The Department of Transporation (DOTr) and Land Transporation Office's (LTO) new guidelines for the upcoming Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS) have been quite controversial.
There are 33 pages to sift through to make your car ready for MVIS. From there, you will see rules such as the age limit of the tires to exhaust loudness.
Yes, the guidelines are strict. Very strict, especially when compared to the current requirements for the LTO's annual vehicle registration, which is just an emissions test. While the guidelines are long, that doesn't mean vehicles over a decade old won't be able to pass the tests at an MVIC. You can prepare your car ahead of time to ensure that it can pass without a problem.
Below, we'll list some tips on what you can do and how you can prepare your ride to pass the inspection based on our experience of going through an MVIC. And yes, these will apply to both new and old vehicles.
1. Don't tamper with the engine and chassis number
The first part of the MVIC inspection is a physical inspection of the vehicle. It also includes checking if the engine number and chassis number matches the OR and CR.
Now, checking the chassis and engine number shouldn't be an issue for most vehicle owners. Well, if you're not modifying your car, that is. The only time this should be an issue is if you (or the previous owner) changed the engine and have not registered the change with the LTO. However, if the chassis number has been tampered with, it could mean the vehicle has some shady history. Again, it would be best to sort all of these out with the LTO before heading to the MVIC. The inspectors will be encoding both engine and chassis numbers provided in the OR and CR onto the computer. So they will know if something is up.
2. Fix leaks, replace worn out suspension
Part of the visual inspection process includes putting the vehicle on a lifter. A technician will then physically inspect the vehicle’s undercarriage for any leaks and worn out suspension parts.
For newer cars, fluid leaks and worn out suspension parts shouldn’t be a problem. However, that doesn't always apply to older vehicles. For leaks, it could be anything from engine oil, gear oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and even worse, fuel. Generally speaking, your car shouldn’t be leaking any fluids. To know what's dripping on your driveway, you need to see the color of the fluid. But if you're not sure where it's coming from, it's a good time to get an engine wash. Afterward, you can see which part needs replacing.
When it comes to suspension, it’s a bit harder to determine if they’ve gone bad. One of the best things you can do is to listen. If you hear any “kalampag”, ratling, or squeaks when you go over a bump or turn, then there’s something wrong with your suspension already. If you suspect some suspension parts need to be replaced, take your vehicle to a reputable shop or service center and have them replaced before heading to the MVIC. Suspension parts are consumable items and will need changing over the years.
Remember, apart from the visual check of your vehicle’s undercarriage, it will also undergo an actual suspension test. So if it looks ok, but isn’t, well, good luck passing.
3. Ensure all lights are working
Imagine how hard it is to drive at night without lights. You're practically driving blind, and other drivers will also have a hard time seeing you. The lights aren't just there for you to see in the dark, it's for others to see you too.
Your vehicle won’t pass the MVICs as well if any of these aren't working. If your car has a busted bulb, whether it’s a park light, plate light, or the main beam, it’s time to replace them.
Yes, the colors of the bulbs matter, too. The guideline is quite strict with the color of the main beam, allowing only white or yellow. So yes, you can technically upgrade to LED or HIDs without any issue. Make sure they are aimed properly and not end up blinding everyone on the road. At the same time, they must not come in blue, red, or any other color.
After passing the visual inspection, a machine will then measure the luminous intensity of the headlight beams. So if the bulbs are a bit dim, we suggest you replace that as well. It’s for your safety too.
4. Replace front AND rear brake pads, rotors
When we visited the MVIC, we were told the test vehicles often fail while undergoing inspection is the brake test. In particular, it’s the rear brakes and parking brakes that end up failing the test. More often than not, vehicle owners only replace or inspect the front brakes. After all, the front brakes do most of the work. Unfortunately, that means the rear brakes and the parking brake usually end up neglected. That is especially true for vehicles with drum brakes where wear can’t be seen.
If the rear brakes and hand brake tests fail, your vehicle will not pass inspection. If you fail, you will have to take a retest, which will cost you. That's even if you do pass the front brake test.
To pass, replace the brake pads on all four corners if for good measure. If it's been years since your car got new pads and shoes, now is a good time to change them. While at it, check the brake rotors if they need to be replaced or resurfaced as well. Make sure that the calipers aren’t stuck up either. If the handbrake feels weak after years of use, have the shop adjust it while the brake system is undergoing a refresh. Changing to better fluids can also do the trick.
5. Get an alignment
One bit of maintenance that some vehicle owners often overlook is alignment. Given the rough pothole-filled roads around the country, it’s easy for your vehicle to go out of alignment. Accidentally hit a pothole at speed, and you may notice that the steering wheel is no longer centered when going straight. Worse yet, the vehicle’s camber, toe, and other alignment settings may have been affected as well. If the alignment is not corrected, then your car may not pass the side slip test.
For simplicity’s sake, the side slip test essentially checks whether your wheels are aligned or not. The car doesn’t have to drive 100% straight as there is some room for tolerance. However, if the vehicle moves to one side or “slips” too much, it will fail.
So what can you do? We suggest bringing it to an alignment shop, preferably one with a digital alignment machine. Yes, you can have it aligned using the string method if you want. However, having a digital alignment machine will give you peace of mind.
Bonus: Tires and Exhaust
From our experience at the MVIC, the 5-year tire rule didn’t seem to be strictly implemented. Instead, we observed the inspectors checking the depth and tread life remaining. This, however, is not an excuse to keep driving around with 10-year-old tires. Tires are a consumable item, and they have to be replaced even after a few years, even if they’re still thick. The last thing you want is to have an old tire explode while driving at speed.
As for the exhaust, it’s quite easy to fix. If your vehicle is unmodified then it shouldn’t be a problem. But if there’s an exhaust leak or you’re running a modified exhaust system, then it could be a problem for the sound test. Our advice? Return your stock exhaust system when heading to the MVIC. If your exhaust is an original aftermarket part from Japan with JASMA certification, then you should be in the clear too. Those exhausts are rated for up to only 96db per Japanese regulations.
To sum it all up, proper maintenance and car care should give your vehicle a passing mark when going through an MVIC inspection. Passing aside, properly maintaining our vehicles can also make our roads safer for everyone.
Of course, we want the MVICs to sort out pressing issues too. The last thing we want to see is another nearly brand new Toyota Land Cruiser failing an MVIS because it recorded a 600+ decibel sound test. We also want to see PUVs undergo the same rigorous test as private vehicles. Yes, it will happen eventually, but we'd rather see that sooner than later. That way, we're safe in the knowledge that there are more roadworthy cars, both public and private, plying our streets.
As for the roads, that's a different matter. Of course, we'd like them smoother so we can make the most out of our repairs and maintenance service.