehicle will need to clear this. If it is too low, then sometimes the MOT tester puts the front wheels on wooden blocks to gain the required clearance. However if your vehicle is both extremely low and too narrow to go on the ramps or over the pit, it would be a good idea to raise the vehicle up if possible to allow it to be jacked up safely on a hard standing, especially to avoid bottoming the exhaust out while jacking the front of the vehicle up.


Inapproriate Repair Or Modifications

This guideline has been introduced for 2012 and involves the MOT tester assessing any repairs or modifications to the vehicle on its merits. This can include narrowed beams or any chassis modifications or even welding repairs which have been carried out on the vehicle. The main criteria for assessing these repairs and modifications is to ascertain whether the modifications or repairs carried out might be likely to adversely affect the roadworthiness of the vehicle and whether any modifications carried out have seriously weakened the component.


An example of this is an inadequately carried out IRS conversion, a narrowed beam with custom shock towers with the towers being of an insufficient thickness or design, dropped spindles which have been inadequately welded, or any chassis or body modifications which have compromised the structural integrity or safety of the vehicle.


Front And Rear Position Lamps

Front and rear position lamps must both come on with the flick of one switch. This means that any vehicles with custom set-ups where the front and rear lights are on separate toggle switches, for example, are no longer acceptable. This will require the front and rear lights rewiring into a single switch operation.


Also, front and rear lights including indicators and fog lights must not have any products or damage or detoriation which reduces the output of the light by 50%. This includes heavily smoked lenses or ladies’ tights or fruit nets which some ‘modified’ car owners seem to put over their rear lights for some unknown reason!


Number Plate Light

If you have a custom two-bulb number plate light, or LED number plate light bulbs or illuminating number plates, all bulbs and lights now have to illuminate or the vehicle will fail the MOT.


Hazard Warning Devices

There has been some confusion over this with some people on forums saying that all aircooled VW’s now need to have hazard lights fitted. This is not true. Hazard lights are only required to be fitted to vehicles after 1 April 1986, but if a vehicle before this date has a hazard switch fitted, then it has to work. If it doesn’t have a switch fitted then this is not testable.


HID (High Density Discharge) Lamps or LED Lamps

Many aircooled VW owners have retro-fitted HID lamps to their vehicles, in particular ‘German Look’ 1303’s or similar. These are the lights you see on oncoming vehicles which are really bright with a blue tint. If you have these lights fitted, they must now be fitted in conjunction with a self levelling device and also a lamp cleaning device. If you do not have self levelling or a cleaning device fitted to the lamp then your vehicle will fail. If you don’t have self levelling lights then you’d be better off fitting halogen bulbs for the MOT.


Main Beam Telltale

This is the blue light which comes on when you switch to main beam. It is now checked on vehicles manufactured after 1 April 1986, so if it doesn’t work on your aircooled VW made before this date, then you’ll be OK for the MOT although its advisable to get it fixed anyway as those oncoming drivers who keep flashing you most likely aren’t just saying ‘Hello!’.


Obligatory Headlamp

A new reason for rejection has been introduced which states that if a front headlamp has either a product or damage which reduces the output required to illuminate the road ahead then the vehicle will be fail. This could be headlamp eyebrows which obscure too much of the lamp, cats eyes, stone guards which have a mesh that is too dense, etc. So if you have something affecting the illumination of the road ahead, it would be advisable to remove it before the MOT.


Electrical Wiring And Battery

One of the important things which is now checked is the condition and security of the vehicle battery and the condition of the visible vehicle electrics. Many aircooled VW’s do not have a correctly secured battery. This is especially true with both Bay Window and Split Screen buses which have lost their securing clamps somewhere along the way.

You will need to ensure that your battery is securely clamped down and is not leaking acid or electrolyte.

The condition of the visible vehicle wiring is also checked. The MOT tester is looking for wiring which is in a very poor condition which is either exposed, insecure, chafing against a firewall or component which will pose a risk to damaging the wiring loom or detoriated to such a point where there is a risk of an electrical short or for the wiring to become detached. It is good practice to make sure that all bodywork which has wiring passing through it is furnished with a rubber grommet to protect the wiring from movement and vibration


Tow Bar Sockets And Tow Bars

Many beetles and buses have tow bars fitted. As from January 2012 the security and condition of all tow bar sockets are checked. However, only 13 pin sockets are checked for lamp operation and if your vehicle has a tow bar with a 7 pin socket, it will not be checked for operation, only for security and condition.

