The National Car Test

What is the NCT?
Introduced in 2000, the National Car Test (NCT) is a preventative road safety measure that ensures vehicles, particularly older vehicles, using Irish roads are in sound working order.
All member states of the European Union are required to test the roadworthiness of motor vehicles. In Ireland, the testing system is run by the National Car Testing Service (NCTS).A record 893,664 cars were tested by NCTS in 2010 and more than half of them passed the test first time.
An NCT certificate confirms that the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition at the time the test was conducted and the expiry date on the certificate indicates the last date before the next test is due for the vehicle. Further information on the duration of an NCT certificate can be found in our information note. The owner has the statutory duty to ensure that his/her vehicle remains in a satisfactory roadworthiness condition and complies with the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963-2002 at all times when it is used in a public place.
An Annual NCT for cars 10 years and older commenced with effect from 1 June 2011. The effect of this is that all cars presented for their 10th anniversary or subsequent NCT on or after 1st June 2011 will receive a certificate valid for up to one year only.

Booking an NCT
There are 46 NCT test centres located throughout Ireland established solely for the purposes of car testing. Find the centre that is most convenient to you.
An NCT for a car due its first test may be booked and undertaken up to 6 months in advance of the due date and up to 3 months in advance for subsequent NCTs. If the test is undertaken in advance of the due date the certificate will still be issued to the next test due date.

Booking options
When your car is due to be tested, you must book with the NCTS: they will then send you a letter with details of your test appointment.
You may book your NCT by any if the following methods
Phone: lo-call 1890 412 413 from 8am to 8pm (Mon-Thurs) and 8am to 6pm (Fri)
Fax bookings: (01) 413-5982 (please remember to quote your booking ID and telephone number, if available).
Postal bookings:
The Booking Department
National Car Testing Service Ltd
Citywest Business Campus
Lake Drive 3026
Naas Road
Dublin 24
If writing, please remember to quote your booking ID and telephone number, if available.
The car test fee is €55 (inclusive of VAT). NCTS will accept cash, personal cheque with bankers card, all major credit cards and laser cards.
The fee for a re test is €28 if the use of a test lane is required. A re-test that doesn’t require the use of a test lane or requires the use of test equipment for the purposes of carrying out an inspection of tyres only is free of charge.

Note: if you wish to cancel or rearrange a test you must give the NCTS five working days’ notice (not including the day of the test). If you give less notice than this, or fail to show up for the test, a €22 surcharge will be applied when your vehicle is next brought for testing.
Any queries relating to the cancellation fee may be made in writing to the Customer Service Department, National Car Testing Service,  Lake Drive 3026, Citywest Business Campus, Naas Road, Dublin 24.

What the test examines
During the NCT, specific items are checked and tested. These include:
Exhaust emissions
Wheels and tyres
Steering and suspension
Chassis and underbody
Electrical systems
Glass and mirrors
Fuel system

You can view a full list of the items which are covered in the National Car Test in the newly revised National Car Test (NCT) Manual 2012.
Note: the tests undertaken by the NCT evolve over time as industry safety technologies improve and new safety concerns arise. A number of new test items were introduced in April 2010 and January 2012.

Since 1 May 2009, you can receive penalty points for not displaing your NCT disc.

Pass rates & Statistics
Pass rates are improving all the time. When testing was first introduced, less than 4% of vehicles passed at the first attempt compared to over 70% in 2009 for cars that are four years old. This figure falls to around 50% for eight-year-old cars and 40% for vehicles of nine years and older

Main Fail Items
The top five fail items in the first 6 months of 2010 are as follows:
1. Brake Lines/Hoses
2. Tyre Condition
3. Tyre Specification
4. Indicators/ Tell Tales
5. Headlamp Condition

Fail Dangerous
Where a vehicle has a dangerous defect i.e. a defect that constitutes a direct and immediate risk to road safety such that the vehicle should not be used on the road under any circumstances, the NCT vehicle inspector will issue a Failed Dangerous result. 

It is an offence to drive a dangerously defective vehicle on the public road.  The penalty for such an offence is a fine of up to €2000 and 5 penalty points on conviction and/or 3 months imprisonment, (Offence under Section 54 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 and related amendments).

When the result is Failed Dangerous the NCT vehicle inspector will advise you as follows:
Of the existence, extent and nature of the defect. That if you drive a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place while there is a defect affecting the vehicle which you know of or could have discovered by the exercise of ordinary care and which is such that the vehicle is, when in motion, a danger to the public, you shall be guilty of an offence. That in the opinion of NCTS the vehicle is dangerous.
That you must make arrangements to have the vehicle removed from the test centre.
A sticker stating “Failed Dangerous” will be attached to the vehicle and the vehicle inspector will issue you with a statement regarding requirements for vehicles with a failed dangerous result.

All re-tests must be booked within 21 days of the initial test.  The fee for a re-test is €28 if the use of a test lane is required. A re-test that doesn’t require the use of a test lane or requires the use of test equipment for the purposes of carrying out an inspection of tyres only is free of charge, e.g. where minor visual items are concerned, such as replacement of windscreen wiper and registration plates.
Re-tests must be completed within 30 days of the initial test or a full test will need to be repeated and charged accordingly

Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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