The SVA Test Day - 27th March 2009
So it was, that the great day had finally arrived. I have to confess to having had a variety of long forgotten emotions during the week running up to the test day. The closest comparison that I can draw, would be that of the week running up to now long forgotten educational exams of my teens, the unknown of what lay ahead, the constant thoughts of ‘what have I missed‘ or ‘should I have done that a different way‘ I will even confess to having one or two unsatisfactory nights sleep, with worry running up to 'Test Friday' as I now refer to it.
Due to some unfortunate circumstances I had to rearrange my original planned test date and stump up the extra for an out of hours test on a late Friday afternoon, although the cost was considerably more I was at least able to secure a substantial refund from my previous appointment and overall it was still far less than the currently announced cost of an IVA (£450), and hopefully less arduous.
I awoke the morning of the test after a restless nights sleep to a beautiful blue morning sky, the first good omen. Due to the distance of the test center from my house, some 60 plus miles. I had made the decision not to drive the car to the test center, but to trailer it there. I just did not want the additional worry of braking down on the way and missing my test slot.
So the first thing to do was go and collect the trailer that I had booked some 2 weeks earlier. I had struggled to source a suitable car trailer that was both wide enough to take the Sonic and light enough to be towed by the domestic family car.
The problems began, when I arrived to collect the trailer, only to be informed that one of the tailer ramps was missing, lost by the previous customer, great I thought. While they offered me an alternative trailer, I knew I was going to be struggling to tow the weight of this much heavier trailer. It was also now far to late to start looking for an alternative source, so I decided that I would make a ramp from some suitable timber planking that I had at home. Having now hitched the trailer up, with me switching the lights on and off and the salesman at the back checking all was well I was just about to depart when I noticed that one of the forward marker lights was not working, getting out to check that my eyes were not playing tricks on me I soon realised that none of the lights were working and that someone may not have been telling the truth.
Now feeling myself becoming agitated I went back into the hire shop and encouraged the sales man to come and have a look for himself, after an hour and a change of all the rear bulbs, and a new lead the lights seemed to be working and I was at last able to set off home.
Buy the time I got home had made a ramp and decided that I would have to remove the front alloys on the car and temporarily replace them with the old donor focus steel wheels, still sitting in the corner of the garden, to get the car on the trailer. I was starting to get a little pushed for time, but it was a very interesting drive to the test center, with Sonic sitting high on the back of the trailer attracting a lot of attention, turned heads and causing people to gawp and smile.
Arriving at the now deserted test center just in time, I booked in and was met by my inspector. I explained I had trailered the car and would now need to unload it. Having removed the car from the trailer and left the engine running as requested in order to warm it up for the emissions test, I was just about to start to replace the steel transport wheels with the ’over inflated alloys’ - self centering in mind, when the SVA inspector walked across and informed me that I was not strictly allowed to change the wheels on the VOSA premises and that he had the right to refuse to test the car, this was not a good start. Although I protested he instructed me to bring the car over and start the test with the old steel wheels on or run the risk of him refusing to test the car at all.
The Test Begins
------Into the Valley of Death Drove The Sonic 7 ------
Following the initial weigh in ( total 580kg ) he ran the emissions test. After what seemed an age the machine churned out the results PASS with flying colours, the first bit of good news.
Next the car was driven onto the ramps and with me in the drivers seat and the car in the air the inspector started his investigation prodding, pulling and checking, while barking instructions ‘full left lock’'handbrake' 'gears' etc, after what seemed like an eternity I was lowered to the ground and asked to move the car forward. I could hold out no longer and sheepishly inquired if all was well. It was at this stage that the inspector seemed to relax a little and admitted all was well so far, much to my relief and delight.