The actual towbar itself will be checked for any inappropriate repairs of modifications which may adversely affect the roadworthiness of the vehicle/trailer combination.


Steering Lock

There has been discussion on Internet forums about the steering lock being checked as part of the MOT test, yet many earlier aircooled VW’s do not have a steering lock. To clarify, the only vehicles which are checked for the presence of a steering lock are those used on or after 1st September 2001. This means that aircooled Brazilian Bays fall within this category, but not the majority of earlier aircooled vehicles.


Balljoint Dust Covers

What was previously an advisory only item is now a reason for rejection. Any balljoint dust covers, whether they are tie rod ends or main suspension balljoints, if the dust covers are split or perished to the point where they can ingress dirt, water and other debris, they are now an MOT fail. However, if they have small holes or are slightly perished, they will still receive an advisory notice. So be careful when you split those balljoints as not to damage the dust covers in the process.


Inappropriate Modifications or Repairs

This has been introduced to cover any welding repairs or instances where excessive heat has been applied to steering components or structural members. This can include poor welding to front axle beams, inadequate welding of the chassis for a steering box raise on a split bus and even poorly built narrowed beams or badly executed steering conversions. If the MOT tester deems the repairs or modifications to not be up to scratch, the vehicle will fail its MOT test. This check covers both front and rear suspension so poorly executed IRS conversions and other modifications would also in theory become an MOT fail.


Steering Lock Stops

All aircooled vehicles have a steering lock stop as standard. These steering lock stops prevent the road wheel from coming into contact with the body of the vehicle on full lock. Many cars which have been fitted with aftermarket front suspension such as narrowed beams have not been fitted with steering lock stops and tyre to inner arch contact is commonplace. If your vehicle doesn’t have steering lock stops then you should have them fitted before the MOT.


Steering Box Oil Leak

New for 2012 is the check for steering box oil leaks. Let’s face it, nine out of ten aircooled VW’s have a steering box leak of some degree! However, this is not a problem as long as the gear oil level is checked on a regular basis and that the leak is not excessive. It is only significant oil leaks which are a MOT failure and it is advisable to give the steering box a wipe down prior to the MOT.


Coil Springs

This applies more to Macpherson strut vehicles like 1302’s and 1303’s as well as 411/412’s. However, it can apply to vehicles which have been fitted with coilover shocks and/or aftermarket kits like Red 9 Design wishbone kits or any kit which involves a coil spring. Coil springs are now checked for general condition, in particular cracks or fractures.


Suspension Arms, Linkages and Subframes

The following items on aircooled VW’s  are now checked:

Suspension arms,

Trailing arms,

Tie rods

MacPherson Struts


Anti-Roll Bars

All these items are now checked for presence, cracks, corrosion, wear, insecurity and distortion. Anti-Roll bars in particular may be an issue with lowered cars as many people tend to remove them upon lowering the vehicle. One of the reasons for rejection is that the vehicle is missing one of the above items where it has been fitted as standard. If you choose not to run an anti-roll bar, it will be down to the tester on the day as to whether it gets picked up or not as this can be quite hit-and-miss. Also, those who have narrowed their tie-rods by cutting them and sleeving them inside, make sure the welds are in good condition and have not cracked.


Drive Shaft Gaiters

All drive shaft gaiters are now checked for damage or detoriation which would mean it would no longer prevent the ingress of dirt or other contaminants, in the same way  balljoint dust covers now are. This applies in particular to aircooled vehicles with independent rear suspension.


Parking Brake Security

The parking brake (Handbrake) is now checked not only for operation but for security, presence and condition.


Service Brake Control (Footbrake)

If you have built a buggy, or have modified your pedal cluster to take a Jamar setup or similar, this new part of the test will check that the brake pedal operates correctly and any modifications carried out are appropriate.


Brake Cables

A new check for 2012 looks at the security of the braking system cables such as the handbrake. The security of the cable, the clevis and joints are checked. Any cables or joints found to be insecure will incur a MOT fail.


Braking System Security, Modification and Repairs

If your braking system has been modified or repaired, these modifications or repairs are checked for security and safety. This can include any part of the braking system which is insecure, weakened by corrosion, damaged to a point where its operation is impaired or any locking or retaining device is missing. This is especially of concern to anyone who has a corroded rear brake backing plate as we see this quite often.

Also, if an aftermarket braking system has been fitted which is inadequate and/or any mounts which have been fabricated are unsafe, the vehicle will incur a MOT fail.


