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Your questions answered: Why was the shock absorber bounce test removed from the MOT test?

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Row of shock absorbers






Question: We’ve tested a vehicle with no damping on the rear shock absorbers. Why isn’t this now an MOT failure?

Answer: While we understand the concerns over the removal of the shock absorber bounce test, there were good reasons behind this decision.

When we introduced the new test items to comply with Directive 2010/48/EU, Department for Transport asked us to identify items in the MOT that weren’t included in the Directive. This was to prevent regulating more than needed and to reduce the regulatory burden on the motorist. The shock absorber bounce test was 1 of the items we identified.

We considered the following when deciding to remove it from the test:

  • the relatively low failure rate for 'negligible damping effect’
  • many vehicles couldn’t have an effective bounce test; eg Land Rovers and similar large vehicles, and vehicles with rubber or hydraulic suspension
  • such dampers are likely to show signs of leaking
  • some vehicles had their bodywork damaged by the bounce test

When it comes to road safety, the purpose of the MOT test is to make sure that vehicles over a certain age are checked at least once a year, without dismantling. It’s also to check that vehicles comply with key roadworthiness and environmental requirements in the Road Vehicle Construction and Use Regulations 1986 and the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989 as amended.

A test certificate only relates to the condition of testable items at the time of the test. It shouldn’t be considered as:

  • evidence of their condition at any other time
  • evidence of the general mechanical condition of the vehicle
  • evidence that the vehicle fully complies with all aspects of the law on vehicle construction and use

Apart from the test, it’s the vehicle user’s responsibility to make sure the vehicle is maintained to a roadworthy condition.


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  1. Comment by Simon posted on

    Its ok don't worry they have bought in airbags having to work, which should be down to customer personnel choice to drive with it faulty, so when they crash with worn shockers their airbags will help with injury. Shame about any pedestrians who don't have any!!! How stupid is that?

  2. Comment by Sammy Wright posted on

    A must read article. I've been on a confusion lately about shock absorbers, Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Comment by frankie posted on

    if the car has serious lack of damping it affects how it handles around bends, for me i always pass and advise the mark as dangerous. now its is the customers responsibility to rectify the problem knowing its unsafe to drive even though i just gave them a certificate saying its road worthy.

  4. Comment by Austin Morris posted on

    A vehicle could be deemed safe for use on a public highway with no damping at all on it's suspension , but if it has multiple lamps illuminating the rear registration plate and ONE bulb does not light up it will fail it's test . There really is something seriously wrong with testing standards . Who is responsible for QC checking the people that make these decisions ?

  5. Comment by Les Nicol posted on

    Passed a Mercedes e220 taxi with gas shocks on the MOT. Then failed on a Hackney for negligible damping effect, the driver was horrified that his car could have passed an Mot in that condition as he had already arranged to have them replaced later that day.

  6. Comment by Craig posted on

    The bounce test should be put back and tested where appropriate or safe to do so. Remove 'negligible' and put 'does the vehicle bounce twice or more' as the test criteria. We can all count to 3! If anything remove the leaking bit just keep it as an advisory. And don't get me started on the CAT/DPF rubbish...

    Maybe they should ask the testers what they think before they remove things?

    Sometimes makes me wonder if the rule makers have ever tested a car in the real world.

  7. Comment by Tony posted on

    Many years ago a friend of mine worked for a fast fit operation. They would spray the shox on cars to earn bonus for replacing them. Therefore they were damp with oil but working correctly. I know what I prefer to drive with... Me, I can generally asses the efficiency of a shock absorber by driving through my RBT. I then advise, irrespective of what it looks like, that I believe the damping effect is reduced signicantly. Covers my backside & can lead to rectification work.