This delight was short lived however as he announced my first failure point, the supposedly SVA compliant MEV E-Dash. He explained that he recalled reading in one of the kit car magazines the claim of 'SVA Compliance' and subsequently pointed out that the brake symbol should be illuminated. Fortunately Stuart at MEV had pre warned me of this failure possibility and had advised me to purchase a standard laminated light symbol, make up a patch lead and bring my electric drill for a quick fix job in case the inspector picked it up. I decided to be honest with the inspector and explained I had a simple solution with me, but had not really wished to unnecessarily drill a hole in the dash. He seemed to at least understand my position and agreed that I could on the condition, it was forward facing, fit it to the steering column surround. While I offered to do it there and then he advise that we move on with the test and see at the end.
All the lights signals sequencing and positioning were checked the only area of concern being a kick up on the Dominator Head lights which was my fail number two, but I remained unconcerned as its an easy fix.
Moving on to the all important seat belts and their pickup points, the inspector expressed some concern regarding a small degree of flexing in the role bar. Everyone with a welder seems to be a structural engineer these days. Having expressed his concern but not failing it on the flexing, we moved on, he then produced what I can only describe as an Archimedes style contraption for measuring the distance from the seat bottom to rear seat belt anchor points. This was my first real deserter, the horizontal cross bar on the roll bar where the seat belt mounts were located, was effectively too low. Nothing that I as a builder had done, as the item was supplied by MEV. While I could have argued with the inspector about fitting longer bolts with packing washers, it being such a major issue regarding safety that I knew that at this point I was not going to get a pass and that I would have to take the car away and rectify the problem. This issue became failure no 3 and 4 as the inspector took the opportunity knowing that the roll bar would require either remaking or major modification to request that I address the flexing issue also.
Now knowing that the car would not pass, I was in a strange way relieved that I would have the opportunity to take the car back home and do a professional job of fixing the other failure issues.
Just for good measure while he was rooting around in side the car he informed me that I would receive a failure for the centre mirror not being permanently fixed to the car. Although I felt it ridiculous, as I had attempted to comply by fitting a suction cup type central mirror to the flip screen, not that you can see a dam thing out of it except the rear bulk head. He explained that the suction cup was not considered to be a proper fixing method and that it should be screwed in place in the car. Obviously not wishing to drill a pointless hole in either the dash or flip screen I was left stumped with what to do. It was at this stage that the inspector, I think felt a little sympathetic to my plight and told me of another kit car builder who had mounted their mirror under the dash board, thus hiding the screw hole left on its likely removal after gaining an SVA pass. I got the message accept failure no 5, now I know how to achieve compliance.
We now entered the next stage and a common cause of failure, the dreaded ‘100mm Ball’ which looks more like a mushroom in truth. Before this he wheeled a strange looking half cone shaped contraption around the vehicle in order to ascertain the floor line i.e. the line below which he would not go below with his ball. With my figures crossed he attacked first the front suspension, no problems there. Fortunately the Sonic 7 has a smooth body therefore there isn’t to much to find in the way of unradiused edges, unfortunately this almost creates a challenge for the inspector and before long he had found the first of two problems, the top edge of the center of bonnet, quite how you are going to get your knee or elbow struck in an accident by that edge I don’t know ? The application of a little rubber edging strip will sort that out. The other failure in this area was the rear light brackets, they would need either radiusing or modifying in order to preclude access of the ball.
Next was the all important Brake Test which turned out to be quite a lengthy process in comparison to a MOT test. I had predrilled my holes on the balance bar and brought spacers and roll pins in order to lock out the balance bar, but had held of knocking in a roll pin until I was sure that the bar was in the optimum position. The car passed the brake test with flying colours, with the inspector committing that the car may even qualify for a pass based on either extreme of the balance bar. Although the car brakes were first class, I was going to have to return so I did not pin out the bar at the time thus receiving failure no 8.
Next up was the rolling road Speedo check. MEV had advised that I fit white stickers to the inside of the rear wheel rims in order that I could see if there was any great difference in the rotation speed caused by the rollers. Modern day gearbox can be mystical things. The inspector assured me that his new state of the art rollers would account for everything, feeling confident I told him that after calculating the correct wheel circumference, I had double checked the calibration via a sat nav, and that I felt it was spot on. The gauntlet was down, following his speed test at 35,40,50,60 and 70 the maximum deviation was only 1 mph. A most satisfactory pass.
