How to pass the NCT

Testing times: Make your you cover the basics before the NCT

Geraldine Herbert

Is your car due its NCT? Give it a better chance of passing first time with our tips, writes Geraldine Herbert

The most common causes of failing the National Car Test are poor tyre condition and broken lights. So how can you prepare your car before a NCT? Just a few simple checks well in advance of your test date could save you time and money; if you do discover that you need to bring it to a mechanic, you will have some time to shop around rather than being under pressure due to a looming test date.

Clean your car

Cleaning your car inside and out will not only give the impression of a well cared for and maintained vehicle but also if it is really dirty then the tester can actually refuse to carry out the test; a test inspector refused to carry out a car test because there were dog hairs in the vehicle. Also ensure that you empty the boot, as this needs to be accessible, and pay particular attention to your lights, mirrors and registration plates - they should be clear and undamaged.


Nearly a fifth of all failures are due to lights. When your car is parked, walk around it and check all of the lights; the headlights, indicators, rear and parking lights, number plate lights and brake lights. The rear fog lamp, where fitted, will be checked to ensure that when in use it provides a red light which is clearly visible, and the reversing white light must function. Check that the lenses and/or casings are not cracked or damaged and make sure the hazard light function is working also. Either use a mirror placed behind the car, or get someone to stand behind it while you operate the lights. Inside the car, check all the warning lights on the dash including the indicator for airbags, electronic stability control systems and electronic braking systems and anti-lock brake system (ABS). You car will fail if a malfunction indicator is not working or indicates a defect in the system.

Water and fluids

Top up all the fluids and make sure you have enough fuel. Fluids include engine oil, engine coolant, power steering and brake fluid and windscreen wash. Most of these are clearly labelled under the bonnet and easy to top up. If you are unsure, check the manual.


Make sure all tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. You can do this at most service stations and you can find the correct pressure in your vehicle's manual. There also needs to be at least 1.6mm of tread across three-quarters of the tyre. Use a torch to ensure there are no cuts, lumps or bulges on the tyre; not alone will you fail but you will have less grip and risk a blowout.

Remove hubcaps so that the wheel nuts are visible. Also an 'E' or 'e' mark indicating that the tyre is certified to comply with EU regulations must be present on your tyres, a vehicle will fail if the mark is not present.

A tyre that is six years old is a 'pass advisory' item at the NCT so you should consider changing them at this point and certainly do if they are any older. To determine the age of your tyre, check the sidewall where you will find a four-digit number - e.g. 2412 - where the first two digits of the code represent the week of production during the year (from 1 to 52) while the second two digits represent the year of manufacture, so 2412 will be week 24, 2012.

Windscreen and wipers

Make sure your wiper blades are working and are not damaged or worn, including the rear wiper if fitted. The windscreen should be free from large chips or cracks.


All seatbelts must be in good condition and working, so ensure you can easily access them and that the belts and their clips are visible, all the clips are properly engaged and that the belt is not frayed or cut as that too could result in a failure. Also, if you have child seats fitted, the NCT is required to check that they are correctly attached.

Number plates

These must be securely fastened and clearly readable. No letters or numbers should be obscured and they should be the correct size and spacing.

Documents and fee

Bring all paperwork relating to your car such as the vehicle registration book, registration certificate, licensing certificate and also your personal identification. If you don't have the documentation, you may find you will be turned away. Remember the fee, the test costs €55 and a re-test where test equipment must be used to check the vehicle will cost €28. It is free when only a visual inspection is required.

Finally, don't leave your test until the last minute, you can book a test up to 90 days in advance on, so do yourself a favour and allow plenty of time to make any necessary repairs to your car.