How to Prepare for Your NCT

Published on 10 December 2021

So, first things first: what is the NCT in Ireland?

The NCT stands for the National Car Test which is Ireland’s compulsory vehicle inspection programme. It was introduced in 2000 as part of an EU directive and is designed to help improve road safety and reduce harmful vehicle emissions in Ireland by ensuring that older cars are in good shape and not releasing too much CO2 into the air we breathe. It’s an important test and if you avoid or delay your car’s NCT you could receive penalty points and fines, so don’t be tempted to put it on the long finger.

How much is the NCT? The NCT in Ireland currently costs €55.

In this article, Liberty Insurance has put together ten top tips to help prepare you and your car for the National Car Test.


Top Ten Tips


1. Clean Your Car

Make sure your car is clean, inside, and out, especially the mirrors, windows, lights, and registration plates. If your car is dirty, it will be more difficult to inspect, and the test inspector might refuse to test it. Don’t forget to clean the underbody of the car with a brush as it will also be examined.

2. Remove Personal Belongings

Take all your personal belongings out of your car before your NCT test and don’t forget to empty the boot. If there's a child’s car seat in the car, the test inspector is obliged to check that it's installed correctly.

3. Check the Seat Belts

Ensure all the seat belts and clips are visible, in good condition, and working properly.

4. Top Up Fluids

Before your test, check that all your car’s fluids are topped up, including engine coolant, brake fluid, engine oil, windscreen wash and power steering fluid. These are easy to find under the bonnet and are generally labelled. If you have any difficulty, have a look at your car’s manual which will show you where everything is and how to top up the fluids.

All cars over FOUR years old must have an NCT. Go to the website here and put in your car registration number to see if yours is due.

5. Check Your Lights and Indicators

A blown bulb may not seem like a serious problem, but it will mean an instant fail at the NCT centre. It’s important to check all your lights and indicators prior to your test. With the help of a friend, check all indicator bulbs, parking lights front and rear, lighting of the rear number plate, dipped and high beam headlights, fog lights and the brake lights.

6. Inspect Tyres

Ensure your tyres are in good condition and have at least 1.6mm of tread. This is vital, not only for the NCT, but also for road safety in general. Remove the wheel hubcaps too.

7. Check Wipers

Ensure you rear and front wipers are not worn and are working correctly.

8. Check Vehicle Registration Plates

Your number plates should be securely fastened, clean, and the letters and numbers should be clearly visible. All vehicle registration plates should comply with current regulation.

The most common failure points are headlights, suspension/steering, and brakes.

9. Dashboard Warning Lights

If a warning light is illuminated on your dashboard while the engine is on, get it checked immediately. It could mean an instant fail at the NCT centre or worse still, your car may not be safe to drive.

10. Be Prepared

Don’t start cleaning and inspecting your car the morning of your NCT. Start the week before the test so that you have time to get anything fixed if you discover an issue. Aim to arrive at the test centre in plenty of time, too. If you're late, you could miss your slot, meaning you’ll have to pay for a re-test.


What else to bring to your NCT test

Don’t forget to bring your vehicle registration book, registration certificate, licensing certificate, your personal identification and a method of payment to the NCT centre. If you turn up without them, it's likely your car will not be tested.

Are NCT centres open?

All NCT centres are fully operational. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, they're asking customers to pay by credit/debit card and not cash. Please ensure you wear warm or waterproof clothing as you may have to wait outside the building while your vehicle is inspected.

Have there been any changes to the NCT recently?

Yes, there have, including tests for your car’s on-board diagnostics system (OBD) which is the computer system in your car that tracks and regulates its performance, vehicle identification number (VIN) scanning, odometer reading, electronic braking system checks and others. You can read about them here.

What to do if you fail the NCT?

If your car fails the NCT, don’t panic. The centre assistant will explain to you why the car failed and what you should do about it by giving you your vehicle inspection report (VIR). If it's a small issue like a tire or a windscreen wiper blade needing replacing and doesn’t require the use of the test lane, then the re-test is free of charge. Other retests cost €28 and must be booked within 21 days of the initial test. Otherwise, you must start the whole process from the beginning and pay the full fee again.

If the test returns what they call a minor result, you must have those small repairs made and bring the car back to the centre before you get an NCT certificate.

If they report what they call a major result, you have 30 days to get the car repaired and go back to the centre for inspection before you get an NCT certificate.

In some cases, you might get a dangerous result and the centre inspector will put a sticker on your windscreen to advise you and the authorities that the car is considered too dangerous to be driven on the road.


The Full NCT Ireland Checklist


1. Windscreen Wipers and Washers

Reasons for failure:

  • Missing
  • Not cleaning windscreen effectively
  • Wiped areas less than sufficient to give the driver an adequate view
  • Washer not working, no water, or incorrectly aimed

2. Seat Belts

Reasons for failure:

  • Belts cut, badly frayed, or repaired
  • Belts not operating properly

3. Tyre Condition

Reasons for failure:

  • Tread worn, distorted, or damaged
  • Tread depth of less than 1.6mm
  • Incorrectly seated on wheel rim
  • Valve damaged

4. Registration Plate Lamps

Reasons for failure:

  • Not working, faulty, or not fitted
  • Not white in colour
  • Lens missing or broken

5. Stop Lamps

Reasons for failure:

  • Missing or not clearly visible
  • Not working or faulty
  • Not brighter than tail lights
  • Not red in colour
  • Insecurely mounted
  • Contains water/moisture
  • Lens missing or broken
  • Switch does not operate correctly

6. Indicator/tell Tales

Reasons for failure:

  • Missing, not working, or faulty
  • Insecurely mounted
  • Lens broken or missing
  • Contains water/moisture
  • Not amber in colour

7. Horn

Reasons for failure:

  • Control insecure
  • Horn insecurely mounted
  • Not working correctly
  • Not working or not fitted

8. Registration Plates Front and Rear

Reasons for failure:

  • One or both plates missing, insecure, or not clearly visible
  • Numbers or letters missing or illegible or incorrect size
  • Numbers, letter, or background of incorrect colour

9. Side Lamps

Reasons for failure:

  • Missing or not clearly visible
  • Not working or faulty
  • Not white in colour
  • Insecurely mounted
  • Contains water/moisture
  • Lens missing or broken

Please note: Completing all the steps above will not necessarily ensure your car passes the NCT as there may be an underlying issue. Many car owners get their car serviced prior to the NCT to check for faults and improve their chances at passing the test. If you're unsure if your car is due its NCT, click here.

Affordable Car Insurance From Liberty


Remember, car insurance is necessary for driving in Ireland. If you want affordable car insurance that gives you great cover along with many additional benefits, get a quote from Liberty Insurance today.

Get a Car Quote Now