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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# nct
How to get your car to pass the NCT
Do you know that half of all motors failed the test last year? Don’t be one of those…

THE NATIONAL CAR Test (NCT) is designed to improve road safety and enhance environmental protection by reducing harmful vehicle emissions. It is a compulsory vehicle inspection programme and if caught using a car without a valid test certificate you could get three to five penalty points and a €60 to €90 fine.

Cars over three years old and under ten years old are tested every two years and cars ten years and older are tested annually.

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A total of 1,492,176 cars were tested in 2015 and of these 756,422 (50.7%) failed the NCT. More worryingly, 5,432 cars were issued a ‘dangerous fail’ result, meaning these cars had a defect that constituted a direct and immediate risk to road safety.

Although that statistic may seem scary, the NCT procedure isn’t and to make sure your car has the best chance of passing just follow these tips.

Book on time:

Simple. Book your test in plenty of time to make sure that you get an appointment before your NCT expires and becomes invalid. Check your NCT due date and available appointments on the NCT website, here.

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The NCT inspects over 62 items and there are plenty of these that you can check yourself. Before heading to the test centre, make sure the following are all working correctly and comply with the legal requirements:

  • Bodywork – make sure boot and bonnet close securely, remove visible rust and make sure bumpers, bull guards and body strips are secure
  • Brake pedal physical condition
  • Brake pedal operation
  • Doors, locks and anti-theft devices
  • Fluids – check levels of brake fluid, oil and water coolant
  • Glass – make sure there is no damage that could reduce visibility, make sure privacy glass meets legal requirements, make sure stickers don’t obscure your view and make sure all windows work
  • Handbrake operation
  • Horn
  • Lights – stop lights, rear lights, indicators, side lamps, headlamps, auxualary lamps, reflectors, registration plate lamp and rear fog lights and reverse light if fitted – check condition, brightness, aim and position
  • Mirrors – check condition, make sure they are clean and can be adjusted safely from the driver seat
  • Registration plates – check the for security, location, format, legibility, visibility and correct colour
  • Seats, including all mechanical parts and seat belts
  • Tyres should be inflated to the required pressure before a test is started otherwise test results may be misleading
  • Wheels – make sure wheel nuts are visible, remove hubcaps if necessary and tighten all nuts and bolts
  • Windscreen wipers and washers
  • Empty the boot and clear the car of clutter as the inspectors need to check the spare wheel if there is one and they need to be able to carry out each test without obstruction.

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The main failure items for tests carried out in 2015 were:

Front suspension:

For the past five years, the number one reason for cars failing the NCT was front suspension issues, including having more than 30% imbalance between L/H and R/H suspension. If your car fails due to front suspension issues it is best that you get these fixed by a professional.

Brake line / hoses:

The brake hose transmits brake fluid under hydraulic pressure from the brake pipe to the callipers, which clamp the brake pads around the disc mounted on the wheel. These can be checked and repaired by a mechanic if necessary.

Reasons these fail the NCT are:

  • Perished, kinked, damaged or rusted to the extent that the pipe is pitted
  • Unsatisfactorily mounted/possibility of failing
  • Leaks
  • Fouling moving parts
  • Bulging under pressure
  • Inadequate repairs or unsuitable fittings

Headlamp aim:

Headlamps fall into three categories; European Type Headlamp – checked on dip beam, British-American Type Headlamp – checked on dip beam and British-American Type Headlamp – checked on main beam. Reasons for failure depend on your headlamp type. It is advisable to get the headlamps aligned in a garage or by someone who knows what they are doing if you are unsure of aligning them yourself.  It costs less to have this checked than the NCT retest fee.

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Tyre condition:

Tyres are the only thing that connect your car to the road so it pays for you to keep them in good condition. Tyre condition can be checked by you or a garage before the NCT.

Reasons for failure include:

  • Evidence of recutting of tread pattern where the tyre is not suitable for recutting
  • Incorrectly seated on the wheel rim
  • Any cut longer than 25mm or 10% of section width (whichever is shorter) and which is deep enough to reach the ply or cords
  • Rupture in or exposure of ply or cord structure, tread lifting, lump or bulge caused by separation of rubber from cords or weakness in cord structure, or tread distorted or damaged
  • Obvious damage or distortion of the valve stem
  • Valve stem chafing against valve hole
  • Repair plug fitted in the sidewall

Stop lamps:

Yup, one of the easiest things to check yourself is consistently one of the main reasons for failing the NCT.

Reasons for failure include:

  • Missing or not clearly visible
  • Not working or faulty
  • Not brighter than tail lights
  • Not red in colour
  • Not of same dimensions and intensity
  • Insecurely mounted
  • Lens missing or broken (crack separated or white light showing)
  • Contains water / moisture
  • Switch does not operate correctly

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as even if your car doesn’t pass its NCT first time round 90.9% of cars pass the re-test. But doing some of these relatively simple checks beforehand can save you the time and cost of having to book a re-test in the first place.

READ: Learning to drive

READ: My best road trip – north Norway

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