    • Replies to Tony>

      Comment by Jim wilson posted on

      I just bought car from garage. 12 plate there s ah bumping noise on braking ..I got mot ah week later it had on as advisory shocker spraying oil. ..I took it back in they put drop link on os. Then got mot it said about ns. shocker .. no surprise they now sayin shocker s ok guess who mot car but bump clunk wat eva you want to call it still there goin. Bac in tomorrow lol Arnold Clark. Tut tut tut

      • Replies to Jim wilson>

        Comment by Jim wilson posted on

        Always thought leaky shocker failure

  8. Comment by Chris posted on

    I think this is stupid cant fail a shock absorber but a cat or dpf been removed you can what causes more damage to the enviroment making engine parts or a vehicle that still passes a emissions test . I think I would preffer a vehicle that handles the road causing less damage to the vehicle and the people on the road

  9. Comment by David posted on

    Just to add to the above concerns, i've known plenty of people who simply wipe clean known failing dampers, and of course at the time of test they look fine......
    There is the option of ticking the dangerous box on advisories too 🙂

  10. Comment by Ash posted on

    It's absolutely mental to not have a bounce test. I believe the fail for "negligible damping" still exists. Why is that there if we can't do a bounce test that makes us come to that conclusion???

    My car had a knackered damper. It lost all it's fluid and over bumps, because lowered, made a very nasty knocking noise. The car also handled as well as the titanic. Yet, when it came to the MoT, it wasn't leaking and it had no signs of leaking. Couldn't fail it. Dangerous though, yes!!!!

  11. Comment by Ian posted on

    Legal technicalities cancelling out common sense which is a problem with much of European Ideals, but we can still fail leaking s/abs, and we can still bounce after the test if we have serious concerns, regardless of this stupidity, we should obviously take care to avoid damage, most customers would be concerned to know about the real condition of their vehicle, and of course we can advise and pass to cover our backsides.

  12. Comment by Adrian posted on

    The damping is there to keep the tyre in contact with the road!!! If it is not in contact steering and braking are greatly compromised, resulting in less stability, control and a greater stopping distance! It will be small consolation to someone who has lost a family member that statistically a crash due to defective damping was unlikely to happen! Probably statistically few vehicles fail on inadequate damping because owners have their dampers replaced during a service, knowing if they don't their vehicle will fail an MOT!! The owners attitude will always be; "do I need it for MOT? If not don't repair it"

  13. Comment by Andy posted on

    This just shows the double standards the exist in the MOT standards. The removal of a DPF is evidence of brining the scheme into disrepute even if the vehicle will still pass the smoke emissions test with out the DPF fitted. Were as a shock absorber has to be leaking to fail the test, so what is to stop the customer from nipping round the corner to the local car wash and jet washing the leaking shockers and returning for a retest, am I now to pass these freshly washed cleaned shockers even though I know they were leaking just 10 minutes ago before they where washed clean? Only this weekend I was following a box van along a dual carriageway I could tell both the rear shockers where ineffective by the way the where hopping along the road over the small bumps, but when it went over a large dip it the set up a hugh rocking motion that made the driver swerve several times from one lane to the other almost hitting a vehicle in the other lane, so I find it hard to believe that anyone can say that an ineffective shock absorber isn't a dangerous defect.

  14. Comment by W Morris posted on

    more than one customer has commented that it is a ridiculous "improvement"!
    a local trader brought in a customer's vehicle stating that it wasn't safe to drive and couldn't believe I couldn't fail it! He also said an advice note means nothing to many of his customers and the vehicle will be presented in the same condition next year, (if he hasn't crashed it and killed someone before then!)

  15. Comment by Colin mulcahy posted on

    I cannot believe that that an important vehicle safety aspect has been removed from the mot test! . No damping effect = a very dangerous vehicle. Another point to be aware of is if tor example. The left front shocker is not working and the right is; when braking hard the vehicle will swerve violently to the right whilst the left hand front corner dip's excessively (braking out of balance) the reason it swerved to the right was that the damper resisted dipping forcing the cars body weight down onto the road via the tyre giving this tyre better grip than the lefts no damping effects tyre!!

  16. Comment by Mr. Hitesh. Raichura. posted on

    Well Dave the ministry inforces the Law and we as TESTER have to abide by the Rules and Regulations set by the Ministry, We are not Gods or Law Makers and Personal Opinions don't count as long as you've covered your backside and Advised that ''At time of test there was Negligible Damping'' then its the choice of the owner to get it repaired or not. don't take it to heart that the vehicle presenter does or doesn't have the work done, as long as we (testers) have done our work correctly is all that matters. AT TIME OF we like it or not...........