Servos and Master Cylinders

These items are now checked with the servo being checked for presence, condition of the vacuum pipe and for leaks. The master cylinder is checked for presence and the surrounding bodywork which the master cylinder is attached to is checked for structural integrity, modification, corrosion, distortion or inadequate repair. Problems in these areas are quite uncommon on aircooled VW’s, but not unknown, particularly around the ‘Admiral’s Hat’ area on a VW beetle chassis where the master cylinder is mounted as the underside of the framehead in this area is prone to corrosion.


Brake Warning Lamp

Many later VW’s have a brake warning lamp on the dash. This is a round orange lamp with a white ‘B’ on it which appears in various locations on the dash in different aircooled VW’s. This lamp lights up when the ignition is switched on, when the handbrake is engaged and also a circuit on the brake dual circuit system fails. If this light is permanently lit when the engine is running or doesn’t come on when the ignition is switched on, then this is a reason for rejection.

However, our experience shows that the operation and purpose of this lamp is very little known amongst both aircooled VW owners and MOT testers alike so the chances are that if does not illuminate, it will not get checked during the MOT unless the tester knows what it is.



With many people on a quest to go lower and narrower with their vehicles and also pushing the boundaries of modification, many different types and sizes of tyres are being used. It is now part of the MOT to check the type of tyre being used and the tyre displays NHS, Not For Highway Use, then it will fail the MOT.


Body Condition Inspection

The inspection of the condition of the vehicle body now extends to body components such as body kits, bumpers, spoilers and mirror housings. The MOT tester is looking for any sharp edge or corrosion or damage which may pose a threat of injury to another road user or pedestrian.


Front Seat Position

New for 2012 is a check of the front drivers' seat position movement. The front drivers' seat with the capability to do so will need to move in a fore and aft direction and secure in the selected positions. This point is particularly problematic for the aircooled VW owner, in particular Bay Window owners as many front drivers' seats have not been moved for years and are seized on the runners. Buggies and Trekkers suffer from the same problem and it can be very time consuming to free off the seat runners.


Door Hinges and Catches

Previously the opening of front and rear passenger doors was only checked during the MOT. Now the condition and operation of door catches, hinges and pillars are checked for security and condition. If your car has a seized door catch or hinge which does not allow normal operation or movement, then the vehicle will fail the MOT.



New for 2012 is a check of the vehicle speedometer. All aircooled VW’s will have their speedometers checked as part of the MOT test. The MOT tester will be checking for a speedometer to be present, the condition and that the speedometer can be illuminated. It does not matter if the glass is slightly cracked as long as there is no possibility of misreading the speedometer. Despite these checks, the speedometer operation itself is not checked

However, if there is broken glass or the cracks obscure the speedometer and the speedometer is clearly inoperative or does not illuminate then these are a reason for rejection.


Fuel Lines

Fuel lines are now inspected not only for condition as before, but for chafing and damage. This is especially an issue in aircooled VW’s where the fuel line passed through the rear bulkhead and into the engine bay.


Obligatory Mirrors

Previously all aircooled VW’s made on or before 1st August 1978 were checked for presence of at least one mirror whether it be an internal rear view mirror, an exterior offside mirror or a nearside exterior mirror. As from January 2012 a mirror fitted to the vehicle is checked to ensure it is neither obscured, damaged or detoriated so that the view to the rear is seriously impaired or does not provide an adequate view of the rear or is incapable of being adjusted to provide an adequate view of the rear. 'Albert’ style swan neck mirrors or ‘peeps’ may fall under this reason for rejection if they are the sole mirrors fitted to the vehicle as they don’t provide a very good view to the rear, only a good view of your rear quarter panel, the sky or your running boards.


Rear View Mirror Hangings

Previously if you had a Magic Tree or some garlands or similar hanging from your internal rear view mirror, it would have been an outright fail as the tester is not allowed to remove it before or during the test. Under the new rules, the tester may, at their discretion, remove the offending items from the mirror prior to the inspection and this will be noted as an advisory.


Hopefully the above breakdown of the new 2012 introductions to the MOT Testers Manual will dispel any myths and allay any concerns which the aircooled VW owner might have regarding the MOT test. Many of the items mentioned in the 2012 MOT test on the internet which have arisen during forum discussions are items which were originally up for consultation when the list of new test criteria were being considered and many have since been dropped.


If you wish to study the MOT testers manual in depth, you can download the manual here.


Or view it online here


The full list of changes to the MOT for 2012 can be viewed on the official VOSA bulletin here.



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