MOT prep for modern cars.


My wife's car (MX5) was up for MOT  recently so, well  in advance,  I checked it over.  The only usual wear and tear mechanical items that needed replaced were the rear brake pads.  There is nothing unusual in this, and it is an easy job but from previous experience it tends to have side effects in these cars (see later).  At the front there was a problem that I was not expecting.

These cars come with Bilstein suspension as standard.  The rubber boots on the front ones had broken up, exposing the damper shafts to all the vile salt and corrosion that our winter roads provide.  In my humble opinion this should not happen on a ten year old car.  For example, the boots protecting the front suspension on my 47 year old BMW bike are still the original parts, and are still fine.  It is all down to the specification of the rubber in these parts as set by the factory.  But the boots had to be changed, especially given the price of replacement Bilstein suspension!

This is not a particularly arduous task, but it is time consuming, and of course I had lent out my spring compressors years ago to someone who never returned them, so I ended up buying a new set.  Lots of time and a few profanities later the front shocks were back in place.  So far, so good.

The front suspension, with the new boots and back in place.

Now for the knock on problem mentioned above.  The fluid for both the brakes and the clutch is shared in these MX5's, so I have found that any time that you wind back the brake caliper pistons to fit new brake pads it also then effects the clutch.  And indeed a day or two later the gear change was so bad it was difficult to select anything because the clutch was not releasing.  The fixes are:- 

1) Bleed the clutch which is a PITA and right under the car in a really tight space.

2)   Adjust the clutch.  I tried this once and gave up because you would need to be about the same size as an anorexic five year old to be able to get at the simple threaded bar and locknut adjuster that is hidden up behind the pedals in the drivers footwell.

This time though I was determined to do the clutch adjustment, but had to remove the drivers seat and then lie upside down with my legs sticking up over the crash bar that is behind where the seat would have been.  This also means that you cannot accurately check your work before putting the seat back in, but it worked, thankfully!  Other potential problems come from the airbags, which mean that the battery has to be disconnected before removing the electrical connectors to the seat so that the airbags do not explode into life!  All in all this is another PITA job, but I'm glad its done, and the clutch operation is much better than it has been in years.

It here things got worse unfortunately.  When we checked the lights, the projector headlight on the passenger side was out.  I had never conceived just how difficult those damned things are to get at?  Even the anorexic five year old mentioned above would have difficulty changing these damned things!

From under the bonnet, you can just see the connector on the first bulb.  The projector light is 2 bulbs behind that.  You cannot see it.  You cannot even touch it from under the bonnet!


Access to the bulbs is in there.........somewhere!

The manual, on line, recommends partly removing the plastic wheel arch liner and bending it back to access the bulbs.  They say you can do this with the wheel still on the car.  Personally, I removed the wheel to get a bit more room, but this is still not an easy job with one hand permanently used to hold the wheel arch liner back, while with the other you try to feel your way to remove the old bulb and insert the new one.  I changed both bulbs to try to ensure that there would be no problems at MOT.  Your arm blocks any view you might have and the spring clip holding it in place is definitely an acquired art.  Then too, you cannot touch the glass of the halogen bulbs while working in this extremely confined space, and I found using gloves impossible because with them on I could not feel my way around accurately enough.


Even with the wheel arch liner peeled back, space is extremely limited.


Another PITA job completed, and the car has now passed its MOT (thankfully).  I was complaining about these jobs to a friend who owns a relatively modern Audi.  He tells me I am lucky!  Apparently to change a headlight bulb in his car, the front bumper, grille, front panel and a ton of small stuff has to be removed.  Audi recommend changing the headlight bulbs when you do the completely unrelated task of replacing the timing belt & tensioners!  I could grow to hate modern cars.


  1. Ahh, happy days Ian! My wife had 2 MX5's so I share your pain! The biggest mistake on the first one which had alredy covered 80,000 km when we bought it was to switch to synthetic oil as it did a great job of scavenging the carbon, including on an engine oil seal which then leaked. On the second one, we had problems with the timing sensors (twice) and had to replace them. Access was infinitely better than your suspension job though. Safe travels!

  2. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for the sympathy. :-) There must be a joke in there somewhere? You know the type of thing; how many Audi owners does it take to change a light bulb? I'm just not sure that the punch lime would raise too many laughs.



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