Frequently Asked Car Questions

Car Questions

General Car Questions

Car Servicing Questions

Car MOT Questions

Car Insurance Questions

Car Breakdown & Recovery Questions

Car Tax Questions


General Car Questions

Q: What do people mean when they say provisional licence?

A: A provisional licence is issued to someone who has applied for a driving licence but has not yet passed the required driving test – in other words, it’s for learner drivers.

Click here to visit the DirectGov site and apply for a provisional licence.


Q: When can I drive?

A: You can apply for a car driver’s licence when you are 17.


Q: Can I drive any vehicle at 17 or are there any restrictions?

A: You can buy and drive any vehicle you like when you are 17 (assuming you have a licence) but will probably find that the cost of insurance will prevent you driving high performance or very expensive cars.


Q: What bits should I carry in my car?

A: Opinions on this vary. Regarding paperwork, it can be useful to carry:

  • A copy of your vehicle’s V5C registration document (never leave the original in the vehicle unattended, it is too valuable to thieves)
  • Your driving licence
  • Your Certificate of Insurance

However, you are not legally required to carry these – if the police ask to see them and you don’t have them, you will be required to produce them at a police station within a certain number of days. The same applies if you are involved in an accident – see the AA’s legal guide to accidents.

Other useful items are:

  • A reflective warning triangle, in case you breakdown or have an accident in an awkward location and need to warn oncoming drivers
  • A chamois leather/sponge to wipe clear your windscreen when it is steamed up
  • A blanket in case you are stranded in cold weather (also a shovel if it is snowing)
  • Jump leads in case you have a flat battery and need to get a jump start from another car
  • Spare bulbs for your car’s external lights


Q: What documents do I need to take with me if I am going to drive my car abroad?

A: Assuming you will be staying within the EU, you should take your vehicle’s registration document (V5C), your Certificate of Insurance, a current MOT certificate and your full driver’s licence (photocard and paper part).

It is also a good idea to take a set of copies of these documents in case you need to give them to someone and to take any documents relating to your breakdown service.

Make sure you have an international telephone number for your insurance company. Some UK numbers like those starting with 0845 cannot always be dialled from abroad.

For driving outside the EU, there may be additional requirements – check with your insurer to see which countries they cover and use the AA’s site to see if you will need an International Driving Permit.

There are also other items you are required to carry to drive in different European countries – see the AA’s site for a list.


Q: Am I able to get duplicate car keys cut?

A: Yes, but many modern car keys have electronic chips inside them that are specially coded to control your car’s immobiliser and/or alarm system. Replacing these keys can be expensive and they are sometimes only available from main dealers for your make of car.


Q: Do I need to carry any of my car documents in my car?

A: You aren’t legally obliged to but do this but it can save hassle if you are stopped by the police or in an accident. If you do not have your documents with you, the police can require you to produce them within 7 days at a police station.


Q: I am going abroad in my car do I need to get a GB sticker?

A: If you have a modern registration plate that includes an EU country code on the left (the blue bit with GB on) then you don’t need a GB sticker within the EU. If your registration plate is the older, plain style – without a country code – you will need a GB sticker regardless.

If you drive outside the EU, you will need a GB sticker.


Car Servicing Questions

Q: How do I know when to get my car serviced?

A: There are three possible ways:

  • Your car’s owner manual will specify the service intervals in miles/years
  • e.g. every 15,000 miles or 1 year
  • Most garages recommend a minimum of once every year, however low your mileage
  • Your car may have an onboard computer that will tell you when it is due for a service

See our Car Servicing & Repair Guide for more details.

To find a garage near you, click here


Q: My car squeals when I start it, is that bad?

A: The most likely cause of this is that the fan belt (sometimes called the alternator drive belt or similar) is slipping. This isn’t disastrous and will normally stop after the car has warmed up a bit – try giving it a good rev.

However, it will eventually need sorting out – either tightening or replacing – or it will break or come off. This is normally a very quick job for a garage.

The problem could of course be something else – if it won’t go away, get it looked at.


Q: What happens if I put diesel in my petrol car?

A: You would have to try hard to do this as the nozzle on diesel fuel pumps is larger than the nozzle on petrol fuel pumps. This means you would have to force it into the filler hole. However, it does happen.

If you do this, don’t start your car – ring your breakdown company and they will arrange for someone to come and pump the incorrect fuel out.


Q: What happens if I put petrol in my diesel car?

A: This is easily done as petrol pump nozzles are a little smaller than diesel pump nozzles. Always double check you have the correct fuel as petrol can do serious damage to a diesel engine. If the nozzle feels unusually loose, make sure it isn’t a petrol pump.

DO NOT start the car or even put your keys in, as this can cause the fuel pump to activate. Instead, call for breakdown assistance immediately.


Q: What documentation do I need to take when I take my car in for a service?

