Car Modifications that are Illegal in the U.S.

Lisa Steuer McArdle
· 3 min read
Many people like to add
car modifications
to make their vehicles stand out and perform better.
But modifying your car may also affect your
car insurance
. If you don’t tell your insurance company about any modifications, you might not be able to
file a claim
if anything happens to your aftermarket parts.
The other problem is that many of these car modifications are illegal or have restrictions depending on which state you live in. Even if the modifications are legal where you live, you’ll have to follow the laws of other states if you bring it on a road trip.
Today, the global market for car modifications is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is still rapidly growing, according to
. Here is a look at some of the car modifications that are restricted or illegal in certain U.S. states.
Most states have laws about how dark you can make your car windows

Loud exhausts

Cars come with mufflers for a reason—to control the noise of the exhaust system. For the most part, it’s illegal to remove them, and different states have different rules about how loud your exhaust can be.
For instance, Texas doesn’t have a well-defined exhaust law. But many other states say the noise limit is 90 or 95 decibels, and some cities have their own rules for engine noise.
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Neon lights

Neon lights mounted underneath a vehicle are a popular modification from The Fast and the Furious films. There are restrictions against this type of lighting in many states.
The reason for this is that it can distract other drivers. Some states will allow amber or white lights, and others don’t want cars to have flashing lights.

A lifted suspension

It’s common to make changes to a car’s suspension. These modifications can increase or decrease the distance between the car’s bodywork and the road. But again, rules between states vary greatly, so you’ll have to double-check this one.
In Connecticut, you’re only allowed to lift your suspension by a maximum of 4 inches. On the other hand, New York reportedly doesn’t have any suspension lift limits or frame height restrictions. But, bumper mounting height must be between 16 and 20 inches, according to
Lift Laws

Brighter high-intensity discharge lights

It might seem like having brighter lights in your headlamps would make you a safer driver by helping you see better. However, these types of lights are considered too bright for other drivers on the road.
High-intensity discharge lights give off a much brighter, bluish-white light. They don’t comply with the Federal rules on replacement headlamp bulbs—which say they must match the original equipment.
A man in California was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.7 million for illegally importing high-intensity discharge headlights that don’t meet U.S. safety standards, according to the
U.S. Department of Justice

Very dark tint on rear and side windows

While tinted windows might help keep things cool when it’s hot out, they can also pose a safety hazard if they’re too dark. This law varies by state, so if you’ve made this car modification where it isn’t permitted, you might be pulled over by a local police officer.
In Alaska, tinting must allow 70% light transmittance on side windows in the front, and 40% in the rear.

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