Certification Gong-Show

Every time a vehicle of any type changes ownership in Ontario it needs to pass a safety inspection before it can be registered.  To certify a car you can take it to a reputable corporation like Canadian Tire.  The service may be crappy, but the people in the shop get paid the same whether they are busy or not, so there is no incentive for them to find phantom problems.  In fact, the opposite may even be true; they may turn a blind eye as long it is barely passable.  However, there are only a select few places that will certify a motorcycle.  Today I discovered that motorcycle certification in Ontario is largely a scam.  My first experience was with a Ducati/Lamborghini dealership http://www.revcycles.com/ chosen for its close proximity to where I live.  I took my bike in on my lunch break.  They told me they could certify it in about an hour.  I wandered around the showroom; filled half with Ducati motorcycles and half with Lamborghinis.  My God, the Ducati supebikes make my heart pound.  They’re gorgeous.  The Lambs aren’t too shabby either.  

I was about to head out for lunch, when the service representative, Robert, flagged me down.  Apparently they had found problems with my Ninja that absolutely had to be fixed before they could certify it.  Robert told me the front and rear tires needed to be replaced.   He also walked me over to a Ducati that happened to be there and pushed down on the handle bars.  He made me note how little bounce there was.  My little Ninja had quite a bit more  bounce.  He said that I needed a fork tune up and fork oil change.  He also said I should get a regular oil change.  I figured the rear tire would need replacing (after all I’m not averse to having a good piece of rubber between me and the road), but the rest seemed excessive to me.  The front tire looked just fine to me.  A fork tune-up for $350?  Give me a break.  My Ninja 250 ZZR, as much as it pains me to admit it, was not in the same league as a Ducati.  No fork oil change would change that.  The labour was $86/hour, and the total estimate came to just under $800.  I just about choked.  Did I buy a lemon of a bike?

I told them not to do the regular oil change, which knocked $150 off the price.  $150 for an oil change?  Unreal.  Thinking I was stuck and feeling awful about it, I asked them to do the work and get it certified.  Luckily Robert called me back a little while later and told me they couldn’t do the work because they couldn’t order the tires for my bike.  He waived the $50 safety inspection fee, saying they had only looked at if for a few minutes, which was true.  This was good of them.  I would soon learn that not all dealerships are as kind.

I had horrible experience at Cycle World http://www.cycleworld.ca/westhome.aspx later that afternoon.  I told them I wanted to get it certified (big mistake).  They dicked around with it for a few minutes before telling me that it needed two new tires, a new chain, rear brake-pads, and new steering column ball bearings.  WTF?  The mechanic explained to me that there was a distinct “notching” when he turned my steering wheel with the bike mounted on the centre-stand.  I asked him to demonstrate for me.  I tried it myself.  I couldn’t feel any goddam “notches”.  What the hell was he talking about?  I wanted an explanation, because the estimate was $250 for this little procedure alone.  The total estimate was almost $900.  He just started to get irritated with me, saying it was a safety concern.  I didn’t like the vibe I was getting.  My read on the situation was that they were trying to screw me.  I soon discovered I was right about that last.  I said no thanks, I don’t want any work done here.  They informed me that I owed them $80 for the “safety inspection”.  I couldn’t believe it – they had done nothing but poke around at my bike for about 5 minutes.  I got into a bit of an altercation with the manager, Shane, but to no avail.  I owed them $80 as far as he was concerned.  If I did the rest of the work at Cycle World, he would waive the certification fee, but otherwise I was on the hook.  They had me by the balls because they had the keys to my bike.  I’ve never experienced having to pay $80 for nothing other than a basic estimate of what would prove to be made-up repairs.  I felt like I had been robbed.  They say in poker never to throw good money after bad.  I decided to cut my losses.  I paid the $80 so I wouldn’t have to pay another $820 to get my bike certified.

I was at a loss.  I drove my Ninja back home wondering if I had been too hasty in my purchase.  She felt so good to ride that I soon forgave her, regardless of whatever faults she might have.  When I got home I came across a website for a place called “The Bike Yard“.  I left a message asking if they could do a safety on my Ninja.  A fellow named John called back around 6 PM and told me he could.  It turned out The Bike Yard was open until 8 PM.  Without even asking, John told me that I wouldn’t have to pay for the certification (which turned out to only be $45 there) unless the bike passed.