A: Just your car’s service book, so that the garage can stamp it to show the date and mileage at which they have done the service. To find a garage near you, click here.


Car MOT Questions

Q: What does MOT stand for?

A: MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. Historically, the Ministry of Transport was responsible for administering this annual test. Now, it’s just the name for the test – no one calls it anything other than MOT.

Even the government’s own MOT website doesn’t provide an explanation of what MOT stands for!


Q: How do I know when my car needs an MOT?

A: If your car is under 3 years old, it doesn’t need an MOT. Yearly MOT testing is required once a car is 3 years old. The age is normally measured from the date of first registration. This is shown on your vehicle registration document, V5C (the big multi-coloured one).

You can have your car MOT tested up to one month before it is due and the MOT system will automatically date it forwards so that you have a full year from the due date to the next due date.

You can also take an MOT test at any other time – for example if you are selling your car and you want to provide the buyer with a fresh MOT. To find an MOT centre near you, click here.


Q: What documentation do I need to take when I take my car in for an MOT?

A: Since the MOT system was computerised a few years ago, you don’t need to take anything. All your cars’ details and its current MOT status will come up on the MOT testing centre’s computer.

To find an MOT centre near you, click here


Q: Is there anything I can do to prepare my car for its MOT?

A: Although you can’t do all the checks an MOT tester will do, there are a number of easy things you can check to give your car a better chance of passing its MOT first time.

In fact, we’ve written a guide about it. Click here for our Pass Your MOT First Time Guide.

Note that another good approach is to time your car’s service so that it is just before/on the same day as your car’s MOT. That way, any problems should already be fixed, or the garage can fix them as they do the service, which will be done before the MOT test.


Q: Will insurance company need to see the MOT certificate?

A: No.


Q: What is the difference between a car MOT and a car service?

A: An MOT is a test to ensure your car is roadworthy. No maintenance work is carried out on your car.

A service is a set of routine maintenance tasks designed to keep your car in good working order.


Q: How do I find out when my car MOT is due?

A: Check your current MOT certificate for its expiry date. If you don’t have it, you can check the MOT status of your car at If your car is not yet three years old, check your vehicle registration document (V5C) for the date of first registration. You will need an MOT three years after this date.


Car Insurance Questions

Q: Will speeding offences affect my insurance policy?

A: Possibly. Insurance companies are less strict about speeding offences than they used to be but you must declare any penalty points / motoring offences to your insurance company as soon as you have them.


Q: I’ve changed the radio in my car – should I notify the insurance company?

A: It’s a good idea to notify your insurance company about any changes you make. In the case of an upgraded stereo, if you don’t tell your insurer, they will probably refuse to pay out if it is stolen. Unless it’s very expensive, however, it shouldn’t affect your insurance premium.


Q: Will my insurance policy cover me abroad?

A: Different insurance companies provide different levels of insurance cover abroad (i.e. within the EU and various other European countries). The only safe plan is to contact your insurer before you leave and check the level of cover they offer. Some insurers also require you to notify them before you take your vehicle abroad.

Many car insurance companies only provide basic third-party cover outside the UK – but you may be able to upgrade it to comprehensive. Make sure you have all of your insurance documentation when you travel abroad. Click here for an instant car insurance quote.


Q: Should I carry my Insurance Certificate with me in my car?

A: You aren’t legally obliged to do this but it can save hassle if you are stopped by the police or in an accident. If you do not have your insurance certificate with you, the police can require you to produce it within 7 days at a police station.


Car Breakdown & Recovery Questions

Q: Do I have to have breakdown cover?

A: No, you don’t. But think carefully about whether it might be worth the money – especially if you regularly travel outside your home area or at night. To get an AA breakdown cover quote, click here.


Q: Will a breakdown company change my wheel if I have a puncture or do I need to learn how to do it myself?

A: Breakdown companies will change a wheel for you if you have a puncture, but it can be much quicker to do it yourself.

The choice is yours, although if you do decide to do it yourself you should make sure you are comfortable with the procedure and are in a safe position to do the work. Particularly dangerous are motorway hard shoulders – 10% of motorway accidents involve stationary vehicles being hit while on the hard shoulder.

In all cases, make sure you have a proper wheel changing kit for your car and follow the instructions in your car’s owner manual.


Q: Will my breakdown policy cover me abroad?

A: Not usually. European breakdown cover is normally either an upgrade or a separate service. It is well worth the money, however, as the cost and disruption of having a breakdown while on holiday without breakdown cover can be huge. To get an AA European breakdown cover quote, click here.


Car Tax Questions

Q: What is car tax, does everyone need it?

A: The correct name for car tax is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). It’s a tax on using a car on public roads. Anyone who uses or keeps a car on public roads needs to tax their car.

