10 Car Mods That Are Illegal In Most States

California recently passed a law banning the sale of new gas powered vehicles by 2035. While that date may seem a long way off, it is a major step towards moving American society away from a dependency on oil and into an era where electric vehicles are the increasing norm. Many other states are expected to follow California's lead.

The car modding community is going to have their work cut out for them as they move to working with batteries and computers. But it won't take long before electric vehicle mods start popping up on the road. And certainly, some of these mods will be illegal. Gas-powered car mods are notorious for being illegal in most states in the US, but still they are often common sites to see on a commute.


Light Rigs On The Roof

Light Rig Roof Rack Truck

It is not the rig itself that is always illegal in this case but if a driver who intends to put a light strip on the roof of their vehicle wants to turn it on, they had better check their state laws (via cjponyparts.com). Most jurisdictions have a limit on what kind of lights and how much amperage can be lit up on public roads and these rigs combined with the normal headlamps almost always exceed that.

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Furthermore, many states require that any lighting rigs be limited on how high off the ground they can be mounted, meaning the roof can often be a no-go for light placement. Anyone using these rigs had better intend them for private off-road adventures because they will be pulled over on most public streets.

Radar Jammers/Scramblers

Radar Jammers

Unlike radar detectors and laser jammers, radar jammers (or scramblers) are illegal across the board in all 50 United States (via Federal Communications Commission). The other two detection systems are generally allowed in most private cases, things get more complicated when they are used in commercial vehicles.

While they may be a tech gadget drivers would want to keep in their cars, radar scramblers work in such a way that their use is considered malicious. They work by using unregulated radio signals to scramble the police radar being pointed at them. This signal can be so overwhelming that it can also cause issues for airplanes. Any use of the scramblers often results in a heavy fine and even jail time.

Lifted Suspension

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Any parking lot in America will have at least one lifted truck parked. These modifications involve lifting the suspension and the body of the car higher off the ground and are often a seen in car restoration shows. It's an excellent option for off-roading to make sure the vehicle avoids getting stuck.

But it also makes the car much more difficult to drive, now that the weight is higher and not evenly distributed. Something these drivers should know is what's why most states have laws regarding just how high the bumpers of the vehicle can be (via superlift.com). These range from fairly generous to only a couple inches in clearance.

Rolling Coal

Truck Rolling Coal

The modification to "roll coal" is often mistaken for a vehicle issue rather than the intended car mod that it is. This modification allows the driver to release a noxious cloud of black smoke out of the exhaust at the will of diesel-powered vehicles.

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The EPA has determined this practice is illegal (via findlaw.com), but few states have passed any laws directly marking the modification as illegal. However, the majority of the states have laws about the illegality of obstructing the road with excessive exhaust fumes meaning that a driver can be pulled over and fined nearly anywhere if a law enforcement officer makes a judgment call.

Window Tint

Dark Tinted Windows

Tinting windows is both a cosmetic and a practical modification many car owners make to their vehicles. Having darker windows does certainly help with protecting eyes from the sun beaming through windshields and off the road, but it can also be used to give more privacy to the occupants. For good reasons or bad.

However, Nearly every state has regulations on the maximum tint a car can have except for Michigan (which allows for tint of any darkness). After that, the next highest states allow for a tint level that only allows 24% of light into a car, which is still a very dark tint (windowtintlaws.com).

Loud Exhaust

Loud Exhaust Engine

This law can be difficult to regulate but nearly every single state has rules on the book about how loud a car's muffler can be. And it's why in some car building and repair shows, they include loud exhausts. Drivers should know there are noise ordinances that must be followed and if a car is determined to be exceeding the decibel range, a ticket will be forthcoming.

In some states, it is up to law enforcement to decide if the exhaust is too loud, other states say that an exhaust is illegal if it is "excessive and unusual" (via semasan.com) And more states go so far as to say muffler modifications themselves are illegal if the modification causes the car to emit more noise than the factory-installed muffler.

Low Suspension

Low Rider Car

Just as very high suspensions are cause for concern in many states, too low of a suspension will also draw the attention of police (via hotcars.com). This modification was historically for racing as it increased handling by lowering the center of gravity as well as reducing air drag.

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Many states have laws of just how low a car's chassis can be to the ground or if the gas tank can be exposed. Low riding can create a dangerous situation when the bottom of the vehicle comes into contact with the ground below. Hydraulics actually began being placed into cars in order to circumvent these rules, allowing car owners to raise their vehicles if law enforcement was in the area.

Neon And Under Glow Lights

Neon Underglow Car Lighting

Modifications to the undercarriage of cars by adding neon and flashing lights have always been a way for car owners to make their vehicles standout (via neonlaws.com). Popularized by films like the Fast and Furious franchise, these mods are subject to a number of regulations across the United States ranging from color restrictions to outright bans.

Motorcyclists are often seen with these lights and riders cite that the outline of lights increases their visible outline to other cars on the road at night. But there is also an argument that having these lights on while driving any vehicle is actually a distraction not only for other cars but the driver of the lit vehicle as well.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide In Car

Known more commonly in the car-mod world as NOS, Nitrous Oxide is used for street racing, as shown in the Fast and Furious franchise, and so can be used on private tracks as much as someone wants and often the transportation itself is legal. But nearly every state has restrictions on using NOS on public roads (via motortrends.com). So drivers should not be using highways to determine who's the fastest in the city.

Some states also have strict regulations about purchasing NOS and keep records on buyers. A major danger of having NOS attached to your vehicle is the threat it poses to first responders in an accident. An ambulance or firefighters should not be near a personally installed explosive material in the event of a crash.

License Plate Frames

Illegal License Plate Frame

License plate personalization is a fun way to add identity to a car whether by getting a specific colored one or having personalizing the message. Others purchase a decorative frame for their cars that reveals more about the drivers identity and taste.

But car-owners should be aware of the regulations in their state because if the frame covers up any part of the license plate, the driver could be subject to a fine (via thriftysigns.com). Every state has rules that state every character of the plate must be visible, for obvious reasons. Some states go further and state that the frame must not make it more difficult for someone to read the plate, which makes enforcement much more subjective.