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How to prepare a camper van for its MOT test

Getting your camper van through its MOT might seem like a daunting task, but following our top tips will ensure it’s as smooth a process as possible...

Volkswagen California Ocean 2021 front

Just like most other vehicles on the road, a camper van must be presented for an MOT test every year, and doing so causes plenty of drivers to worry, both about what the test might uncover about their vehicle, and about the potential financial pain of putting any issues right.

However, it really needn’t be that way; a few simple checks and preparations ahead of time can take away much of the worry when MOT time rolls around.

First off, it's important to remember that getting a Class 4 MOT certificate for a camper van is pretty much the same as getting one for your car, so you shouldn’t face any unexpected curve balls. However, if you have a preferred garage and MoT test station, it’s worth giving them a call beforehand to make sure that they can test your campervan or motorhome, because garages can vary in the types of vehicles they are able to test.

Here, we'll run through the other things you should do to prepare your camper van for its MOT test.

MOT test

Preparation is key

One way to stay relaxed when your camper van’s MOT test is due is to know exactly what condition it is in long before you submit it. That way, a few simple checks will ease your mind on the day, and the best news is that most of these can simply be accomplished simply by walking round the vehicle and looking at it.

The outside

Check the lights by walking round and making sure they all illuminate as they should. If you happen to notice a cracked lens, it’s wise to replace it – it might not fail an MOT but it could well allow in moisture, causing further grief down the line.

If you can’t borrow an assistant, you can check brake lights by reversing up to a wall and pressing the pedal while watching in the side mirrors to ensure that they light up as they should.

Vauxhall Vivaro campervan lights

Next, check the tyres. These should all be the correct size (the specification will be provided in the owner's manual) and inflated to the correct pressure. Study each tyre to make sure there are no cracks or cuts in the sidewalls (remember to check the inner sidewall), and that there’s enough meat in the tread. The Highway Code stipulates that a tyre should have at least 1.6mm of tread depth across 75% of its width. It’s well worth shelling out £15 on a tyre-safety kit to make all this that bit easier.

If your camper van has a tyre pressure-monitoring system, reset this once all the tyres are at the correct pressure. If you have such a system fitted, it needs to be working correctly.

Vauxhall Vivaro campervan wheels

In addition to the tyres, check the wheels, too; they must not be buckled or cracked (although surface scuffs suffered when parking are fine), and the bolts must all be done up to the correct tightness.

To pass an MOT test, your vehicle must have one interior mirror (only if there's a view to the rear) and one exterior mirror in good condition. If one of the exterior mirrors is damaged, it has to still be secure and must have no sharp edges. If the glass is broken, it’s best to replace it, or at least cover it up with a suitable stick-on mirror until a replacement can be fitted. 

Finally, open the bonnet and make sure all the fluids are topped up as they should be (including your windscreen washer fluid), and that there are no leaks.

The underside

Get down on your hands and knees, or your back (an old towel on the ground will prevent you getting grubby) and check the underside of the camper van. 

There should be no visible leaks, and the exhaust system should be free of holes and properly suspended.

Look at the suspension, too, for evidence of broken springs or leaking shock absorbers. If you find either issue, you’ll need to have repairs made. Give the shocks a good tug to make sure the top and bottom mounts are sturdy, too.

While you're down there, make sure all the brake pipes are free from corrosion, and that handbrake cables are routed as they should be and are in good condition.

The inside

You need to give every seatbelt a good inspection, because any defects with the webbing, or damaged stitching, will be an instant failure. Also, make sure that all the points where the seatbelts are mounted to the bodywork, including for the seatbelt buckles, are all secure and free from corrosion.

Some camper vans and motorhomes also have seatbelts attached to the seat frame, so make sure the seat is fully secure and undamaged. The seat must also be fully and easily adjustable.

Campervan interior

All airbag surfaces should be undamaged and free from obstructions.

The vehicle’s windscreen will be inspected in the test, and the driver’s view must be found unhindered by cracks and chips. If there are chips elsewhere on the glass, you will be recommended to replace the glass as soon as possible.

The windscreen wipers should also clear the windscreen without smearing. If they leave smears and lines across the glass, replace them. If you don’t, not only will you risk an MOT test failure, but also severely reduced visibility whenever you’re driving in rain. With wiper blades being so cheap, retaining the old ones if you have any doubt about their effectiveness isn’t worth the risk.

Door latches must also operate as intended.

Above all, don’t worry

If you can spend a couple of hours in advance of your camper van’s MoT test making sure it is mechanically sound, you’ll save yourself a lot of worry. Not only will you be more confident that it’ll pass, but checking everything beforehand also gives you the opportunity to get things sorted in advance of the test.

If you aren’t confident of your own inspection skills, it’s well worth taking the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to get the once-over. Indeed, a few pounds spent now could save you a whole load of expense and angst further down the line. 

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