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Your motorcycle MOT – a complete guide

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The motorcycle MOT test is an annual check for motorcycles over 3 years old. Passing your MOT means your motorcycle meets the required legal standards for road use, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your motorbike is in good condition.

The certificate you receive will show that your bike is legal to ride on the road for the next 12 months, as well as provide details of any advisories that may need consideration before your next MOT due date. This motorcycle MOT checklist will help you make sure you correct any small faults and pass your MOT first time.

Table of Contents

What Is An MOT?

In case you’re wondering, MoT stands for Ministry of Transport and the infamous MOT was introduced in 1960. The Ministry of Transport test, commonly referred to as the MOT test, is an annual inspection of the mechanical aspects and exhaust emissions of your bike, as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988.  Every vehicle must have a valid MOT in order to be eligible for Road Tax and insurance, the other important bits you need to ride on the road!

Check Your Motorcycle MOT Validity

If you want to check whether your motorcycle, moped or scooter’s MOT is valid, then just head to the Government’s MOT check website, enter the bike’s registration and it’ll tell you when the MOT expires.

How Can I Ensure That My Bike Will Pass Its MOT?

Look after your bike, and it will look after you.  Motorbikes that are regularly serviced should not have any problems when it comes to MOT time and will be safe and roadworthy at all times.

With a little bit of foresight and a good going over before you take your bike to the test centre, you shouldn’t have to be too worried about a potential failure.

Motorcycle MOT checklist

The MOT checks the following on your motorbike or scooter:

Lights The following will be checked: the condition, whether they work properly, if they’re secure and the correct colour. The headlight, rear light, brake light and indicators will all be checked.

Steering and Suspension The tester will check your forks, bars, headstock bearings, swingarm, rear shock and front forks to ensure they are secure and work properly. Check that your handlebars turn freely, that the suspension is responsive when you bounce the bike and that your bearings are all secure. If the handling feels wrong or any parts feel loose, have them checked before you go for your MOT.

Wheels and Tyres These are inspected to check their condition, that they’re secure and that the tyre tread depth is over 3mm. The valves will also be inspected to check they’re in good condition.

Frame Checked to ensure it has no cracks, damage or corrosion, especially around the headstock area where it could affect steering or braking.

Brake system The condition of your brakes will be checked as well as a front and rear brake check test on a rolling road. You will probably already be aware if your brakes are on their way out.  But you should always check that your brakes are fully operational by making sure the wheels rotate freely when the brake is released, and ensuring that the brake pads are not worn out.

Exhaust The motorcycle’s exhaust will be inspected to check it’s secure, has no cracks or holes and is meets noise requirements.

The petrol tank Your tester will ensure it is secure, that there are no leaks from the system or cracks in the tank. The filler cap must be lockable.

The seat This will be checked to ensure it is present and is securely fitted.

Wheel alignment The tester will ensure that the front and rear wheels are in line.

Horn The tester will check the horn works properly.

Registration plate and VIN numbers Your registration plate will have to conform to the correct size and the frame number will be checked.

Chain and sprockets These will be checked to ensure they’re properly adjusted, not too loose or tight, that the sprockets are in good condition and the chain guard is securely in place.

Throttle Checked to ensure it works correctly.

Clutch The lever is inspected to ensure it isn’t damaged, bent or otherwise too short for proper use.

Footpegs Checked to ensure they are present and properly fitted.

Motorcycle MOT costs

There is really only one fee for a motorcycle MOT: currently £29.65, regardless of the bike’s engine size.

If you have a sidecar – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t? – the fee is £37.80.

Class / Vehicle type / Age first MOT needed (years) / Maximum MOT fee

1 / Motorcycle (engine size up to 200cc) / 3 years / £29.65

1 / Motorcycle with sidecar (engine size up to 200cc) / 3 years / £37.80

2 / Motorcycle (engine size over 200cc) / 3 years / £29.65

2 / Motorcycle with sidecar (engine size over 200cc) /  3 years / £37.80

50cc moped mot requirements and costs

Mopeds and scooters are treated like any other vehicle and will need an MOT every 12 months once they are three years old. The moped MOT test is exactly the same as for a motorcycle.

The most common reason motorbikes fail an MOT test

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Here are the 10 most common reasons that motorcycles and scooter fail their MOT. This data is provided by the Ministry of Transport from 2015:

10 – Sidecar-related – 0.006% of failures

Did you know that nearly 1 in every 10,000 motorcycles have a sidecar? Nope, we didn’t think there would that many either. The data doesn’t show by the sidecars failed, just that a sidecar failed in some way. Almost 1 in 3 sidecars fail their MOT. Who knew?

9 – Driving controls – 0.5% of failures

This is a vague category at best, as many of the things that fail in this category could also – and often are – recorded in another category. For example, if your gear level is held on with a cable tie, it may be recorded under the ‘driving controls’ category.

