It’s My Car and I’ll Do What I Want!


In keeping with the purpose of these articles, the following is a request from a reader:

Any chance of doing one on modifying imports with fuel rails, nitrous, turbo chargers, etc.  I get a lot of questions at the drag strip as to why the police are so concerned with that but let muscle cars have blowers sticking out of the hood, etc. I just tell them it has to do with year of manufacture but that probably isn’t accurate.

Since the inception of the automobile, the minute we have one, we want to change it.  Our reasons vary from performance standards to exhaust noise to body design, and the list goes on and on.  We want to express our individuality.

The problem arises when the modifications we would like to make conflict with our current California vehicle code statues.  Division 12 of the California Vehicle Code addresses most of the items I will be discussing.  When a new vehicle is manufactured for sale in California, all these requirements have to be met and generally are.  These laws governing required vehicle equipment are very specific and cover just about every aspect regarding vehicle safety.  Vehicle safety, specifically occupant safety, is the basis for these regulations.  Equipment violations in most cases apply to vehicles that are being operated on public roadways or property.  If you want to install an engine on a frame and a few wheels and drive it around on your own property or private property with the consent of the owner, that is your decision.  Reckless driving or dangerous driving is a separate issue, which I will discuss in a future article.

My suggestion to anyone considering making modifications to a vehicle is to stop by your local California Highway Patrol office and obtain a copy of CHP Form 885, Passenger Car Equipment Requirements.  The document is seven pages in length and covers most equipment issues.  There are also pamphlets available on motorcycles, trailers, trucks, off-road vehicles and pretty much any other vehicles that you may have a question regarding.

But back to the original question from the reader.  The CHP has enforcement guidelines regarding all aspects of vehicle operation.  With regard to excessive noise that is a result of modifications made to a vehicles exhaust system, the drivers who should be cited are those whose vehicles are not equipped with a muffler; clearly emit an offensive, harsh, excessive noise: or have a clearly defective exhaust system (holes, leaks, etc.).

Emissions controls are a whole different set of rules that are comprehensive and specific as to what you can and cannot do to modify your exhaust system.  There are authorized modifications to an exhaust system and they are covered under vehicle code section 27150-27156.

As a general rule, vehicles sold or registered before 1-1-1971 are exempt from the exhaust standards, but not the noise levels. There are still some smog requirements, but they are minimal.  The majority of these muscle cars are ’50s-’60s vintage and fall under the exemption.  The newer model “street racer” vehicles do not fall under this exemption.

Law enforcement has stepped up its efforts to enforce the many emissions and equipment violations that are related to the “street racer” vehicles.  California statistics show a very high and increasing rate of injuries and deaths are associated with drivers and occupants of these vehicles.  In an effort to save lives and reduce injuries, enforcement is being taken prior to the vehicle being operated in a street racing scenario.  Is this profiling or just picking on young kids and their hot cars?  My perception, and hopefully that of the community in which we serve, is to take immediate action and remedy the situation then and there.   I know that this does not sit well with many folks, but that’s my answer to the reader’s question.

As I mentioned earlier, our reasons for modifying vehicles vary, but public safety comes first.  Keeping this in mind, please go out and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.

Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Monty Hight says:

    Thank you very much for continuing to run these columns on public safety issues. I just wanted you to know that I have a new email address Thank you very much!

  2. Avatar Andrew Williams says:

    I like the article very much. It is very similar to another website I read today, Evo Street Racers . Despite there name they actual stand for an evolution of illegal street racers into track racers which is good. You two should team up and write an article together. I bet you that it would be great. I look forward to more of your articles!

  3. Avatar Dennis says:

    Here's how to end the noisy boombox plague:
    Ask some poor wretch if he'd like to have a ten- or twenty-dollar bill. If his answer is Yes, tell him about your noisy boombox neighbor and then say:
    "The money is yours if you can figure out something so I won't have to hear that guy's boombox again. Don't kill him or beat him up. But do whatever you have to do to silence that Hollywoodized lowlife!"
    Believe me, this is VERY effective. Heard of the VAB's? They're the "Vigilantes Against Boomboxes." Or you can start your own vigilante group.
    Reactions, anyone?

  4. Avatar Gary Hollahan says:

    Pleasantly surprised to place blame for wrecks on the the idiot behind the wheel[article of 3wks ago] instead of the car,the weather ….At age 68 after thirty plus sessions @ Thunderhill Raceway, I can definitely judge that 85% of the drivers have No clue what they're doing:

    1) cannot Read the road & conditions around the vehicle.

    2)do not Anticipate what other drivers "might do or the conseqences of immediate actions".

    3) tunnel vision: do not use mirrors; I'm the only car on the road; if the hood of my car is where I want to be, I'm fine-doesn't matter if part of my vehicle is blocking traffic.

    4) turn signals are Not used because most drivers do not where they are going until after they arrive.

    5) upon arrival, everything is deemed safe if no wreck has occurred-never mind driver errors @ several driving rule infractions.[A conundrum: do people drive their shopping carts like their cars? OR do they drive their cars like their shopping carts?]

    I urge parents to invest in their teen's well being & purchase some sessions @ Thunderhill Raceway [west of Willows] to eliminate the aforementioned (1-5). The instruction is predicated on safety:the driver will learn his/her abilities/limits AND the vehicle's abilities/ limits. PS most insurance companies WILL COVER the vehicle on the track. PSS I have no financial interest in T-hill.

    Like your column. Thanks for your time. PS The CHP private airforce 2/28 was from an idiot who probably drives like he writes.

    Sincerely, GH Irish

  5. Avatar W. R. Hendrix says:

    As a frequent user of Calif. roadways and being 70 yrs old I do not have any patience with cell phone users, make up installers, drivers who stay in the fast lane at 55 mph, trucks that pass each other and take 2 miles to get er done and normally on a hill.

    My suggestion to newly elected State Senator La Malfa was to reduce the CHP to half of present quota, eliminate all signs for trucks at 55 mph-as well as towing vehicles at 55 mph, as this speed limit is not enforced by anyone. Several of your answers to readers aludes to the interpretation as I read them that drivers have the answers and should drive accordingly. Cal-Trans could also be reduced as no signs will be needed and the blown out tires will be an accepted fact along the interstate. I guess I sound more agitated than I think I am but for several years the afore mentioned has bothered me and it seems to get worse. Here in Red Bluff, everyday on Antelope Blvd, I see vehicles blowing red lights. A few days ago after the signal turned green for me @ Chico-Susanville offramp from I-5 I started to procede and a car going into town did not stop, so I did and had a white CHP unit 2 cars behind me and guess what, I guess he did not see it as he proceeded out the blvd and when he passed me I just shook my head at him. But like you say enjoy the ride and I like your column.