MOT inspection manual: motorcycles

4. Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment

Headlamp, position lamps, stop lamps, direction indicators, rear registration plate lamp, rear reflector and direction indicator ‘tell-tale’ rules and inspection for motorcycle MOT tests.

4.1. Headlamps

4.1.1. Presence, condition and operation

A motorcycle or motorcycle combination must be fitted with one headlamp, although additional headlamps may be fitted. Apart from headlamp security, the check only applies to mandatory lamps.

Headlamps are not needed on motorcycles that:

  • are not fitted with front and rear position lamps
  • have had their front and rear position lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked
  • were first used before 1 January 1931

A motorcycle does not need a main beam headlamp if it:

  • was first used before 1 January 1972 and has an engine capacity of less than 50cc
  • has a maximum speed up to 30mph or 50km/h

On twin headlamp systems, one or both headlamps may operate on either beam.

Headlamps’ colour must be one of the following:

  • white
  • yellow
  • mainly white light with a blue tinge

If the light intensity of the lamp is significantly reduced, it should be failed.

If the motorcycle does not have a battery or the battery does not have enough charge, you must run the engine to be able to inspect the headlamp(s).

A ‘light source’ means any bulb, LED or other means of emitting light.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Defect Category
(a) A headlamp:

(i) with up to ½ light sources not functioning in the case of LED
(ii) missing, inoperative or more than ½ not functioning in the case of LED


Minor
Major
(b) Headlamp reflector or lens:

(i) slightly defective
(ii) seriously defective or missing


Minor
Major
(c) Headlamp not securely attached Major

4.1.2. Headlamp alignment

All dipped beam headlamps must be inspected for headlamp alignment.

The type of headlamp will determine whether the aim must be checked on dipped or main beam (see Diagrams 1, 2 and 3).

You can pass a flat top or other alternative dipped beam headlamp, as long as all of the beam upper edge, including any ‘peak’ is contained within the tolerance band.

You can pass a right hand dip headlamp fitted with masks or converter kits that temporarily alter the lamp for use in the UK by removing the beam ‘kick-up’ to the right.

If a motorcycle does not have a battery or the battery does not have enough charge, you must run the engine to be able to inspect the headlamp alignment.

The light intensity may be low if the motorcycle is fitted with automatic transmission, but any hot spot can usually still be identified.

How to inspect a headlamp

Using a rail mounted headlamp aim tester:

  1. Position the motorcycle on the designated headlamp aim standing area.

  2. With an assistant sitting on the motorcycle in the normal riding position and holding it in an upright position, align the beam tester with the longitudinal axis of the motorcycle. Then align the centre of the collecting lens with the centre of the headlamp as per the aim tester equipment manufacturer’s instructions.

  3. Determine the appropriate headlamp beam image and its aim (see Diagrams 1, 2 and 3).

  4. Switch on the appropriate headlamp beam.

  5. Follow the aim tester equipment manufacturer’s instructions.

Using a headlamp aiming screen:

  1. Position the motorcycle on the designated headlamp aim standing area with the headlamp lens the appropriate distance away from the aiming screen, and its longitudinal centre line at a right angle to the screen.

  2. With an assistant sitting on the motorcycle in the normal riding position and holding it in an upright position, align the screen’s vertical zero line with the motorcycle headlamp’s centre line.

  3. Align the horizontal zero line with the horizontal axis of the headlamp using the headlamp height measuring equipment.

  4. Determine the appropriate headlamp beam image and its aim (see Diagrams 1, 2 and 3).

  5. Switch on the appropriate headlamp beam and check the aim on the screen.

For complex lens systems - meaning those that have more than one lamp behind a single lens - make sure the test equipment is aligned exactly on the centre of the dipped beam pocket.

You must not carry out repairs during an MOT test, but you can make minor adjustments to the headlamp aim.

European type - check on dipped beam

European type lamps have an asymmetric dipped beam pattern with:

  • a horizontal cut-off on the right
  • a wedge of light above the horizontal towards the left, known as the ‘kick up’

European type lamps might have a European approval mark, usually a letter ‘E’ in a circle or an ‘e’ in a rectangle.

