As I'd managed to keep on top of most things I was hopeful the MINI would scrape through the test and I would be allowed to keep it on the road for another 12 months without too much expense. If you know anything about my blogs, you'll know it's never quite that simple for me.
Firstly I hadn't realised when my current MoT ran out. After thinking about it one day and realising my tyres were getting a little worn, I thought "ooh better get it in quick before they go."
So one night I checked online to see when the MoT ran out and it told me I had two weeks left. "Eeeek!" I thought. This is gonna be a close one if I have any repairs.
The first thing the next morning I called up my local garage I use and as usual got booked straight in for later that day.
I had a new guy doing the test who I hadn't met before, but he seemed friendly enough. UNTIL I started taking pictures and filming. Well, I am a journalist... how else do you expect me to share my exploits?
I was stood in the viewing area minding my own business and when it came to the exhaust emissions test I thought, "ooh this might sound good," so switched to video. The tester sticks his head out of the window and starts shouting at me not to film him - which I wasn't - he wasn't even visible. So I stopped and he got out and approached me and said, "you're not doing yourself any favours. Go and wait in the waiting room," which was the other side of the premises.
He walked off and I remained in the viewing area, internally refusing to comply with his order. I am entitled to view the test, and was determined to. I almost told him to shut up and just get on with his job, but didn't. With his words ringing in my ears I knew he was going to fail the car. I was in two minds as to whether to kick up a fuss, but this time stayed quiet.
Predictably, I was right and after the test he explained what was wrong. After watching him do the test, I had a fair idea of what he was going to fail it on.
Both front CV gaiters had split - fair enough. Not too difficult to remedy. The front driver's seat had quite a bit of movement in it when being pushed from behind as if it was coming away from the rails it sits in or something. OK, this might be a bit harder to fix, unless it is just replaced as a whole. My front registration plate had some water ingress which had warped the lettering, so he failed me on that... and those rear tyres I was telling you about - which I thought might just pass the tread depth test... well they failed too.
Treating me like I knew nothing about cars he was explaining what everything meant and in the end I was like "yeah, I know."
On the advisory front, there was the required Oil Leak that all Minis have, as well worn brake discs and only one slightly worn brake pad on the front passenger side. I'm not quite sure why one set of pads is wearing quicker than the others - possibly a sticky calliper or because the driveshaft is shorter on the passenger side. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that one.
So, that gave me two weeks to get everything fixed.
Funnily enough I received a phonecall whilst waiting for the start of the MoT from my good pals Mintech. I said I'd give them a call back after the test and let them know if I needed anything.
I got back on the blower and they said they could fix it all apart from the front registration plate, but that is just a tenner down the local auto parts shop, so no problems with that.
The problem was that Mintech were choc-a-block booked as the January rush kicked in, and the only day they could fit me in was on the last eligible day of my retest. Well I did say it was going to be tight!!
The day of the retest came and my first stop was to the local auto shop to get the new reg plate. Ten pounds was handed over and the guy behind the counter literally printed off the new number on a household printer and stuck it to the back of some perspex - ten quid for that... a nice little earner!!
This is the bit you'll like. I've never bought a new number plate before, so when he handed it to me I was like... "is this right?" The guy nods to me and says "yeah sure," and I say, "well how come my old one is really clear and this looks faded and blurry??" I don't think he understood first time, and I was thinking to myself - this is pretty obvious - so I repeated myself and he finally understood.
"It's got a protective film on the front to prevent damage in transit." Ohhhh. Didn't I feel stupid... Yes is the answer. Heyho. So with that I set off to Mintech.
Outside their premises it is like a construction site - oh tell a lie - it IS a construction site. Across the road the local council in their 'wisdom' have decided to build new houses on a flood plain - that often floods! Idiots. Anyway it had made the entrance to the yard a mudbath as you can see and parking was at a premium.
The lads were busy with other stuff and the auditors were in, so I couldn't be hanging around the yard like I normally do, so I walked into Bury town for some munch.
By the time I got back Nathan and Martin were already working on the car and had already swapped both driveshafts for ones with good gaiters on them and were now changing the rear tyres.
Behind my MINI, the boss had bought an accident damaged Land Rover that they were going to resell on the salvage auction site Copart.
Here are the old driveshafts.
With the rear wheel off I could have a better look at that welding from last year. With recent problems with the exhaust I had a very good inspection to ensure everything was still secure. There was a bit of sideways movement which I compared to other MINIs in the yard, but was reassured there is meant to be some movement (I just didn't think it should be as much as it was).
Rear pads look OK too. Maybe half worn?
Here you can see the damage to the CV gaiters. It's easier to change the driveshafts than just the gaitors I'm told - anyone with a classic Mini can relate to that. Faffing with grease and zip-ties when the driveshafts just pop in and out - a bit more complex on a MINI though.
While Nathan cracked on with the tyres, I went and found a drill and decided to make some fixing holes in the new numberplate. Sticking them both in a vice, I simply drilled some new holes where the old ones were.
And then screwed it on. Easy peasy.
With the tyres done, Nathan needed to get the driver's seat out and see what was wrong, so we pushed it out of the garage for easy access.
Oh look a protective film covers the registration plate - doh!
Looks nice and clean.
A few bolts undone at the back...
...And a few at the front...
And out it pops.... ewwww.... what a mess (blame the kids!!)
After inspecting the seat it looked like the actual seat was coming away from the frame. Nathan explained it could be a time-consuming job to fix it, so I asked if I could just swap it for one they had - and that was fine.
We went into the stock room and he passed me down a similar seat, albeit with a few more scuffs than mine had - but I couldn't complain.
The only problem was that the airbag connector had been cut off the replacement seat and so would need swapping from my old one on to the replacement seat.
With that done, Nathan put the seat back in the car and wired it all up. Reset the fault codes and started her up. Great. Oh hold on... the airbag light has come on.
We plug in the OBD computer again and reset all the fault codes again and tried again. Same problem.
I couldn't go off to the MoT with it like that, as it would fail, so Nathan had to take the whole seat out again and look at the airbag connector he had wired up. Ten minutes later and it was sorted and no dash lights. Brilliant.
Just as I was about to set off Nathan remembered he hadn't refilled the gearbox with oil. This is drained before the driveshafts can come out. So we wheeled it back onto the ramp and he showed me how it is filled up. There are two holes for the gearbox oil, one is higher up than the other. Oil is squeezed into the top hole until it can be seen coming out of the lower hole, before the plugs are put back in.
Once he's done, I'm like a bat out of hell trying to get back home to pick up the kids in time. With about half an hour to spare, I popped into the MoT garage for them to quickly check the fails. The tester asks if I'm here for the retest and I confirm that I am. He says to me, "I think you're out of time for the retest," but I know I'm not. He says, "you only have 10 days," and I'm like, "yeah, 10 working days," i.e. two weeks. So he goes off into the office to put it on the system which will tell him that I'm right. "This won't take long, will it, as I've got to get the kids soon," I ask. "No," says the tester... who seems in a nicer mood today - so decide to let him proceed.
After checking all the faults, which takes just a few minutes, he takes an age in the office printing off the MoT sheet, but finally he hands it to me with a pass. What a mission. Note to self, don't leave it so close to the deadline next time!!!