Common Illegal Mods for Cars in the US

Photo by Unsplash
Photo by Unsplash

Customization is everything at least for car owners who want their ride to stand out in a sea of shiny look-alikes. But while a little personality is good, taking it a mile further may be considered bad in the eyes of the law.

While each state has varying rules and regulations on what is legally permissible or not when it comes to car mods, there are vehicle modifications that are best set aside to avoid the ire of the law.

Car Modifications for Better or Worse?

Car modifications generally refer to the size, width, height, sound, lights, and after-market installations.

They can be as simple as paint jobs, new tires, and upgrades deemed to enhance the vehicle’s performance. After all, miles on the road, elements, and the natural wear and tear of things can make or break a vehicle.

Other car mods are done for aesthetic purposes with some owners going for an extensive exterior and interior overhaul to match their personal taste.

But the following mods might have gone the extra mile only to be issued a traffic ticket or a violation of relevant statues.

Window Tint

Generally speaking, window tint is okay, but there is a limit to its darkness. Alabama’s Motor Vehicles and Traffic Code, for example, put everything in writing about window tinting. It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle whose front windshield has glazing that would reduce light transmission through it; the same goes with windows whose glaze would lead to a 32% reduction in light transmission.

Tip: To be safe, read up on your state’s relevant statutes before you opt for darker windows.

Exhaust System

A noisy car thanks to a modified exhaust system can attract everyone’s attention, law enforcement included. In California, muffler noise must not exceed 95 decibels. Moreover, emissions from exhaust pipes are another matter based on relevant environmental laws.

Tip: Notwithstanding the complaint on the “arbitrariness” of muffler laws, always consult with your local regulations before you tinker with your exhaust system.

Sound System

Another source of noise that could get you legally banned is the loud music blasting from your car. Missouri, for instance, fines anyone who disturbs the peace caused by loud noise. While this rule does not explicitly mention noise coming from a car’s audio speakers, it’s for your peace of mind to keep the volume of your car stereo down.

Tip: Car speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, the works can get really expensive. Be sure they’re well worth the potential traffic infractions.

Lights and Signs

Who doesn’t want to see something sparkly or cool at night? But too much flash can get you in trouble with the law. Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code lays down the required lights — headlamps, rear lights, signal lights, hazard warning lights, and lights that lead to identification and clearance. There is no mention however of neon lights and illuminated signs are prohibited too.

Tip: Blinking lights can distract other drivers so better keep your lights to what is required for safe driving.


They are not exempt from fines and violations as in the case of studded tires used during the non-winter time. Metal studs can wear down roads that lead to safety issues. Indeed, each state has a prescribed period on when this kind of tires is allowed per the AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws.

Tip: You can look at other ways to protect your car without resorting to the illegal use of studded tires. For instance, fender flares Dodge Ram 1500 keep rocks and debris from getting near your car and hold their own on snowy surfaces.

On the Side of Safety

Car modifications can be both practical and aesthetically appealing. It all boils down to performance and safety for you and everyone on the road so modify wisely.

By Sam

Sam Lowy is a writer, actor, comedian, musician, and everything in between. A true jack of all trades, Sam is constantly striving to learn and grow. Whether it's for a festival or just a once-in-a-lifetime club show, Sam loves to travel across the country to catch the best artists around. When he's at home in Tempe, AZ, Sam enjoys reading, playing guitar, and watching Frasier, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.