I didn’t realize that The Bike Yard was way north of Toronto on Airport road.  The drive would take almost 2 hours because of heavy traffic leaving the city core.  However, the drive turned out to be well worth it in many ways.  For starters, once I was outside the city, the drive along Airport road near Caledon had great scenery (trees, farms, hills) and there wasn’t much traffic so I could open Helen up a bit.  But best of all I found a motorcycle guy I could trust.  John worked out of his home.  “The Bike Yard” was the outlet for what was obviously his life-long passion: motorbikes.  There were parts everywhere.  He was a friendly guy who loved everything to do with riding.  We ended up chatting until after 9 PM about motorbikes and places to ride.  He told me all I needed was a new rear tire and some front brake pads to pass the safety.  All-in it will cost me less than $200.  No phantom ball-bearings or fork tune-ups.  I’m glad the guys at Cycle World so blatantly robbed me because if they had hadn’t been so greedy (maybe only gone for $500) then I might not have discovered The Bike Yard or met a mechanic who’s in the business simply because he loves motorbikes.   Imagine that.

Edit: Another fantastic motorcycle shop that I’ve since found is T.O. Cycle


43 thoughts on “Certification Gong-Show

  1. Yeah i think all these places are out to screw over the everyday rider. It sounds hard to find somewhere to certify you properly. I am only 17 but i am planning to get a ninja 250 or 500 when im 19 and i hope i don’t have to deal with certification horror like you did

  2. Hi, I just bought another bike and I need to certify it. Can you please let me know what John’s contact info is. Thanks in advance for your help and your posting was very helpful.

  3. Does anyone know the checklist that they go through to actually give the safety certification? Please let me know. Thanks

  4. I had the same problem until I took my bike to Ultimate Cycle in Hamilton. I first went to two major dealerships in the area and they tried to hose me. Finally Bryan at Ultimate fixed me up and told me that my bike was in excellent condition and passed the safety without any repairs. I find that nowadays that the major dealrs are the crooks and the smaller guys that have passion for riding are honest and end up going the extra mile.

  5. Good story, which I agree with. But to let you know, I also own a motorcycle shop in Ontario. I was conducting my Safety Check mostly like The Bike Yard, at the same price, $45, flat rate.
    But, for the first time in 10 years, I got a complainte frm a customer that got a tail burned out, 3 months after the Safety Check I did. Worst, he called an MTO officer to his house to inspect his motorcycle, the Office put the licence off the bike because he judge that the handlebars were too loose and the brake line was touching the gas tank when the sterring was turn to max…

    Well, that was enough for him to come to my shop for a surprise inspection, and telling me that I screwed up that inspection 3 months ago. I argue that, the guy been riding for 3 months and done over 4,000 km, and I have no way to know if he dropped his bike or not…

    Bottom line, I had to surrender my Safety Standard Certification…

    Bullshit you say, your right. All shop got different way to approach a Safety check on a bike, plus, if followed by the MTO book line by line, almost no bike would pass…

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  9. i moved from arlington texas a decade ago to live with my wife in toronto. arlington is the opposite of toronto in terms of motor safety. there isn’t any mass transit and so many illegals have to drive to work that you can get a rust free junker for a few hundred anytime of the day. in toronto, the safety standards are really strict. you will always be quoted in the hundreds no matter how well you keep your car. a friend of mine finally mentioned, that “you have to know someone” to get it done without being ripped off. i went to a referred mechanic and he said to me that “he can always find someone wrong with the car”, but that it’s always up to the mechanic’s discretion. with motorbikes, i’ve heard that every bike needs the forks changed or refilled with fluids and rebuilt with a new seal package. this is just typical work that they want to get done almost every year. since riding is seasonal here, it makes for a huge industry for the few bike shops that can give safety certification and ramps up summer business by 10 fold for some shops. i’ll give the bike yard a chance. he’s certified to certify and is a real bike mechanic who has a passion for them and probably wants to see more bikes on the road.

  10. yeah, I ran into the same problem today. I unknowingly bought a bike and transferred it into my name unplated as i didnt think i’d be putting it on the road and didnt want to lose the papers over the next year. Little did i know that you can’t get a temp sticker or even a plate after you do that unless you have a safety in hand. i rode my bike to the closest bike shop down the road as i was driving illegally, and asked them to give it a lookover for safety. they came back with a list that was way too big and said they couldnt even start on it for a week! to top it all off, I’m being charged for a safety for an estimate of work. 70 dollars later, I’m still screwed having to tow it to another place and out the money that i should have fought to keep for a written estimate!
    good grief. i feel like because i brought it to a bike shop, they’re charging an arm and a leg just because they can, and bleeding the money out of potential customers!

  11. I had my Harley serviced at a dealer in Toronto and after looking at the bill I noticed the there was a $1.500 charge dune to the mechanic stripping a screw on the transmission case and they were trying to change me for the repair so I went to the owner and asked what was this all about and all he said is you should have Harley insurance on it and left it alone this is not like me I don’t get screwed out of $1.500 so I put a small claims case together the owner is so pissed at me I know cant be an a executive in the club BUT I GOT MY MONEY OUT OF COURT Settlement NOT ALL BUT MOST

  12. The ministry website does not seem to differentiate motor vehicle inspection stations to cars alone so why can’t a car mechanic follow the mto guidelines for the safety?

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