A recent survey among UK MoT test stations showed 20% of all test failures were due to a blown bulb. Picking up on a possible reason for a fail notice before the test could save you the test fee of £15 – and the hassle of a re-test.
Stuff you’ll need
At the most, front and rear paddock stands to support the bike to check things like chain and sprockets and to get a better all over view of the bike. An owner’s or workshop manual with the correct chain tension, tyre pressures, and so on is always handy.
Can I really do this myself?
Yes. If you’ve read MCN’s How To features before then you’ll know even the most scary tasks aren’t always the technical nightmare you think they’ll be. But if there is a smidgin of doubt whether something is going to be a problem (big or small) at the time of the MoT then take the bike to a dealer beforehand for some on-the-spot advice and/or repair work.
What do I need more than anything?
Common sense. If there’s a nut or bolt missing off the bike, it needs replacing. Sharp edges such as broken levers are a strict no-no. Similarly if the exhaust is marked ‘not for road/highway use’ then it shouldn’t be on the bike while being tested. A numberplate that can’t easily be read from 15 metres away, or with letters which aren’t correctly positioned (as standard) will fail. So it’s time to say goodbye to tiny and/or one-line plates.
Bear in mind that, while an MoT certificate is issued to say the machine conforms to basic safety guidelines and is in a roadworthy condition at the time of the test, things like worn tyres or brake pads can render a bike un-roadworthy within weeks of an MoT test pass. Check it regularly for your own safety.
1. Make sure the battery is in good nick and fully charged. During the test the bike needs to be started to check the exhaust is not blowing and isn’t too noisy (see below), and dim lights perk up, or slow-flashing indicators reach the required standard of 60 to 120 flashes per minute.
2. Check every bulb on the bike is working and the headlight is correctly adjusted. Start with the indicators then turn on the main lights with the indicators still flashing – no light should affect the performance of another. Also check the parking light bulb(s). Any bike over 50cc built after 1985 should have a separate front and rear brake light system.
3. Bikes kitted out with every bolt-on accessory can be a nightmare at MoT time. Many rearsets are lightweight race use only items and don’t come with brackets to fit the rear brake light switch (see 2). Headlights should only emit a yellow or white light, so – yes – coloured Perspex headlamp ‘protectors’ are illegal and need to come off.
4. Check wheel bearings by spinning the wheels by hand then listen and look for smooth running. Grab the top and bottom of the wheels and push and pull towards and away from you. There should be no obvious movement. Do the same for the swingarm bearings by grasping the rear wheel half way up and at the furthest point from the bike.
5. Try lifting the rear wheel directly upwards – if it and the swingarm move before the suspension comes into play the suspension linkage bearings need attention. Also check the chain guard is in place and that any reflector fitted aligns to the bike’s centre line and reflects squarely to the rear.
6. Get a friend to sit on the back of the bike so the front wheel is off the floor. Firmly grab the fork bottoms and try to rock them backwards and forwards. If they move or clunk noisily then the steering head bearings are shot and need replacing. The steering also needs to turn smoothly lock-to-lock – and lock-stops must be fitted.
7. If fork oil can be wiped off the chromed slider then the fork seal(s) is/are blown. The same check applies to the rear suspension. In both cases leaking oil means a test failure. Forks seals can be replaced. Quality rear shocks can sometimes be repaired, but it’s usually cheaper/easier to buy an aftermarket unit instead.
8. Front and rear suspension must have some level of damping. Push down hard on the handlebars and then the rear end. There should be resistance felt when pushed and a steady return to full extension. If both ends dip easily and spring back then the oil is buggered or has leaked out (see 7).
9. Exhausts should be securely mounted, in good nick and not blowing at any joint. Sound, welded repairs are allowed. Silencers must carry a BSAU or EC approval mark. Even so, the noise emitted from a legal aftermarket can must not exceed a standard silencer in good condition on a similar model bike.
10. Fuel systems are part of the test and are checked with and without a running engine. Make sure there are no leaks, and the tank is securely mounted. The filler cap must also have an effective, unbroken seal and fuel pipes must be in tip-top condition (if visible). Plastic tanks are ok for road use if EC-marked.
11. Check tyres are the correct size, fitted the right way round (so tyre’s rotation arrow matches the wheel’s rotation), are filled to the correct pressure and have no cuts, bulges or perished areas. Depth of tread must be no less than 1mm over a continuous circumferential band measuring at least three quarters of the breadth of the tyre.
12. Brake hoses should not be perished or split – and not bulge with the brake lever used hard (tightly grip the brake line with the one hand and work the lever with the other). Brake pressure should be firm and stay that way. Pads shouldn’t be below their wear limit indicators. If the brakes judder the discs could be warped or cracked. This is a failure.