Motorcycles are becoming a slightly less common sight on UK roads, after ownership peaked in 2008. However, at the last count there were around 1.11 million motorbikes of all shapes and sizes in the UK, all of which have to conform to the same standards of roadworthiness. Although there’s not much a motorbike has in common with a car the MOT is one of them. If you’re a convert to motorbikes and are trying to get to grips with your legal responsibilities, here’s what you need to know.
The rules about what bikes need MOT checks are the same as for cars. A motorbike doesn’t need to be presented for a MOT check until three years from the date it was first registered with the DVLA. If your motorbike was registered in Northern Ireland, then no cars or motorbikes need a MOT until four years rather than three. After three years, the MOT check then has to be repeated annually until either the bike reaches the end of its life and is taken off the road, or passes into the category of a classic car, 40 years after it was first registered.
If you’re insure of the date which your bike was first registered, then it’s very easy to check. The DVLA website lets you check the tax and MOT status of aby vehicle just by entering the registration number in the search box. The results page will show both the date your current road tax expires, and the date your MOT runs out.
The inspection process for motorbikes differs from testing cars, simply because the engine and bodywork are so different. Most MOT inspectors are certified to either inspect motorbikes or cars, but not both. Don’t assume that the local garage which services or does the MOT on your car has the skills available to inspect your motorbike too. It’s usually best to look for a specialist bike garage which has the experience and knowledge to deal with all sorts of motorbikes. If your bike does require some remedial work to get through the MOT, it’s best to be in a garage with the tools and equipment to do the work.
When it comes to timing, there is a fair amount of flexibility over when exactly you get the test done. If you have a new MOT test within a month of the previous one expiring, it will simply be extended by a year. Don’t leave the test to the last few days before your current certificate expires.
The good news for motorbike owners is that the cost of a MOT test for bikes is generally less than the cost for car drivers. The government has capped the cost of a MOT test for motorbikes at £29.65. This means that garages are free to charge whatever they want up to that maximum. Some garages might choose to offer you a cheap deal to attract customers in at a quieter time.
The problem with offering a very cheap fee to attract motorcyclists in for their MOT is that the garages might try to claw back the money by just increasing charges elsewhere. It’s probably not wise to use cost as the main deciding factor when trying to work out where you should take your motorbike for its inspection.
No rider wants to get that call from the garage saying that their bike has failed its MOT and that there’s a long list of repair work which needs to be done. Sometimes a MOT fail is unavoidable, and the inspector will detect a problem which the owner couldn’t have been aware of. But many MOT fails are down to things like headlights which aren’t working properly, a missing registration plate, or tyres where the tread isn’t as deep as it should be. Most responsible motorbike owners are in the habit of checking over their bike regularly, and should be able to pick up little problems before they develop into large, expensive problems. Motorbike manufacturers will also set out a recommended schedule for servicing, and you should try to stick to their recommendations wherever possible. Remember to get your service book stamped too as proof that you’ve kept up to date with maintenance – it will increase the value of your bike if you ever decide to sell it.
The good news is that bikes are far less likely to fail their MOT than cars or vans. Around 50% of vans and a third of cars fail their MOT each year, but only 18% of bikes. That doesn’t mean that you can take your eyes off the ball and just assume that you’ll be in the passing group though. The most common reason for a motorbike failing its MOT test is something to do with lighting and signalling, covering everything from blown bulbs in headlights to indicators not working properly. Checking your lights are working is an easy job, but remember to check both high beam and dipped headlights. Another common fault which catches people out is the light over the rear registration plate – if it’s not working, then it’s an automatic fail. Missing bulbs are usually very cheap and easy to replace so try to fix the problem yourself rather than waiting until you get to the garage and paying a mechanic to do the job for you.
After lighting and indicators, the next most common issue is with the brakes, accounting for around 5% of all MOT fails. The problem with brakes is that it’s less easy to get access to the internal components of the brake system to check for yourself. Find a trusted mechanic and respect their advice about when brakes need replaced.
Tyres and wheels are the last aspect of your motorbike which you should look at before the MOT, as this accounts for a further 3% of fails. Tread depth rules for motorbikes are at least 1mm around the whole circumference of the tyre so if yours are borderline, consider changing them.