What do they look for in the NCT?
Most of us have had to go through the NCT, and having done some quick home fixes you may have high hopes of coming out with a clean bill of health for your car. Unfortunately though, over 50% of cars get the call to come back in to do it all again in the next 30 days.
So what do the technicians actually look for when carrying out these tests? A list of the items tested can be downloaded here (with some additional items added in 2010), but when you look through the window in the NCT Centre, you'll see it's broken up into 3 Stages:
After pulling into the station and entering your registration details to the system, the technician will firstly check the exhaust emissions when the car reaches optimum temperature and also that it has adequate engine oil levels. They’ll then move on to check the tyre pressure, before moving on to check under the bonnet. Here they’ll check items like oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, engine coolant and windscreen wash. Finally they’ll check the beam setting on the lights, making sure intensity and pitch angles are correct.
Home Tips for passing Stage 1:
- Top up all fluids under the bonnet: These are usually clearly marked and can be easily topped up at home.
- Pump up tyres: It's an easy thing to forget, so make sure you get down to a filling station and pump up your tyres before it's too late.
- Check your lights: It might not be an easy home fix in some cars, but faulty lights often result in failing the NCT. Check all dipped, high beam, indicator, parking, number plate, fog and brake lights to make sure none are blown. If any are damaged, get anyone with a bit of car know-how to replace the bulbs if you can't do it yourself.
Stage 2 is where you’ll see your car driving up on vibrating plates and then on rollers in the ground. This is the Sideslip Test & Suspension Test, followed by the Brake Rollers to test service and parking brake performance and imbalance. After this the steering wheel, rear-view mirror, door operation, safety belts, baby seats (if present) and the fuel filler cap are all checked.
Home Tips for passing Stage 2:
- Remove the baby seat: If it’s present, it will be checked to see if it’s fitted correctly. If it isn’t you will fail the NCT.
- Close all seat belts in the back and front of the car and make sure they are visible. When you’re always driving the car, it can be easy to forget about the back seats. Close all the seat belts before you drop in your car to be sure one hasn’t slipped in behind the back seat, resulting in a completely unnecessary fail.
The final stage is where it gets a bit more technical! The steering linkage, suspension system, brake lines and hoses are all checked when the vehicle gets lifted on the car lift. The technician then checks brake components, fuel lines and the exhaust system, before checking the car's body work.
The technician will then lower the lift about half way, and check the pedals (clutch, brake and acceleration), steering joints, and tyres (thread depths, specifications and condition). All wheel nuts and bearings are then checked, as well as front and back wheel suspension components. They’ll then lower the car lift and register any visual defects they might have noticed throughout the inspection.
Home Tips for passing Stage 3:
- Don’t ignore any problems you’ve noticed! If you feel something is wrong with the car, get it checked. Any warning lights on the dashboard should always be addressed, and if you can feel something wrong with the car, there probably is. Getting it fixed beforehand will save you €28 and another trip to the NCT Centre.