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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

The MOT headlamp aim test is changing

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Changes to the MOT test

MOT tester testing a car headlamp

From 24 March 2016, we’re changing the way headlamp aim is measured on the MOT test. The new testing standards will emphasise the importance of correct alignment and stress that it shouldn’t be just a quick check.

It’s been trialled with the help of VTS council member volunteers with the results verified by the Vehicle Safety Research Centre at Loughborough University.

The changes are similar to those introduced for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) last year. Since being introduced in April 2015 the fail rate for HGVs have significantly decreased as a result.

The new method is just a few simple changes and you don’t need new equipment.

Why we're changing the test

Headlamp aim consistently tops the MOT compliance survey as one of the most likely items to be assessed incorrectly by testers.

These new changes will look to reduce errors and increase test consistency.

So what are we changing?

The changes will slightly widen the tolerance band for European ‘E’ beams with headlamp centres up to 850mm. We’re also changing the requirement to test the ‘image break’ point for all European 'E' beams.

1. Horizontal cut-off

The method of checking the aim of the horizontal cut-off is the same. It’s only the lower limit for headlamps up to 850mm that has changed from 2.0% to 2.75%.

A headlamp will now fail if its horizontal cut-off is:

    • above the upper limit of 0.5%
    • below the lower limit of 2.75%

See technical pen picture for ‘Horizontal cut-off’


Horizontal cut-off point diagram

2. Dazzle Zone

In the past we've had to find the ‘image break point’ and check it’s within a very small area of the headlamp beam tester screen. If the ‘break point’ was outside of this small box then the headlamp would fail the test. You won’t need to check that anymore.

From 24 March 2016, you need to check for “white light” in the area formed by the 0% vertical and the 0.5% horizontal lines for all European 'E' beams.

We've called this the 'dazzle zone' because if a beam is aimed in this area then it’s likely to dazzle oncoming vehicles. Any white light in this area would result in the headlamp failing the test.

See technical pen picture for ‘Dazzle zone’

Diagram of the new dazzle zone

3. Kick up

Finally, you must still make sure that there is a 'kick up' visible on the screen if it’s required. Remember that not all headlamps have kick ups, some have flat tops and some have beam deflectors fitted.

If a kick up is required, it will only fail the test if it isn’t visible on the screen


Diagram showing kick up

The MOT inspection manuals on GOV.UK have been updated on 24 March 2016 to include the new standard.  You can take a look at the new headlamp aim inspection manual pages for classes 1 and 2 and for classes 3, 4, 5 and 7.

If you have any questions about the new standards please email

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  1. Comment by Alex posted on

    Now that I am asking the experts.... I am taking my Spanish car to England and will need an MOT to be able to register it... How can I adapt my bixenon lamps without having to change the whole headlamps?? (its a 2015 BMW 428)

  2. Comment by Martin Dyer posted on

    If they are out a bit I always do it for nothing after the test
    it takes a couple of seconds with an Allen key

  3. Comment by Rob posted on

    Can anyone answer this. Can a council test taxis to mot stands without any Nt doing them. Obviously it's a taxi exempt cert so not done on the mot site. Or In fact if the person doing them is not a qualified mechanic in any way.

    • Replies to Rob>

      Comment by darren posted on

      the taxi driver should give you a booklet with a list of items to check,one list you keep one list for the driver and the other list goes to the council

  4. Comment by john posted on

    just adjust head lights and get on with the test 2 min job

  5. Comment by Robert Smith posted on

    To make more people get it right lets make the standards slacker. Does this mean you can no longer mask a left hand drive headlight to remove the kick up?

  6. Comment by mark posted on

    just looked at the static images and they are far superior in clarity

  7. Comment by mark posted on

    would like to add the animation hurts my eyes too. only 42, no glasses....not an old codger yet

  8. Comment by Stephen posted on

    Why can't the company with the orange sign and black lettering, be forced to stop fitting car bulbs. Once again they charged this customer a small fortune and fitted both head lamp bulbs incorrectly, both stop and tail bulbs incorrectly. For gods sake, fitting a bulb is easy. Why can't they just leave it to us professionals.
    At we check head light alignment afterwards.

  9. Comment by Tony S posted on

    Still see a lot of vehicles with beams either too high,( Well above the "o" line), or too low(Well below the "2.75" line)
    The only reason the fail rate has been so high over the last 10 years is because we've been P R S'ing .
    The fact is that a lot of headlamps are out of adjustment. Car manufacturers always set them to low at the factory, so if on PDI they're not checked, then first MOT they fail.

    • Replies to Tony S>

      Comment by Tb posted on

      No they do not, they are set incredibly accurate using digital equipment that has tolerance built in the software by law. If its outside this tolerance it cannot be released as a pass. Please refrain from blaming without the full facts

      • Replies to Tb>

        Comment by Tony S posted on

        Then there is some other problem, maybe it,s because they put 55psi in the tyres, but most new car PDI's that I do, I have to set the headlights. Was doing it 10 years ago, doing it again now!!!