With the boot and bonnet now replace the final part of the test was in sight, a drive round the test center by the examiner to check the self centering, mirror vision and the noise test (remember my home made £11 silencer)
He drove the car round the test centre, parked the car in the mirror assessment box, advised that the mirror vision was good and went to get his noise reading equipment. With me holding the revs at 4000 representing 2/3rds of max he recorded a very respectable 95db - another pass, and the ordeal was over.
Although the car had failed and the light was fading fast I asked the inspector if it would be safe to drive the car home rather than reloading it on to the trailer. Having received his approval that all was well with the car and while he wrote up my ‘failure sheet’ I took the opportunity to finally change over the original ford focus front wheels and fit my shiny alloys for the drive home (ensuring I dropped the tyre pressures first), and to call Stuart Mills at MEV and pass on the bad news.
I have to mention that when I explained the circumstances to Stuart with regard to the role bar failure, Stuart did not hesitate, and suggested I return the role bar as soon as possible in order that he could either modify and or replace accordingly.
Fortunately for me and in conjunction with the new IVA rules coming into force MEV had already redesigned the roll bar to conform with the newer more demanding requirements, and I’m pleased to report that they, were able within the week to provide me with a new / modified roll bar that effectively exceeds the SVA requirements and meets the newer IVA regulations. In order to ensure that there is no problems second time round, MEV have also provided me a copy of the structural analysis report associated with the new role bar in case the inspector requires further assurance that the item is fit for purpose.
Fortunately the good lady had accompanied me and was going to follow towing the empty trailer ‘just in case’. It was at this point that and while being presented with my failure certificate, I was dropped the final bombshell ’Self Centering Failure’. I have to confess at not really caring by this stage, and what certainly didn’t help, as I was to discover later, was that one of the focus donor car tyres was down at 18 psi.
With the night drawing in, no jacket and a crash helmet on head, a recovery vehicle (the misses) behind, I left the test center for the 60 plus mile drive home.
Leaving the test center industrial estate two coppers gave an approving glance from there patrol car while I received wolf whistles and cheers of approval from a group of young lads. This was the beginning of a most enjoyable and exhilarating drive home and an awakening to the kind of attention such an unusual car will attract on the public road. Unfortunately I was unable to fully realise the cars potential as I had to allow the misses to take the lead as the trailer lights packed up once again. (you’ll be pleased to here that I got a full refund and an personal apology from the boss at the trailer hire company) And as I entered Wales the rain started so an even more tip toe style of driving was called for.
The SVA Retest - 29th April 2009
Well it took about 2 weeks to address the SVA inspectors concerns, primarily due to the need to modify the Roll Bar/Style Hoop. I must say that MEV were very direct in their action and had the Style Hoop modified, re-plastic coated and returned within the week.
Although the car was ready within 2 weeks, due to the rush of builders trying to beat the deadline of change over from SVA to IVA, the earliest I was able to get a retest slot was 5 weeks from my original test. Its terribly frustrating having a car that is essentially roadworthy but being unable to drive it.
I had take the decision to drive to the test centre for the retest, my confidence heightened following the return drive with no problems, it would also aid in the freeing up of the suspension and steering, thus aiding self centering. The test booked for 1.00pm in the afternoon allowed me plenty of time to get there. Just in case, I set off a little early and arrived a good 45min's early. While booking in I was informed that I had arrived early as according to their records I was not due until 2.30pm! This was not going to plan as I was hoping to finish my retest quickly and take the opportunity to pay a visit to the DVLA offices on the same industrial estate and try and get the car registered and taxed.
The normal procedure for licensing your vehicle following passing the SVA and obtaining your MAC (Ministry Approval Certificate) is to complete a V55 form and post it with all the supporting information, such as Proof of your Identity, MAC, Build Receipts etc, and await to be contacted by your local DVLA office to bring your vehicle in (not allowed to drive it) on a trailer to have a VIN check, (chassis and engine number confirmed) prior to being issued with your registration documentation.
