Testing times: How to pass your motorbike MoT first time

If your MoT expired from March 30, 2020 the Government gave you an automatic extension on your current certificate without needing a retest. But that extension could be ended at any time now lockdown rules are easing.

And even if you are one of those who got an extension, you have a legal obligation to make sure your bike is roadworthy. So, you can use this 10 step guide to get your bike through its MoT first time or as a checklist to make sure your bike is safe to ride.

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This is no time to be a show off

Mae sure your number plate is legal

All bikes over three years old require an MoT. As well as being vital for ensuring it’s safe to ride, the inspection checks whether a bike conforms to regs – and the numberplate is just one aspect. The size and shape of lettering as well as the dimensions of the plate will come under scrutiny, so if you’ve got a fancy ‘show plate’ now’s the time to switch back to standard.

That’s a bright idea

Check all your bulbs

If indicators are fitted then they must flash in accordance with the regulations; aftermarket indicators won’t necessarily cause a fail but any that flash as rapidly as a strobe will not pass. Check for front and rear brake light operation, sometimes the rear switch may need adjusting. Check the dip and high beam operation and that heights are set correctly.

The silence of the cans

Aftermarket exhausts could fail a noise test

Aftermarket cans are fine as long as they aren’t marked with ‘not for road use’ or similar, and aren’t noticeably louder than the original. Other parts of the system need to be in good condition, with no blowing or rotten collector boxes. Some of the regs have been updated with regards to silencers, so there is a degree of subjective judgement from the tester. 

Do your legs have leaks?

Check for leaky fork seals

Fork seals wear over time and when they do they usually leave a smear of oil on the stanchion and will need replacing. You can also visually inspect for leaks by removing the dust seal. The damping action of the suspension must be in good order; when you push the bike down and release it, the return rates should be evenly damped without bounciness.

Lost your bearings?

Check front bearings for play

Check the head bearings’ condition by raising the front wheel and pulling the bottom of the forks backwards and forwards to feel for any play or knocking. Also, again with the wheel in the air, turn the steering fully left and right, it should be smooth with no binding or notchiness.

All tired out

Check your tyres are road legal

Make sure you have sufficient tread; any bike over 50cc must have 1mm across three quarters of the width of the tread marks. It’s also worth making sure the size and type of tyre is correct. Look for cracks, bulges or cuts. Any tyre fitted should also have the rotation arrow positioned correctly.

Braking good or braking bad?

Check your brake pads and calipers

There needs to be an obvious amount of usable friction material still in place – the lower limit is 1mm on sintered pads and 1.5mm on organic type pads. Check both back and front brake calipers. Also, you need to assess the condition of the discs – spin the wheel and make sure they run true and that they are not damaged or cracked, or below the minimum thickness. 

Assess chassis bearings

Check rear bearings for play

Check your wheel bearings by first spinning the wheel; it should not bind or rumble. With the wheel in the air, hold the wheel at opposite sides and try to move it from side to side looking and feeling for any ‘play’. Check your swingarm bearings by feeling for play when pushing and pulling on the rear wheel – there shouldn’t be any noticeable movement.

Adjust tension and check condition

Check your chain's tension and condition

The drive chain and sprockets need to be in good condition. The drive chain should be adjusted correctly with no signs of significant wear. If a link is fitted it should be secure, and if it’s a split link it should face the right direction, open end facing backwards when the link is on the top of the rear sprocket. The sprocket teeth should show little or no signs of wear.

Don’t be fuellish

Check all your fuel lines

The fuel system needs to be in good order and this means there should be no evidence of leaks. The petrol cap must close properly, and have a rubber seal fitted. The fuel hoses must be in good condition with no perishing, and they must be secured with clips. Finally, the petrol tank itself should be securely fitted to the motorcycle.

What tools do I need to get my motorbike MOT-ready?

Tools for getting your bike MoT ready

  • Tyre pressure guage - It doesn’t matter if it’s digital or analogue, as long as you can trust it to be accurate.
  • Spanners - A pair of 10mm and 12mm jobbies for adjusting chain tension.
  • Screwdrivers - You’ll need flat and crossheads in case you need to replace bulbs.
  • Pliers - Handy for oh so many jobs, but especially if you need to fit or adjusting clips on your bike’s fuel lines.

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Bruce Dunn

By Bruce Dunn

Datalogger, professionally testing bikes for over 25 years.