Monday, December 14, 2009

After months of investigation, NY-DMV manages to get it wrong anyway.

Ok, so I finally get a certificate which shows my vehicle can be registered. Let's see. VIN is right. My name is spelled right. Obviously the address is right otherwise I would not have gotten it. Oh, and apparently, I need to give the new owner this letter if I ever sell it so I'm guessing I don't get a conventional title mailed to me as I would with a normal vehicle?! You gotta be kidding!

The vehicle weight is written as 3660 lbs which is the weight of the transport rather than the BugE weight. The BugE only weighs 440lbs. So, what makes more sense? A 440lb motorcycle hauled around on a 3600lb transport or the other way around? This large weight may not have that big of a consequence when it comes to registering. However, it would have a huge consequence when insuring it! That is, if a small 440lb vehicle slams into something it's a lot different than a 3660 pound thing!

So, I write a letter to my DMV caseworker asking what to do. Instead of a letter saying I should send back the inaccurate letter for revising, I get a letter back saying I should contact the weighing company and then sort it all out at my local DMV office! Riiiiight. But hey, at least I got THAT suggestion in writing. So, if it is possible for my local DMV person to update the records to the proper weight, they now have clear authority to do so. I just hope the 3660 weight isn't in "the system" as such. It would be a real pain if someone pulling the VIN for something like a CARFAX got the high weight and quoted insurance based on that. Hmm, what are the odds.....

Anyway, it's getting close to refit time too. The custom refit parts for lifting the front shock mount should be arriving most any day. Also, the rear BugE bumpers have become crushed over time so I have replaced them with hockey pucks. They are only $0.99 retail and work remarkably well! I was also going to put in a defroster but I think a built-in heated one of sufficient size would probably kill the batteries. So, I'll be relying on "Never Fog" and "Rain-X" instead. If the canopy can start out without fogging then the little inside fan circulating cold air should be good enough to prevent additional fogging from happening while under way.

The journey has been very long. However, I do now have the satisfaction of being able to have broken the ice for anyone else who wants to build three wheel ELECTRIC vehicles in New York. A second BugE of the same layout would not face nearly as much trouble as I did. That's why my license plate is displayed on the website. It PROVES a BugE can be built, registered and insured successfully in New York State.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Turn signals, tail lights and weighing the BugE.

Turns out Technical Services doesn't just automatically send out a VS-103 form. No, no, no! My NYS caseworker found more problems. Some are legitimate. Others, well, probably not so much.

The first problem that my caseworker had was that the side driving lights that I understood were acceptable now are not. (dang, I KNEW I should have clarified that in writing rather than taking his word over the phone that I could keep them). I then a
sked if I could put some approved reflectors over the holes and specified the type and location of the reflectors. He responded to my email by another email that it was OK. GOOD. At least I got that in writing. I replaced the lights with reflectors and took another set of photos. Thank goodness for digital cameras! It is curious though how I got an inspection appointment if these lights were not OK. After all, I did submit photos of my vehicle along with the application when the side lights were clearly visible in the 4-photos that I was required to submit with my application.

Then, he wanted to confirm the turn signals are DOT approved. So, I sent them documentation HERE and HERE plus I referred to the receipts I submitted earlier showing that I had indeed bought them. Not good enough? He also wanted a photo of the markings on the lamp. So, after a fruitless search for K&S closeups that showed the lettering on the lamps, I decided I needed to find a way to make an otherwise nearly invisible set of lettering visible. So, I smeared on some turtle-wax to make the lettering stand out enough to be photographed. After photographing the lamp, I just rubbed the wax off.

Just in case he wants it, I also saved a photograph of the tail light too. It's an OEM tail light I bought on Ebay. It is a nice lamp and it's a perfect fit but it's also nearly 25 years old! However, it was one of the only tail lights I could find that had proper SAE/DOT markings on it.

I had the same problem with the headlights. Only one website finally had the sense to mention the headlights they were selling were DOT/SAE approved and listed the markings found on them.

The final issue was that the weight certificate I got earlier should have had a VIN number on it. In the description, they just filled in the description with "general freight" rather than writing the VIN number in the field. Unfortunately, that was my fault. So, I had to drag the BugE back to the weighing station for another go. But hey, I learned from that experience.

So, since the DMV doesn't provide detailed instructions on how to weigh a vehicle in an acceptable way, I'm providing suggestions here!

So, here are my tips on weighing a vehicle for DMV registration.
  • Since you'll need to unload your vehicle quickly (perhaps in front of impatient truckers), use a ramp trailer.
  • If using U-HAUL ramp trailer, don't just assume the reservation via the web means anything. You should call ahead to make sure they REALLY have a trailer waiting for you. Apparently only reservations taken 24 hours ahead mean anything.
  • Before driving on the pads, visit the weighing operator (likely the same person who also collects fuel payments and sells other merchandise too). Tell him/her that your BugE is very light in weight so you'll need to weigh with the vehicle on, then re-weigh with it off. Sometimes a "re-weigh" is less expensive than weighing it twice. To get a feel for prices, the price for weighing was $9. A re-weigh was only $1 more.
  • Now, this is the MOST important step. Read THIS STEP TWICE so you make sure you get it right! In the comment section of the weight certificate, have them type the VIN number of your vehicle that Field Investigation issued to you during inspection. If you don't have the VIN you can't prove you were weighing the vehicle rather than a box of rocks. Make SURE they type the VIN on the certificate rather than "general freight" or some other ambiguous comment.
  • Then, drive the car, trailer (with your BugE on the trailer) onto the pads. Communicate via intercom for them to do the first weighing. Then unload the BugE. Tell them you're ready for a "re-weigh".
  • Then load the BugE back on your trailer, drive off the scales and fetch your copy of both weighing certificates!
Of course, with every email or letter I send, I'll need to wait for a week before prodding them with another email or phone call asking if the have enough for the next step. Next, I wait for the VS-103 form. I then need to trailer the BugE to a private motorcycle shop (since that's a "safety inspection station"). Why this second inspection isn't combined with the the field investigation inspection is beyond me. Do they really think Elmo the motorcycle guy is more qualified to inspect a vehicle than a field investigation officer?

It's ironic that I got a letter from my state assembly man asking support in cutting taxes due to waste in state government. I think I have an idea or two for him.