  10. Comment by peter posted on

    472 bulbs=longer lasting,better locating lugs and a better light souce ..the old wattage limit and diffused lenses were best .im all for good brighter lights if they level all roads, speed humps and bridges. .when driving in front of a vehicle with "search lights" try switching your dipped headlamps of for a couple of seconds, if safe to do so..

  11. Comment by Drew posted on

    This is what is called "job creation". Generally job creation just makes life more needlessly difficult for the people who actually do something useful. Mechanical failure or poor adjustment, even historically, relatively rarely causes serious accident. Address the real problems.

  12. Comment by dave posted on

    it says that a kick up must b visible on the screen, does this mean that if the headlamps are presented with tape on them covering up a kick up to the right its now a fail or even if its has 'beam benders' fitted. this is typical on how the test is going always dumbing down the test its scary and its only going to get worse.

  13. Comment by Chris A posted on

    Please slow down the graphics, they are very good but run too fast

  14. Comment by jon hodgson posted on

    Going back to a slightly earlier post with "dealerships" partly being at fault by not adjusting lights.
    I have to disagree. I work for a suzuki dealership, and i spend most of my days adjusting cars headlamps on their first test. Been doing it for donkeys years, and will probably carry on doing the same for years to come yet.
    The problem for me lies at the factory where the cars are made. Quality control not being what you might expect, but that aside, the new "limits" are quite easy to understand and NOT that different to the old limits.

    • Replies to jon hodgson>

      Comment by kevin Gosling posted on

      how many dealerships check the head lamp aim at PDI ? not many if any do

  15. Comment by k waldron posted on

    there are more cars that dazzle with head light bulbs Not fitted correctly than cars set wrong

    • Replies to k waldron>

      Comment by Mo posted on

      Very true, certain shops that offer fitting of bulb, don't do it right and u end up having a circular very dazzling headlamp beam almost like a main beam. I have hade possibly hundreds and hundreds of repositioning of the headlamp bulbs to correct the mistake of the shop keeper. This problem always fails MOTs.

      • Replies to Mo>

        Comment by C Maybury posted on

        Are you surprised , many cars require a near disassembly of the front end to get new bulbs in !!

  16. Comment by Mo posted on

    Some garages were pushing testers to fail cars on headlamp aim at least so that they could make easy money. This raises awareness among the customers and stops fraud. I have been through so many jobs in garages where I witnessed pressure from the management towards the tester. They also allow customers to get close to the tester in order to put extra pressure. The poor tester is stretched beyond his limits to deal with customers and the management. Us testers really need support from DVSA to tackle fraudulent AEs, VTSs and customers. There are fraudulent testers also lots but they were originally made that way by the VTSs. It's always the VTSs and the customers that promote fraud, since they are the ones who benefit from passing dodgy MOTs. The VTSs also benefit from dodgy failures. I hope this fraud ends one day God willing. Peace

  17. Comment by Ian Clements posted on

    This is a retrograde step, headlamps should be adjusted correctly, for both driver and pedestrian safety (being able to see them) I don't understand why after all these years headlamp alignment is less important.

  18. Comment by Dennis Plumb posted on

    Like the graphics, good idea but PLEASE slow it down.

  19. Comment by Peter posted on

    I think is ok, we will all get use to it.

    • Replies to Peter>

      Comment by Stephen posted on

      Here we go, today's the day we start blinding pedestrians

  20. Comment by Steven posted on

    I fail to see how the existing test is in any way difficult to work to. The only minor annoyance is headlamps where the beam image is a bit hazy and lacking in definition. It just seems bizarre to me that you can now have a headlamp pointing way to far to the nearside and it will pass the test, while giving a great lighting up of the hedgerow and not the road. So for me, this new test procedure is a FAIL!

    • Replies to Steven>

      Comment by linda posted on

      so now it will be ok to dazzle pedestrians

      • Replies to linda>

        Comment by darren posted on

        Very true..forget about the car in front of you lol

  21. Comment by Mark Yates posted on

    Mark Yates

    You can make beam tester as easy to read as you want
    It will not stop people who sell push bikes putting bulbs in wrong

    • Replies to Mark Yates>

      Comment by Stephen posted on

      And don't forget Mark, this company that sell s bikes charge for fitting bulbs in wrong.
      My company don't charge for fitting but do charge for the bulbs.

  22. Comment by Mr S A Marwari posted on

    We should forget about 422,i use to work Nissan 10 years ago never had a problem changing BULBS,but now take any car you think it will be 5min but you take 30min,things are so hard,i think when cars are built they should check how hard are bulb to change,changing head light bulb is the biggest problem,A Class head lamp bulb new mini rear bulb,why can not they do like Volvo two clip and the head light is out or like some Ford one screw and head light is out,anyway I have a long list talk about it latter

  23. Comment by R.kugan posted on

    please make the video slower. to watch.

