The cost of keeping vehicles road-worthy in Northern Ireland could increase dramatically if changes to MOT tests come into effect.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood's plan — which is now out for consultation — comprises 22 extra checks to be implemented early next year.
Vehicle examination in Northern Ireland is already particularly stringent compared to elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
But the new proposals would mean further tests on, among other things, power-steering indicators, tyre pressure monitoring systems and electrical sockets for trailers.
Questions are also being asked as to why the testing of cars and commercial vehicles has to be made tougher in Northern Ireland, particularly in the current economic climate.
Mr Attwood said the MOT test had seen few changes since its introduction in 1975 despite advances in vehicle technology.
“Modern vehicles incorporate many more electrical safety systems and the European Commission has decided that these should now be included in the MOT test,” Mr Attwood said.
Bernard McClure from the Driver Vehicle Agency said the main thrust of the initiative centres on road safety with, for example, brake efficiency being increased from 50% to 58%.
“The MOT test has been £30.50 for many years and we are not proposing to increase it,” he said.
“I don't dispute that there may be an increased cost to the motorist, but the essential issue here is road safety.”
Mr McClure said most garages have the equipment to diagnose the problems which need to be fixed in order for a car to get its MOT.
“I can't see this putting smaller garages (which don't have expensive diagnostic equipment) out of business,” he said.
Glenn Ewing, owner of Greenaway Auto Electrics, said test centres in Northern Ireland are much stricter than elsewhere in the UK, meaning that cars are in much better order.
He said: “From our point of view, it would mean spending more money on new diagnostic equipment and it would take a lot of increased business to make that up.”
However, Keith Peat from the Association of British Drivers said the plan would put extra strain on the majority of drivers in Northern Ireland with vehicles over four years old.
“On this list I've counted at least eight items that are as old as the Giant's Causeway,” he said.
“We've managed quite well without testing them up to now, so the question is, why now?”
It is planned that the new test will be carried out on an advisory basis from February 1 to April 30, 2012. The changes to the test are set to become fully effective on May 1, 2012.
Some of the proposed 22 new requirements:
Hazard warning lamps and dashboard information lights; headlamp main beam; high intensity discharge headlamps, washing and levelling system; electrical socket for trailers; steering, suspension, brake and transmission dust covers/gaiters; steering wheel locking mechanism; electronic power steering and malfunction indicator lamp; steering and brake fluid levels; electronic parking brake and electronic braking systems malfunction indicator lamp; electronic stability control system; additional braking devices; tyre pressure monitoring systems; supplementary restraint systems; driver’s seat adjustment mechanism; tow-bar assembly; emission control systems, an increase of brake efficiency for cars first used on or after December 31, 2011 (from 50% to 58%).