For a European type lamp to pass, you must make sure:

  • any ‘kick up’ is visible on the screen
  • the beam image horizontal cut-off is between 0.5% and 2.75% below the 0% horizontal line (for headlamps with centres at 850mm or less from the ground)
  • the beam image horizontal cut-off is between 1.25% and 2.75% below the 0% horizontal line (for headlamps with centres more than 850mm from the ground)
  • white light does not show in the zone formed by the 0% vertical and 0.5% horizontal line

Diagram 1. Criteria for European beam headlamp aim

Diagram of the criteria for European beam headlamp aim


British American headlamp - check on main beam

Check British American type headlamps on main beam if they have:

  • a symmetrical main beam pattern with a central area of maximum intensity (‘hot spot’)
  • a circular lens which might be marked with a figure ‘1’ followed by an arrow indicating the direction of dip

You must fail a British American type lamp if its ‘hot spot’ centre is any of the following:

  • above the horizontal 0% line
  • below the horizontal 2% line (for headlamps with centres at 850mm or less from the ground)
  • below the horizontal 2.75% line (for headlamps with centres more than 850mm from the ground)
  • to the right of the vertical 0% line
  • to the left of the vertical 2% line

For a British American type lamp to pass, you must also make sure the brightest part of the image moves downwards when the lamp is dipped.

Diagram 2. British American headlamp - Main beam image

Diagram of the criteria for British American main beam image

Check the position of the centre of the area of maximum intensity (‘hot spot’)

British American headlamp - check on dipped beam

Check British American headlamps on dipped beam if they have:

  • an asymmetric dipped beam pattern which when correctly aimed has a flat-topped area of high intensity extending above and parallel with the horizontal 0% line on the nearside
  • a circular lens marked with the figure 2 (it might also have an arrow showing the direction of dip)

You must fail this lamp if the upper edge of the ‘hot spot’ is:

  • above the horizontal 0% line
  • below the horizontal 2.75% line

You must fail this lamp if the right-hand edge of the ‘hot spot’ is:

  • to the right of the vertical 0% line
  • to the left of the vertical 2% line

Diagram 3. British American headlamp - Dipped beam image

Diagram of the criteria for British American dipped beam image

Defect Category
(a) The aim of a headlamp is not within limits laid down in the requirements Major
(b) Headlamp aim unable to be tested Major

4.1.3. Switching

All headlamps must light up immediately when they’re switched on.

Some motorcycles do not have a headlamp ‘on’ switch and the headlamp(s) light up automatically when the ignition is switched on or the engine is started.

Headlamps must switch immediately between main beam and dipped beam when you operate the dip switch.

On twin headlamp systems one or both headlamps can operate for dipped or main beam.

Operating the dip switch must do one of the following:

  • extinguish all main beam headlamps and leave on at least one dipped-beam headlamp
  • deflect the main beams to make them dipped beams

Dipped beam headlamps can remain on or switch off when main beam is selected.

Headlamps are not needed on motorcycles first used before 1 January 1931. However, if one is fitted make sure it dips. If 2 are fitted make sure that they do one of the following:

  • both headlamps dip
  • one headlamp dips and the other headlamp switches off
Defect Category
(a) Headlamp ‘on’ switch does not operate in accordance with the requirements Minor
(b) Headlamp ‘dip’ switch does not operate in accordance with the requirements Major

4.1.4. Compliance with requirements

A motorcycle or motorcycle combination must be fitted with one headlamp, although additional headlamps may be fitted.

Headlamps are not needed on motorcycles that:

  • are not fitted with front and rear position lamps
  • have had their front and rear position lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked
  • were first used before 1 January 1931

A motorcycle does not need a main beam headlamp if it:

  • was first used before 1 January 1972 and has an engine capacity of less than 50cc
  • has a maximum speed up to 30mph or 50km/h

On twin headlamp systems, one or both headlamps may operate on either beam.

The colour of the light that headlamps emit must be one of the following:

  • white
  • yellow
  • mainly white light with a blue tinge

If the light intensity of a mandatory headlamp is significantly reduced, it should be failed.