Standing by the car feeling somewhat deflated by my plans being scuppered at the start, a voice rang out “Bring the Car Over”, may be lady luck was going to shine on me today. On introducing my self to the inspector, he advised that his next scheduled test had been delayed and therefore he wished to make a start on mine. It is normal practice that your original inspector undertake your retest, however my original inspector had been seconded to their head office technical department for 2 months, but the new inspector seemed a pleasant enough chap.
I had been advised that the retest would only cover the issues that I had failed upon and not the entire car, so I was a little concerned when the inspector requested I drive the car on to the ramp while he inspected underneath. I can only assume he was familiarizing himself with the vehicle and gaining confidence in the build prior to getting behind the wheel for the self centering test.
We started with the Style Hoop while he seemed happy with the rigidity and strength of the structure, he expressed concern regarding the 6mm thick flit welded triangular plates used to attach the top seat belt harnesses to the 50mm Dia 3mm thick cross tube. He went on to question the strength of the welds and referring to the SVA manual pointed out the typical recommended method, and that he felt it was a much better solution. To ensure a pass this time Stuart Mills had very kindly provided me with a copy of the relevant pages from his commissioned structural analysis report on the Sonic 7 covering the Style Hoop design. Although I did not offer the document at the outset, I ended up presenting it in an attempt to reassure the inspector that the design was fit for purpose, although he confirmed that in his view the calculations stacked up, he would not give me a pass at this stage and requested I contact Mr Mills and obtain the name of the company that had done the report. (This was not going as expected)
Next we moved on to the central rear mirror, having bolted it in place under the dash, as suggested by the previous inspector, I was not expecting a problem. This inspector did not like what I'd done at all and expected to see it attached to the top of the dash or flip screen. I explained that even if I had fitted it in either of the two locations you still would have had no rear vision as it would be blocked by the engine cover. I decided that, although I could just unbolt the mirror and re bolt it on the top of the dash, there was nowhere in the SVA manual that precluded me from doing what I had done, so I dug my heals in, he proceeded to get the manual out and after 20mins of going through it line by line, agreed that there was nothing that precluded me from fixing the mirror under the dash. However he announced that he was still unhappy and would not give me a pass and have to refer the issue to head office at Swansea for approval.
The two radius failures were next, both only receiving a cursory glance by the inspector however because I had redesigned the rear light brackets he re-measured all the rear lights positions to insure they were still compliant.
The head light position was next up, I had been lucky enough to use my local garages facility to ensure compliance, and although they were correctly set the inspector still hummed and harred about the quality of the lights pattern. During this test I was unlucky to have a side light bulb failure, and that it would have to be rectified prior to leaving the test centre.
Next were the brakes, first the brake warning back lit sign, pass. Then he wished to inspect the brake bias bar, had been locked out correctly. He spent some time pushing, pulling, turning and prodding the assembly and then asked where the lock nuts were ?. I then proceeded to explain not only how I had locked out the bar but how the bias bar functioned within the peddle assembly. Although I don't confess to be an expert in this area, he did appear to be impressed with my explanation and from that point he stopped being so obstructive, and even started to smile a little while he put the car through the final stages of the retest, even requesting I join him in the vehicle while he undertook the self centreing test, after 3 laps around the test centre, I think he was just enjoying driving the car, the test was complete.
Summing up his findings there were two outstanding issues, style hoop seat belt mounts and interior mirror position. He inquired whether I had heard back from Stuart Mills regarding the name of the structural engineering firm, and requested I try to contact him again, and advised that he was still awaiting approval from Head Office regarding the mirror position.