    • Replies to R.kugan>

      Comment by ian posted on

      i agree make video slower please

  24. Comment by Mohammed posted on

    No aim pattern seen on the new tecnical diagram no wander it confusing also slow down the moving images so that it can be studied easily

  25. Comment by Jason Ansell posted on

    Seems a very minor thing to be concerned with on an MOT when there are much bigger problems with the outdated test. Biggest problem I see with testing now is how much of the test you simply can't do any more because of plastic covers. Undertrays and engine covers are virtually covering everything on some cars now. It's ok to mention it as an advisory to cover yourself but I, personally would rather be able to check it as I am responsible for deeming a car safe to drive. Everyone seems to hate the idea of 4-4-2 but if a car is going to be checked properly then it has to be better surely.

    • Replies to Jason Ansell>

      Comment by darren posted on

      i agree with you on that one but you start taking down plastic covers you know what will happen,they will break and then the customer will wasnt broken before it came in.then it will end up costing you.Best off just covering yourself and giving it an advisory

  26. Comment by ronnie cross posted on

    this has nothing to do with failure rates . i test a lot of first tests most are out because they are NEVER checked on a PDI if you can use your equipment correctly they will be out also bulbs fitted incorrectly is a big problem and i can see where this is heading LOWER failure rates means safer cars AND 4 4 2 will be back on the AGENDA again

    • Replies to ronnie cross>

      Comment by steve posted on

      Well done Ronnie you 'hit the nail on the head', this exactly what it is all about, the DVSA obviously want 4-2-2 as they are enforcement and this will benefit them, this is to reduce failure rates so that statiticians can say cars are safer!

    • Replies to ronnie cross>

      Comment by John Rae posted on

      I know what you mean. We bought a new pick-up in 1981 and I took it to Largs to visit my Grandma the 1st weekend we had it to put some miles on. Returning as the light failed I put the lights on to find nothing!

      This was the days of new vehicles being delivered with travel wax on them and the Dealer had made a beautiful job of removing it from everywhere EXCEPT the bloody headlights! And to make matters worse I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing to remove it except my finger nails......

      New car delivery, the biggest rip-off going!

  27. Comment by Barry posted on

    animated diagram too fast a pause button would be helpful

    • Replies to Barry>

      Comment by tony posted on

      the diagrams dont get any clearer if your an mot tester you would know this straight away its practically the same only slightly more lenient

  28. Comment by N. Hassan posted on

    It is very difficult to study the fail diagram and the pass diagram because the animation changes too quickly.
    Any ideas on
    how we can pause the moving images?
    N Hassan

  29. Comment by Mick butler posted on

    Why dont they fix the roads and solve half the problem. But then how do you get customers to stop being tight and draging there car through every year only fixing failures. Classic line im getting rid of it so only fix the failures. Still got it 3 years later. Then every time it failes they get upset and pleed poverty. Cant win

  30. Comment by Richard posted on

    I'm finding most of the time when I'm testing headlights & failing them, are from incorrectly fitted bulbs , either fitted by the customer or dare I say it some of the large motorist stores that charge for fitting they bulbs they sell & not fitting them correctly.

    Vehicle manufacturers should also be looking at ways to make it easier for a bulb to be replaced & fitted correctly , not have hands the size of a small child to be able to access the bulb holder or strip half the front of the car off to gain access to the bulb.

    I'm liking the new moving graphics for the special notice to show what's what, more of this would be handy for other areas of the test or perhaps incorporated into the online manual, but any chance the speed of the graphics can be slowed down somewhat or the user could control the speed, pause, etc.

  31. Comment by Matt posted on

    Nothing wrong with the old system. They are just making it simpler, either to make it easier for our ever increasingly daft youth becoming testers, or to reduce fail rates (why, g*d knows). If you every get chance, watch the movie 'Idiocracy'. It's a fairly true representation of what we've got to look forward to in the future.

    • Replies to Matt>

      Comment by pg. posted on

      I saw this film last year and sadly images of keep coming back , I fear it will all come true.

    • Replies to Matt>

      Comment by richard posted on

      You are all missing the point it is to bring down the fail rate so that we end up testing 4 2 2

      • Replies to richard>

        Comment by Javed p posted on

        Agreed with Matt
        And personally this new headlamp aim image does make more since ???

  32. Comment by darren posted on

    From a lot of your comments i have been reading it seems they should of left it as it was and concentrated on updating the majority of the manual which is so far out of date

  33. Comment by john posted on

    you can adjust a customers light year upon year having set them perfectly the previous year.
    has anyone taken into account the state of British roads or the amount of so called traffic calming humps that cars have to deal with!?

  34. Comment by Big Sarge posted on

    Take away the human element(ie Tester ) and nod nod "its a friend" the MOT test would be worth the paper its printed on.