If the motorcycle does not have a battery or the battery does not have enough charge, you must run the engine to be able to inspect the headlamp(s).

A ‘light source’ means any bulb, LED or other means of emitting light.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Some motorcycles may be fitted with high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps. Existing halogen headlamp units should not be converted to be used with HID bulbs. If such a conversion has been done, you must fail the headlamp.

Defect Category
(a) Headlamp emitted colour or intensity not in accordance with the requirements Major
(b) Not in use  
(c) Light source and lamp not compatible Major

4.2. Front and rear position lamps

4.2.1. Presence, condition and operation

All mandatory front and rear position lamps must be inspected.

Position lamps are not testable on motorcycles if they are:

  • not fitted or have been removed
  • permanently disconnected
  • painted over or masked

A solo motorcycle can have one or two front and rear position lamps.

These lamps must be:

  • mounted centrally - if there’s one lamp
  • mounted one above the other on the centre line - if there’s 2 lamps
  • mounted symmetrical about the centre line - if 2 are mounted side by side

A motorcycle combination must have 2 front and 2 rear position lamps.

Front and rear position lamps can be incorporated with the direction indicator lamps. The position lamp on the same side of the direction indicator may or may not switch off when the indicator is switched on.

A headlamp or a daytime running lamp (DRL) can function as a front position lamp. The DRL may or may not switch off or dim when the headlamp(s) are switched on and the engine is running.

A motorcycle with a headlamp does not need to have a front position lamp.

A sidecar must have a front position lamp.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Defect Category
(a) A lamp missing or inoperative Major
(b) A defective lens Major
(c) A lamp:

(i) not securely attached
(ii) likely to become detached


Minor
Major

4.2.2. Switching

All position lamps must light up simultaneously when switched on.

A headlamp or a daytime running lamp can function as a front position lamp.

Front and rear position lamps may be incorporated with the direction indicator lamps. The position lamp on the same side of the direction indicator may or may not switch off when the indicator is switched on.

If a motorcycle has a separate registration plate lamp, it must light up simultaneously with position lamps.

Defect Category
(a) Switch does not operate in accordance with the requirements or the rear position lamps can be switched off when the headlamps are on Major
(b) Switch insecure Major

4.2.3. Compliance with requirements

All lamps

All mandatory front and rear position lamps must be inspected.

You do not need to inspect the precise position of lamps, but you should check visually that the lamps appear to meet the position requirements.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Switch on the position lamps and operate all the other lamps in turn. Check if the position lamps are adversely affected.

Position lamps

A motorcycle fitted with a headlamp does not need to have a front position lamp.

If a motorcycle is fitted with front position lamps, they can emit one of the following:

  • white light
  • amber light
  • mainly white light with a blue tinge

Rear position lamps must be red.

A solo motorcycle can have one or two front and rear position lamps.

A motorcycle combination can be fitted with a yellow headlamp on the motor bicycle and a white front position lamp on the side car.

A sidecar must have a front position lamp.

A motorcycle combination must have:

  • 2 front position lamps
  • 2 rear position lamps

Front and rear position lamps may be incorporated with the direction indicator lamps. The position lamp on the same side of the direction indicator may or may not switch off when the indicator is switched on.

A headlamp or a daytime running lamp (DRL) can function as a front position lamp. The DRL may or may not switch off or dim when the headlamp(s) are switched on and the engine is running.

Defect Category
(a) Lamp:

(i) emitted colour, position or intensity not in accordance with the requirements
(ii) showing red light to the front, white light to the rear or has heavily reduced light intensity


Minor
Major
(b) Lamp adversely affected by the operation of any other lamp Major

4.3. Stop lamps

4.3.1. Presence, condition and operation

All stop lamps must be inspected. If you do not think the stop lamp is connected, you do not need to test it.

Stop lamps are not needed for motorcycles that:

  • do not have front and rear position lamps
  • have had stop lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked
  • cannot exceed 25mph
  • was first used before 1 January 1936
  • was first used before 1 April 1986 and has an engine capacity of less than 50cc

Motorcycles, with or without a sidecar, can have one or two stop lamps.

