Safety Inspections... What to look for before you bring your motorcycle in!
Having to bring your motorcycle in for a safety inspection is not anyone's idea of a good time, but it is a necessary evil. These inspections can end up giving you quite the sticker shock when a bunch of failed items start adding up, so it's best to be ready for it! In this post, I'm going to review some of the key items that you will need to check and or repair to make sure that inspection goes as well as possible.
I'm going to preface this as I am not a certified mechanic. Keep that in mind as you read this post however, I have gone through several safety inspections on projects that I have done, so I do have experience in what to look for and that is what I'm going to share with you. Also to keep in mind, some provinces or states may have varying guidelines on some of these items as well so check with your local highway traffic act or bylaws.
Tires. Have a really good look at the side walls of the tires and see if there are any minor cracks as well as cracks on the top surface of the tire. Any dryness or cracking on the tire and it will fail safety for sure. On top of this, you don't want to be riding with dried out tires anyway, as it is dangerous and not worth risking. Some motorcycle tires can be replaced with irons and hand tools, but shops can do a nicer job and will balance the tires and rims for you.
Suspension. On the front shocks, if you notice that at the fork seal you see some oil, these will fail. The shock tubes should be pretty dry. In the rear shocks, if you hear any hissing or see any oil that is also a sign of a failed shock absorber. Fork seals can be replaced and typically without special tools in most cases, but it requires medium level mechanical know how. I've done several and have had mixed experiences. Some have gone great, some have required me to make special tools to remove and have taken several hours. It's a crap shoot.
Brakes. Well obviously brakes are on the list. Pretty much any failure of any brake component will cause the overall inspection to fail. What you want to look for is any brake fluid showing at the master cylinder, leaking from any hoses or connectors. If you feel any spongy feeling in the brakes or see excessive wear on pads, shoes, drums or brake rotors, you will need to address these as well. The shop will take measurements of the pads and rotors on disc brakes and will measure the shoes and drums on drum brakes. There are limits to these and they need to be within the allowable limit. Even though I've done most of the brake work on my bikes, it is tedious work to bleed lines, replace shoes etc. This also requires at least a medium level of mechanical knowledge.
Instrumentation, lights and honkers. All lights need to be functional. Signal lights must flash when activated, you must see the turn signal indicator on the gauge light up and flash as well (orange light). Headlight must have high and low beam and again, the gauge high beam indicator must work (blue light). You also must have a working neutral indicator light (green one). Make sure your horn is working properly. Horns are cheap. If it's broken, get a new one. Your brake lights must activate both when using the front brake and the rear. Your rear light should be on at all times at a lower wattage than when you apply the brake. Ensure your license plate light is also functional. If the inspection shop misses this, the police won't ;). Most provinces/states require that all signals and lights be DOT certified or this could cause a fail on the inspection. You also need to have rear view mirrors installed. One may suffice, but slap a couple on there for good measure.
Chassis. You don't want to be riding a motorcycle with a bent frame or handlebars and your local vehicle inspection station won't let them pass. Ensure your bars are good and straight and tight, ensure that the frame is not cracked or poorly welded and also make sure that chain guards and other safety straps such as wiring ties and heat shields are in place. Now is also a good time to check the chain tension as well. Use your manual for the spec on what the tension should be and adjust accordingly. Another thing to make sure of is that your kick stand and center stand (if applicable) are both functioning and secured.
Check wheel bearings, steering stem bearings and swing arm bearings for play. You can do this by putting your bike on it's center stand (or having a strong friend hold the bike up lol) and see if the wheels have any side to side play in them. Can't have that! Same goes for the swing arm and for the steering stem. If you feel any side to side play at all, they have to be replaced. Those can be tricky, so you may want the shop to do them for you. Have fenders. :)
Exhaust. Your exhaust needs to be free flowing, no holes in any pipes, tubes or mufflers and secure AF! By secure AF, I mean properly mounted on a rigid part of the bike such as the frame.
Electrical. The important factor here is that all electrical appears in good condition, is secure and WORKS. Test all switches for proper functionality. If a switch is a bit buggy and tends to work intermittently, it probably needs cleaning or replacement. Don't use oil based compounds to clean electrical as they collect dust and make things worse. Use electrical cleaning solutions such as CRC contact cleaner or ElectroWash. Make sure you have a battery strap installed to secure it in place, make sure all harnesses are secured to the frame or a solid part that doesn't move.
Other controls. Some other things that you need to check are throttle controls and clutch play. On the throttle, you need to have "snap" on the throttle. What this means is if you pull the throttle fully back, it needs to snap back to 0% quickly. If that doesn't go, you won't be leaving that shop. You also need to ensure the cable free play is within spec. Free play is the amount of slack the cable has prior to engagement. On the clutch, ensure that free play is within limits and that the clutch engages and disengages properly.
That's pretty much all I can think of for now. This isn't an exhaustive list, so don't think of it as the be all end all of safety inspection lists, but it will certainly get you a long way before you decide to bring that sweet ass two wheeled menace in for an inspection!