He then requested I rectify the side light bulb issue while he undertook another retest and we waited for Head Office to respond on the Mirror and Stuart Mills to get in contact. It took only 5mins to sort the sidelight bulb out. Periodically he would brake off from the other retest and ask if I'd heard from Stuart, unfortunately I was reasonably sure Stuart had mentioned he would be out of the office that day - I must have made 10 calls that afternoon, partly in an attempt to pacify the inspector, while he stood over me.
After another hour had passed, the other kit car builder having passed his retest and received his MAC, the inspector beckoned me over and suggested I park my car in the test lane for safety and come and sit in the waiting room. After learning that I had still been unable to contact Stuart he advised that he had faxed a copy of the structural report to the Vosa's technical department for consideration and approval and that it may take a while.
Feeling somewhat deflated and hungry I decided to take a walk from the test centre and get something to eat at a local cafe and cheer myself up. On my return to the test centre and a further wait of half an hour the inspector reappeared and again inquired if I had heard from Stuart, I again advised no, he then sat down next to me and somewhat reluctantly handed me a small green A5 piece of paper, my MAC. Although I stood up shook his hand and thanked him, I felt emotionally drained and void of any elation, and now it being to late to go to the DVLA to get the car registered, I climbed aboard and tried to rekindle a sense of achievement by enjoying the drive home in the car I had built.
Preparation for Your SVA/IVA Test
I include this summary of some of the key issues and points partly extracted from the MEV Sonic build guide and expanded to include some of my own personal experiences in order to hopefully help and assist other car builders. First and foremost the SVA/IVA rules may be interpreted differently dependent upon the Inspector. Some are pedantic over minor issues, some are more realistic and apply common sense. They are only human.
Download a copy of the SVA/IVA manual from the web and read it !!!
Virtually any point on the car that can be contacted with a 100mm diameter sphere needs to have radius edges of least 2.5mm. They should only check the suspension however from the front. Capping may therefore be required on some edges, various rubber u sections are available and it is advisable to use trims from the donor such as the boot seal. A good range of specialist edging can be sourced from (www.carbuildersolutions.co.uk)
Make sure you can prove by way of a purchase receipt or some other proof that you have used proper brake pipe. Make sure you buy fuel pipe which has “fuel pipe” written on it.
If you fit the fly screen prior to SVA/IVA it will need a radius edge, and the bolts should be button head. Even the nuts on the underside of the bonnet may require capping, the cheapest way to do this is to cut a short length of petrol or heater hose, pushed over the nuts.
Bias adjustable brakes are not permissible for SVA/IVA, and therefore the bias bar on your pedal assembly will need drilling and roll pinning for SVA and Welding for IVA.
In addition to the two wing mirrors you will need to include a fixed internal mirror, even though it will be useless.
You do not need a spare tyre, a horn or a reversing light.
Airbags are not permitted, either a suitable rubber steering wheel centre (shore 50 hardness will required) or a collapsible steering wheel boss.
Headlights can generally be adjusted during the test.
Be prepared to re-calibrate your Speedo during the test but if you can double check your calculations using a Sat Nav before your test.
That for Unleaded vehicles that unless the fuel filler is of the correct diameter that a restriction will be required in order to preclude incorrect filling.
Ensure all bolts protrude sufficiently, commonly regarded as three threads, into the nylon of the nylock nuts.
All lights except fog and reverse must have the edge of the illuminated surface within 400mm of the outside edge of the wing.
Defects such as tyres that would fail an MOT are not SVA/IVA failure points.
You do not need an MOT in addition to the Ministry’s Approval Certificate issued at the SVA/IVA station. It may however be money well spent, to ask your local garage if they would give your pride and joy the once over before your test, as they will be able to confirm things such as emission compliance and at least stress/assist in bedding in the brakes . Its always easy to oversee something simple when you have been so intimately involved in its build, and having someone take a fresh look at your build can be invaluable prior to the Vosa Test.
Ensure the car that enters the test centres premises is complete in every way.
Remember to ensure that the fuel tank is full.