Additional stop lamps, over and above the requirements, must be tested. However, if you are not certain that they are connected, you should give the benefit of this doubt.

If a motorcycle does not have a battery or the battery does not have enough charge, you must run the engine to be able to inspect the stop lamp(s).

A ‘light source’ means any bulb, LED or other means of emitting light.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Defect Category
(a) Stop lamp(s):

(i) with a multiple light source up to 1/2 not functioning
(ii) missing, inoperative or in the case of a multiple light source more than 1/2 not functioning
(iii) all missing or inoperative


Minor
Major

Dangerous
(b) A lens defective:

(i) which has no effect on emitted light
(ii) such that the emitted light is adversely affected


Minor
Major
(c) A stop lamp:

(i) not securely attached
(ii) likely to become detached


Minor
Major

4.3.2. Switching

Motorcycles first used on or after 1 April 1986 must have a stop lamp that switch on from both brake controls. However, a small number of motorcycles first used from this date were approved with the stop lamp switching on by only one control. You should fail the stop lamp only if you are certain that it was originally manufactured to switch on from both controls.

All stop lamps should light up immediately when the brake is applied and switch off immediately the brake is released.

Additional stop lamps, over and above the mandatory requirements, must be tested. However, if there is doubt as to whether they are connected, the benefit of this doubt should be given.

Defect Category
(a) A stop lamp(s):

(i) switch does not operate in accordance with the requirements
(ii) switch with a delay in operation
(iii) remain on when the brakes are released


Minor
Major
Dangerous

4.3.3. Compliance with requirements

You must test all stop lamps.

Stop lamps are not needed on motorcycles that:

  • do not have front and rear position lamps
  • have front and rear position lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked

Solo motorcycles and combinations need to have only one stop lamp.

The stop lamp should be mounted on the centre line or to the offside of the motorcycle, disregarding any sidecar fitted.

Additional stop lamps, over and above the mandatory requirements, must be tested. However, if you are not certain that they are connected, you should give the benefit of the doubt.

Stop lamps must emit a steady red light.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Switch on the stop lamps and operate all the other lamps in turn to see if the stop lamps are adversely affected.

Defect Category
(a) A stop lamp:

(i) emitted colour, position or intensity not in accordance with the requirements
(ii) showing white light to the rear or significantly reduced light intensity


Minor
Major
(b) A stop lamp adversely affected by the operation of any other lamp Major

4.4. Direction indicators

4.4.1. Presence, condition and operation

You must inspect all direction indicators.

Direction indicators are not needed for motorcycles that:

  • do not have front and rear position lamps
  • have front and rear position lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked
  • cannot exceed 30mph / 50kph
  • was first used before 1 August 1986
  • are ‘off road’ motorcycles designed to carry only the rider
  • are ‘off road’ motorcycle combinations designed to carry the rider and one passenger in the side car

‘Off road’ motorcycles are constructed or adapted primarily for use off road. For example, their tyres, suspension or ground clearance have been adapted for off road use.

Direction indicators must emit amber light, except motorcycles first used before 1 September 1965 can have white front indicators and red rear indicators.

A ‘light source’ means any bulb, LED or other means of emitting light.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Direction indicators that function sequentially/dynamically are not to be considered a reason to fail.

Defect Category
(a) A direction indicator:

(i) lamp with a multiple light source up to 1/2 not functioning
(ii) lamp missing, inoperative or in the case of a multiple light source more than 1/2 not functioning


Minor
Major
(b) A lens defective:

(i) which has no effect on emitted light
(ii) such that the emitted light is adversely affected


Minor
Major
(c) A lamp:

(i) not securely attached
(ii) likely to become detached


Minor
Major

4.4.2. Switching

Check that the director indicator switch is secure, can be used from the normal riding position, and works as intended.

Defect Category
(a) Indicator switch:

(i) does not operate in accordance with the requirements
(ii) inoperative


Minor
Major

4.4.3. Compliance with requirements

You must inspect all direction indicators fitted.

Direction indicators must emit an amber light, except motorcycles first used before 1 September 1965 can have white front indicators and red rear indicators.

Switch on the direction indicators and operate all the other lamps in turn to see if the direction indicators are adversely affected.