8 – Structure – 1% of failures

Your motorcycle will fail on this point if the frame is badly rusted, twisted or cracked.

7- Drive system – 1.2% of failures

Chain hanging on the floor or so tight that your rear sprocket is experiencing pressures usually reserved for submarines? If so, you’re going to fail this one.

6 – Fuel and exhaust – 1.25% of failures

This is a remarkably low number considering the fact that a bike fitted with a ‘not road legal’ exhaust will fail this part of the test. Also covered are factors such as whether the exhaust leaks and whether the fuel system leaks. While you might hate the MOT, you’d be pretty pleased if the tester found this one.

5 – Number plate and VIN – 1.5% of failures

If your bike fails the VIN check (i.e the number on the frame doesn’t match the number on the log book) then your MOT failure will pale into insignificance compared to the bigger picture. It’s far more likely that the failures here are due to your motorcycle having a non-standard size number plate. You naughty so and so.

4 – Tyres – 3.5% of failures

It’s not just tyres with tread below the legal limit that will fail. If your tyres aren’t the right speed rating for the bike, the tyre isn’t correctly fitted (sometimes fitted the wrong way by the tyre shop), there’s a cut, nick or bulge in the rubber of if the tyre is rubbing on another part of the bike, then that’ll cause the tester to fail the bike.

3 – Steering and suspension – 4.5% of failures

Worn bearings, stiff headstock, cracked or rusty rear suspension springs, badly leaking fork seals – the list is almost endless.

2 – Braking system – 5.5% of failures

Worn pads, warped discs, badly scratched discs – any of these will give the tester reason to fail you. It’s such an easy thing to check, we’re amazed this many bikes fail in this area.

1 – Lights – 10% of failures

Bikers! Come on, pull yourselves together! Lights are the most common reason for a motorcycle MOT failure. Whether that’s a badly adjusted headlight, a brake light that’s out, indicators that don’t work or a sidelight that went pop. A massive 1 in 10 motorcycle MOT failures are down to lights.

Motorcycle MOT FAQs

How long do MOTs take
The motorcycle MOT consists of 16 checks; depending on the condition of your bike, the time varies but you could be there for 30 minutes to an hour.

Do I have to pay to retest if my motorcycle fails its MOT?
If your motorcycle fails its MOT you’ll be given a printed refusal of an MOT certificate from the test centre. If you fix the issue and return before the end of the next working day the MOT centre will do a partial retest on the areas that failed, for free if they are in the following category:

  • access panels
  • Battery
  • electrical wiring
  • fuel filler cap
  • headlamp cleaning or levelling devices (that doesn’t need a headlamp aim check)
  • Horn
  • lamps (excluding headlamp aim)
  • main beam ‘tell-tale’
  • Mirrors
  • rear reflectors
  • registration plates
  • Seats
  • vehicle identification number (VIN)

Similarly you’ll only need a partial retest if you leave your motorbike at the test centre for repair and it’s retested within 10 working days. There’s no fee for this.

In all other cases you’ll need to get a full retest and pay the full motorcycle MOT fee.

What is not checked in a motorcycle MOT?
The engine are gearbox are not checked, although your tester will fire the bike up and if it sounds seriously unhealthy, they may question this. Also, the bike’s emissions are not checked.

Do they check motorcycle emissions during an MOT?
No, they don’t. Unlike cars, motorbikes aren’t taxed according to their emissions and so unsurprisingly, they aren’t checked during a motorcycle MOT.

Can a car MOT station test motorcycles?
No, a car MOT station won’t necessarily be able to test motorcycles or scooters. The motorcycle MOT requires a specific set of testing equipment that not all car centres have. Check out this link to find your nearest motorcycle MOT station. 

When does a motorcycle become MOT exempt?
A motorcycle becomes MOT exempt if it was built or registered more than 40 years ago, but only if you didn’t make any substantial changes to the vehicle in the last 30 years. The new rules act on a rolling basis, so each year your bike gets older, it gets closer to becoming exempt. Substantial changes include replacing the engine, chassis, axles, or body meant to change the way the vehicle works.

While you don’t have to apply to stop getting a MOT, you must keep your motorcycle in a roadworthy condition if you want to ride it on public roads.

When does a motorcycle become tax-exempt?
Motorcycles become tax-exempt if they were built more than 40 years ago. Currently, you can apply for a tax exemption if your motorcycle was built before 1 January 1979 or if you don’t know when it was built but it was registered between 1 and 7 January 1979.

How much is an MOT
As of November 2019. Class 2 (motorcycle with an engine over 200cc) MOTs currently cost £29.65 Class 2 (motorcycle with sidecar and engine over 200cc) MOTss currently cost £37.50

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