That you have clearly and permanently marked the chassis with your proposed VIN number. (Stamping or Etching are the normally accepted methods)
In order to aid your chances of passing the self centering test you may wish to increase the tyre pressure in the front wheels thus reducing the tyres surface contact, if you do decide to do this remember to set the correct pressures before leaving the test centre and driving home.
Documentary evidence that may be requested:-
Fuel pipe purchase receipt
Brake Pipe Purchase receipt
Hydraulic reservoir hose specification showing suitability for purpose
Copy of Original application evidence
THINGS TO TAKE TO THE TEST FOR MINOR MODIFICATIONS
Insulating Tape Rubber Pipe Self Tappers Rivets
Cable Ties Rubber Capping Pliers Duck Tape
Battery Drill Socket Set Spanners Cutters
P Clips Screwdrivers Cycle Inner Tube Bulbs
The DVLA - 28th May 2009
Now with the MAC in hand, it was time to start the administrative registration process Subject to your build and source of components dictates your registration process. There are 3 types to chose from:-
First the 'new' an 09 registration, to achieve this everything has to be new, you are however allowed to have one item that is not, but beware if the engine is not new the gearbox must be. You may well be asked to prove via receipts that everything is new and if you are unable to do this to the DVLA's satisfaction then you will be awarded a 'Q' plate and will not be allowed to apply for an age related plate once you start this process.
Second is the 'age related' route where normally you can show everything is new apart from the single Donor cars items i.e. if you have owned the donor car used, and can present a V5 typical showing that the engine used in the kit is from your donor and that everything other than what has come from your donor was purchased new, then you, at the DVLA's discretion, can be awarded an age related plate reflecting the age of the donor. This can then allow a private plate to be fitted.
The third route is a 'Q' plate, this is where you have used multiple vehicle components rather than a single donor or all new. Although this registration marking hides the age of the vehicle you cannot transfer a private plate on to the vehicle.
The most common option is the use of an 'age related' plate. To comply you will have to fill out forms V55/5 and V267 and submit inclusive of supporting information. The V55/5 form is a carbon copy form, therefore has to be ordered, at no cost, over the internet at http://www.dvla.gov.uk/onlineservices/order_forms.aspx ensure you tick the box marked importation pack, these forms can also be obtained from your local DVLA offices.
V55/5 – Application for a First Licence for a Motor Vehicle and Declaration for Registration – for use by individuals to register used vehicles, e.g. imported, discovered, rebuilt.
You do not need an MOT, there is common confusion on this issue as its not always clear however within the latest DVLA's staff training manual for processing kit cars, is a section that states that an MOT certificate is not required as the SVA/IVA process is deemed to be more than adequate. You may need to draw this paragraph to the attention of the DVLA staff member processing your application.
Rather than submitting your application via post and risk loosing your required proof of identity, driving licence or passport, I would recommend you visit your DVLA office in person and submit your application. This has the added benefit of not only being able to keep your hands on your driving licence/passport but ensure that all forms are correctly filled in and the supporting information is deemed acceptable. While there you should also be able to arrange an appointment to have the VIN and Engine number checked by a supposedly 'police trained' DVLA official.
Unfortunately and even though you can drive your car to and from the SVA/IVA test you will have to trailer the vehicle to the DVLA, they get quite upset if they find out you've driven it there, (unless you can prove your on route back home from the VOSA test centre and have just received your MAC) be warned they can impound or report the vehicle to the police for unlawful use, they are becoming quite strict on this issue as to many people are turning up and claiming they didn't know it was illegal.
I submitted all documentation in person by hand and while there arranged an appointment for the following week to have my VIN and Engine number checked. The process was harmless enough and thankfully the very nice staff at the DVLA Bangor office where not only very helpful but appeared to be very much on the ball and knowledgeable about kit car registration.
The following week soon came around and everything went smoothly and within the hour I found myself departing not only with the car on the trailer of course but with a tax disc for 6months + 1week and a letter enabling me to purchase numberplate's.
Needless to say on the way home I made a slight detour and purchased a pair of plates that were quickly attached to the car on my arrival home.
'Let the shake down begin'