If you will never use or keep your car on a public road, you can declare it off road and avoid the need to pay tax. This is known as SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) – find out more here.

Note that if you don’t SORN your vehicle, it will be assumed it is used on road and you will be committing an offence by not taxing it. It doesn’t matter whether you actually use it on road or not – no SORN means you must pay tax.


Q: Where should my tax disc go?

A: In your car’s windscreen in a proper tax disc holder. You should stick it on the nearside (i.e. left-hand side in the UK) of the windscreen with the details facing outwards, so they can be read through the windscreeen.

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10 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Car Questions

  • August 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I have breakdown cover and i am planning on driving to a campsite in Scotland,we will stay a day or 2 using this as our main base to tour the highlands.If we breakdown while we are out do we have to be taken direct to our home address if the vehicle cant be started ruining our holiday or can we be taken back to the campsite where our tent is to spend the remainder of our holiday and collect the tent and then call them out again at the end of our holiday?

    • August 16, 2012 at 6:01 am


      It depends on exactly what kind of breakdown cover you have, but I think there is a third, more likely option — if the car can’t be started at the roadside, it will be taken to a local garage to be fixed, after which you can collect it and continue your holiday.

      You need to check exactly what level of breakdown cover you have to make sure.

      Hope this helps,

      Roland (

  • August 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    My friend is going abroad for a year or so, she wants her car to get serviced before she goes , means care service ,oil change , air filter change a, wheel balancing , alignment n stuff before she goes. My quest here is whether is it advisable to get it change before or after she comes.

    • August 3, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Probably a good idea to do it before she goes, but it’s also worth considering that over such a long time, the car may need other attention. The tyres are likely to deflate over this time and could then be damaged (if the car stands on flat tyres, the sidewalls will be damaged and the tyres will need replacing).

      Other problems may also occur relating to condensation and corrosion (e.g. brake discs will corrode), especially if the vehicle is left outside in a cold or humid climate.

      To minimise these problems, it might be a good idea to get someone to use the car every month while your friend is away, if this is possible/safe/legal.

  • October 22, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Can i find out who moted my car when i brought the car the man couldnt find the mot certificate which didnt bother me as you can get them on line . But need to find out who moted our car as it was a death trap waiting to help , the mot was only 7 weeks old when we brought it .

  • February 6, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    I have just got a peugeot 307 1.6 2003 and no label in petrol flap so not sure what petrol to put in….unleaded? I do know its not diesel

    • February 7, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Sonia,

      If you’re sure it’s petrol then any petrol sold in the UK should be okay.

      Confusingly, the standard unleaded fuel in the UK is known as premium unleaded. It’s usually also labelled as ’95RON’ on the petrol pump. This should be fine.

      The more expensive option is super unleaded. Opinions vary as to whether this offers any benefit in regular cars, but you shouldn’t need to use it.

      Hope this helps,


  • November 17, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I want to start a debate by suggesting use of car stop/start systems is one of the worse things you could do to your car, particularly the engine. 1. Every time the engine stops, oil starts to drain from it; and when it starts, you would get metal to metal wear instead of having the oil lubrication in the cylinders etc. 2. Over use of the starter motor (could lead to premature wear & tear); which in turn 3. premature wear of the battery (instead of lasting 7 years, it lasts only 3). 4. The engine’s turbo. Not sure today but back in the 90’s we were told to leave the engine running couple of minutes after the journey due to many reports of failed turbo. Apparently turbos needed time to slow down; ergo, use of stop/start system could prematurely wear the turbo unless, I guess, the system keeps the turbo spinning and only stops when driver turns the ignition to off position. 5 and lastly, I reckon it gets the engine to be “smokey” sooner as there seems always to be a bit of unburnt hydrocarbon coming out of the exhaust when an engine starts … so clogs up the cat. converter sooner also. My conclusion is that stop/start is a marketing exercise designed to meet some kind of EU legislation made on manufacturers and helps to sell cars which could save you pennies in fuel bill but could cost you many £££’s later on.

    • November 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Hi sandskier,

      Thanks for your detailed comment. From my point of view (not a technical expert) I agree that the performance and durability of start/stop systems as they age is yet to be proved in the real world. Certainly I wouldn’t use a normal car as a start/stop model, switching off everytime I came to a halt.

      However, my understanding is that most of the points you raise have been addressed by technical changes to cars with start/stop systems. For example, they have beefed-up batteries and starter motors which are designed to cope with frequent start/stop cycles. I believe replacement batteries for such models cost £100-£200, rather than about £50 for a regular car battery.

      Similarly, I think that most manufacturers have built in safeguards to ensure that engines aren’t automatically switched off when the turbo is too hot, or when the engine has not yet warmed up properly. And so on. The evidence seems to suggest that cars with start/stop systems offer a worthwhile reduction in fuel consumption. So it seems a reasonable solution to me.




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