Considering a Modified Exhaust? – Better Check Your Local Laws First

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Vehicle noise laws are being tightened. Before you pay hard-earned money to modify yours, be sure you know the law.

The enthusiast sites are abuzz with a new change to the law in California that fines drivers who have a loud modified exhaust system. Previously, owners who modified their vehicles’ exhaust – and were caught by police – would be given a chance to return the system to an acceptable noise level. The new law is being read by experts as saying that going forward the offense results in a $1,000 fine. California is the largest automotive market in North America and also one with the longest history of modified vehicles.

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This news is a bummer for the folks who want to delete the mufflers on their trucks, cars, and ATVs, but silently, homeowners sick of listening to fart-tube-equipped Civics and diesel trucks with vertical exhaust pipes without mufflers are cheering. They may want to wait to see if the law has any meaningful impact before getting their hopes up.

The Orange County Register (OCR) did a spotlight story on noise pollution from vehicles and found that most police have no special equipment with which to determine if a vehicle is too loud or within allowable limits. They also have no way of knowing – in most cases – if the vehicle was loud when it left the showroom floor. Police organizations in California are using social media to warn residents that they plan to enforce the new change in state law.

BestRide colleague and contributor Patrick Rall is a muscle car collector living literally within earshot of GM’s proving grounds in Michigan. His daily driver is a 707 hp Dodge SRT Hellcat with a stock exhaust (which you can hear in the video above). Rall reports that he has found police in his area will ticket anyone they even suspect has an exhaust that has been changed. “I’ve dealt with exhaust sound laws. In my experience, it was purely based on officers’ discretion. My understanding is that the boroughs around Detroit use the guideline that if the officer can hear your car from a block away, it’s too loud. They’re ticketing stock muscle cars.”

Rall’s gut feel is backed up by police officers that the OCR interviewed. California Highway Patrol Officer Dan Olivos told the publication, “What we base our judgment on is whether it sounds like it should when it comes off the showroom floor.”

Many states already have laws that prohibit overly loud exhaust. Some also restrict the smoke that can be discharged. Rhode Island’s law states, in part, “Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke. No person shall use a muffler cutout, bypass, or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway. Any exhaust system shall be deemed defective if any changes, modifications, alterations, deletions, or adjustments have been made which would cause the exhaust system to generate a higher or louder sound level than would be generated by the exhaust system customarily installed by the manufacturer as original equipment.”

For a complete listing of motor vehicle noise and exhaust laws in your state check out this link. For laws specific to motorcycles, this AAA link is handy.

Top of page image courtesy of the Antelope Valley (CA) PD.

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John Goreham

John Goreham

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