Everything you need to know to prepare and pass your NCT

Are you preparing for your car’s National Car Test (NCT)? Zurich's guide on preparing for your NCT covers everything you need to know from preparation checklists, the required documents, test costs and tips on what to do if your car fails. 

Preparing your car in advance of the NCT and making sure it passes, can be stressful especially if it is your first time getting ready for the NCT. With this guide we want to provide you with everything you need to consider in order to reduce the chances of failing an NCT.  

Preparing your car for the NCT 

In preparation for your NCT, make sure the following components of your car are working and setup correctly: 

The horn

If your car horn is not working properly or is not securely mounted, it can fail the NCT, so it’s important to make sure the horn works properly.

Seat belts 

Repaired or cut seat belts can fail the test as well as belts that are not working. Ensure all seatbelts are in good condition and operate correctly. And make sure they are all visible in the car – including the back seat belts.

Windscreen wipers and washers 

Make sure all the windscreen wipers and washers are correctly installed. If the wipers and washers don’t clean the windscreen area adequately, the driver won’t have a clear view and it can fail the NCT. Make sure that water comes out of the washers, that the washer fluid is topped up and that they aim directly onto the right area that needs to be cleaned.

Indicator lights

Ensure the indicators are working and mounted correctly. Make sure there is no water in the glass of the indicator lights and that they haven’t lost the original colour. Replace any blown bulbs and clean any dirty lenses.

Side lights 

Just like the indicator lights, side lights should be working and mounted appropriately. Side lamps should not be white in colour, and they should have no water inside. If the bulbs are gone, replace them and clean the lenses.

Front and rear registration plate 

Both the front and rear registration plate should be cleaned, visible and legible and of the right colour. 

Tyre condition

Before your NCT it’s important to inspect your tyres, including the spare tyre. They shouldn’t be damaged or incorrectly fitted and you will need to check the valves too. Check the tread depth – the Road Safety Authority recommends a tread depth of 3mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre and the minimum legal limit is 1.6mm. Also look for any cuts, bulges, or other signs of damage and ensure all the tyres are properly inflated.

Stop lights 

The stop lights should follow the same recommendation as for the other lights given above. In addition, they should be red in colour, not brighter than the tail light and the switch should operate correctly. 

Registration plate light 

The registration plate light is a small light above the licence plate. It should be white in colour, working and fitted correctly. 


Make sure the brakes are working effectively without any unusual noises or sensations. If you can, check the brake fluid level too and ensure it’s at an appropriate level.

Clean the car

Clean the exterior of the car and ensure the number plates are legible. Ensure the interior is tidy and, as mentioned, the seats and seatbelts are functioning correctly.

Check the mirrors

Ensure all mirrors – rear-view and side mirrors – are secure and provide clear visibility.

Exhaust and emissions

Check for any unusual noises or smoke coming from the exhaust. If possible, have the emissions tested beforehand to ensure they meet the legal requirements.

Fluid levels

Check and top up all fluids, including engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windscreen washer fluid.


Listen for any unusual noises when driving over bumps, which could indicate issues with the suspension. If you do notice some noises when driving, get it checked out at a garage.


Check for any excessive play in the steering wheel and ensure it operates smoothly.

Pre-NCT check

Consider having a pre-NCT check at your local garage. They can identify any potential issues that need addressing before the official test. By following these tips, you can improve the chances of your car passing its NCT and address any minor issues before they become significant problems.

The pre-NCT checklist 

An interactive vehicle checklist is available on ncts.ie. In addition, ncts.ie also provide a quick checklist to make sure your car is ready for testing and you have all the necessary documentation when you arrive to the test centre. These include:

  • Your car has adequate oil and water levels.
  • Your vehicle is clear of all valuable belongings.
  • The vehicle is clean.
  • The wheel hubcaps are removed, and the tyres are inflated.
  • The engine is fit for testing.
  • All seat belts and belt clips are visible.
  • All the lights have been checked (as mentioned above).
  • Your vehicle is at a normal operating temperature prior to arriving at the test centre.
  • Your registration plates are compliant with regulations

When you bring your vehicle to the test centre, don’t forget the following documents: 

  • Vehicle registration book.
  • Registration/licensing certificate.
  • Your ID and driving licence.
  • If you haven’t already paid for the test online, bring your test fee of €55 plus any cancellation fee.

What happens if you fail your NCT? 

If your car fails the NCT, it means that your vehicle did not meet the required safety and environmental standards. All vehicles receive an NCT vehicle inspection report after the test, regardless of a pass or fail result. If you failed the NCT, the report details what faults have been found. You will need to get the issues listed fixed.

With the NCT, there are three failed test results. A minor fail means the faults must be repaired and re-inspected at the NCT centre before you can get your NCT certificate.

A major test results means your vehicle has failed the test and you have 30 days to get your vehicle repaired and re-inspected. If it passes the re-inspection, you will get your NCT certificate, but you must do this within 30 days otherwise you will have to do the full test again.

If your car fails because it has a dangerous defect(s), a failed dangerous sticker will be put on your car because the car is seen as posing a risk to road safety. It is illegal to drive a vehicle with a dangerous defect and if you continue driving your car in this condition you may get penalty points or have to go to court.

It's important to address any issues promptly to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive and compliant with NCT regulations.

The initial test costs €55, and as mentioned if it’s only a minor issue that has failed such as a bulb not working, you can re-test for free. If your car fails due to minor or major defects, then you will be charged €28 for the re-test.

Aside from bringing your car to a garage for a pre-NCT check, it’s also advisable to keep your car in good condition throughout the year to avoid failures. Regular services and checks can ensure your car runs smoothly, is safe, roadworthy and in good working order. Our article on car maintenance provides some handy routine car upkeep tips to get and keep your car in good working order. 

About: Protect your world with Zurich Insurance

Your world is so unique – that’s why we’ve devoted the last 70 years in Ireland to protecting it. Taking out a car insurance policy with Zurich gives peace of mind and confidence that you’re with an insurance company that understands your unique world here in Ireland.

Having your car protected by Zurich’s car insurance comes with the peace of mind that should the worst happen, we’ll be there to help when you need us.

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