The position lamp on the same side of the direction indicator may or may not switch off when the indicator is switched on.

Some motorcycles have direction indicators combined with the position lamps. In these cases the position lamp does not have to switch off when the relevant direction indicator is switched on.

The precise position of direction indicators are not part of this inspection, but they must be on each side of the longitudinal axis of a solo machine. If a sidecar is attached, the indicators must be on opposite sides of the combination.

Mandatory direction indicators must have minimum separation distances between the illuminating surfaces of:

  • solo motorcycles - 240mm at the front and 180mm at the rear
  • motorcycle combinations - 400mm at both front and rear

There is no requirement to measure the separation distance and they should only be rejected if the separation distance is obviously incorrect.

You must assess damaged or repaired lamps for security, colour, light output and durability.

Direction indicators that function sequentially/dynamically are not to be considered a reason to fail.

Defect Category
(a) Lamp emitted colour, position or intensity not in accordance with the requirements Major
(b) A direction indicator lamp adversely affected by the operation of any other lamp Major

4.4.4. Flashing frequency

Indicators must flash between 60 and 120 times per minute.

Defect Category
(a) Rate of flashing not between 60 and 120 times per minute Minor

4.5. Not in use

4.6. Not in use

4.7. Rear registration plate lamp

4.7.1. Presence, condition and operation

You must inspect all motorcycles fitted with front and rear position lamps.

The rear registration plate must be lit. Most motorcycles will light the registration plate with a rear position lamp, but some will use a separate registration plate lamp.

Some registration plate lamps may be fitted behind the number plate.

Some mopeds might not have a registration plate lamp.

Defect Category
(a) A rear registration plate lamp throwing direct white light to the rear Minor
(b) A rear registration plate lamp or light source missing or inoperative:

(i) when rear registration plate has 2 or more lamps or light sources
(ii) when rear registration plate has only one lamp or all lamps not working


Minor
Major
(c) A registration plate lamp:

(i) not securely attached
(ii) likely to become detached


Minor
Major

4.7.2. Compliance with requirements

You must inspect all motorcycles fitted with front and rear position lamps.

Registration plate lamps must switch on at the same time with the position lamps.

Defect Category
(a) Rear registration plate lamp does not illuminate simultaneously with the position lamps Major

4.8. Rear reflectors

4.8.1. Presence, condition and operation

You must only inspect the one mandatory rear reflector on a solo machine, or 2 on a motorcycle combination.

Motorcycles must have one red reflector aligned to the longitudinal centre line and positioned to reflect squarely to the rear. On motorcycle combinations, the sidecar must also have a reflector fitted towards the outer side and positioned to reflect squarely to the rear.

Rear reflectors are not needed on motorcycles that:

  • do not have front and rear position lamps fitted
  • have such lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked

Reflective tape is not an acceptable substitute for a rear reflector.

Defect Category
(a) Reflector defective or damaged:

(i) by up to 50% of the reflecting surface
(ii) by more than 50% of the reflecting surface


Minor
Major
(b) Reflector:

(i) not securely attached
(ii) likely to become detached


Minor
Major

4.8.2. Compliance with requirements

You must inspect mandatory rear reflectors.

Motorcycles must have one red reflector aligned to the longitudinal centre line and positioned to reflect squarely to the rear. On motorcycle combinations, the sidecar must have a reflector fitted towards the outer side and positioned to reflect squarely to the rear.

Rear reflectors are not needed on motorcycles without front and rear position lamps or have such lamps permanently disconnected, painted over or masked.

Reflective tape is not an acceptable substitute for a rear reflector.

Defect Category
(a) Reflector:

(i) colour or position not in accordance with the requirements
(ii) missing or reflecting white to the rear


Minor
Major

4.9. Direction indicator tell-tale

4.9.1. Condition and operation

You must inspect motorcycles fitted with direction indicators.

A tell-tale is not needed if a direction indicator on each side of the motorcycle can be seen from the riding position. A direction indicator tell-tale can be audible or visual.

Defect Category
(a) A mandatory direction indicator tell-tale:

(i) missing or inoperative


Minor