  17. Comment by Keith posted on

    The idea of a shock absorber is to absorb shock and to keep the tyre in contact with the road. In my opinion they (dvsa) should re evaluate this.

  18. Comment by Michael posted on

    My model D1 BSA Bantam has no shock absorbers. It is the plunger rear suspension version and runs fine. The previous model was solid at the back. We drive accordingly. This does not mean that all members of the public can adapt to worsening handling. They need protecting from themselves and our hands are being tied to prevent us from doing just that. A car designed to need shock absorbers will probably break something else fairly soon if driven far undamped. Springs are not the only thing that will let go prematurely. Rubber bushes etc will fail too. Throw this lot back at the E.U. and get them to sort it out.

  19. Comment by Chris Hunter posted on

    I understand the reasons for stopping the bounce test.
    But having driven cars with shockers not working causing vehicles to act unpredictable, it should be reinstated and guide lines given for correct method of inspection.

  20. Comment by Paul Brookes MIRTE posted on

    Iwould suggest that to pass a velhicle with no damping action then stabilty is lost in a fatal accident following a recent certificate issue will leave that authorised Tester wide open in a court of law

    • Replies to Paul Brookes MIRTE>

      Comment by matt posted on

      the test only applies to the condition on the day of the test , there would be NO liability on the tester if an accident occurred at a later date

  21. Comment by dave posted on

    This is not right, I see lots of motorbikes that have no damping effect to the rear shock mainly class one scooters, which would be down right dangerous to ride on the road and we cannot fail them????!!!!!

    • Replies to dave>

      Comment by James Shand posted on

      Check the class 1/2 manual rear suspention, and you will find you can, The initial discution refers to class 4s.

    • Replies to dave>

      Comment by brian stallard posted on

      mmm! i can see trouble ahead i .thought our leaders new best .surely there has to be a better way?emergency braking with clapped shockers on a motor way could wipe out a few persons whats next reduction in tread depth,or mot every ten years?

  22. Comment by Paul posted on

    How can you Pass and Advise if there is no visible fault (Steve says that "tested 12 months later and there is no signs of leaking"). I agree that the bounce test is difficult or inconclusive on larger vehicles etc but maybe some other form of test should be incorporated.
    Has anyone followed a vehicle that has faulty damping? it will look like some sort if circus clown car bouncing about.
    More so, has anyone had the pleasure of cornering in a car with negligible damping?!!!

    • Replies to Paul>

      Comment by Stewart Hawkins posted on

      In answer to Paul — 24/11/2014
      In 1966, my first car was a Vauxhall Victor rescued from several years standing in a garage. It had no working shock absorbers front or rear, and so much rust the anti-roll bar mountings had rotted away. So I removed the bar completely. My Mother only travelled in the car once as it wallowed about so much, she said it made her sea-sick, and refused to go in it again.

      We definitely need our shocks.

  23. Comment by Steve posted on

    So if a vehicle was tested 12mths ago and within 3 months of that initial test, all 4 dampers leaked and lost all their fluid, then is tested 12 months later and there is no signs of leaking, then we have to pass it even though the vehicle is technically NOT roadworthy.
    We can't do a bounce test and can't fail it for negligible damping effect, nor can we fail it for leaking dampers . . . .

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by M Pearce posted on

      Pass and advise!!!

      • Replies to M Pearce>

        Comment by JD. posted on

        I have test driven a car without its front dampers. Obviously there was still some damping from inherent friction. It was okay at low speed but on a wavy bit of road at 50 mph it resonated, suddenly starting to bounce wildly - it was very very dangerous and very frightening. Removal of the bounce test, where it can easily be applied, is completely idiotic, and irresponsible. Incidentally, the EU is looking at requiring much more elaborate damping tests, a forced vibration test requiring expensive equipment. This is in place in some countries, and causing issues. The old UK bounce test was sensible and practical, and cost almost nothing.