Automakers rarely, if ever, make cars that enthusiasts deem perfect as is. They come off the assembly line lacking many features drivers can’t live without. That’s where tuners come in. They’re able to improve a car’s performance, install advanced tech or make it look better on the outside.
Certain laws exist solely to keep tuners in check, however. Whether these features give drivers an unfair upper hand on the road or pose a threat to others, the law bars cars from having certain properties.
Although it varies from state to state, some of the coolest car mods aren’t allowed. We reveal (and lament) the mods many states don’t allow legally, dashing the hopes of enthusiasts across the country.
20 Muffler Delete Pipes
Some tuners like to take mufflers out of their vehicles and put in a muffler delete pipe. These not only add power but can enable cars to make mean noises that will make the hairs stand up on the back of one’s neck. Yet as Motorists.org reports, states tend to require mufflers in vehicles, which exist to make cars quieter.
This would come in handy for roads lacking streetlights. According to Popular Mechanics, BMW has an impressive technology dubbed Dynamic Light Spot that can shine a light on pedestrians. This could potentially prevent motorists from hitting pedestrians and increase their visibility at night. Unfortunately, the same source notes it’s currently illegal in the states.
18 Loud Exhaust System
There was a time when muscle cars could roar down streets unimpeded by the law. Yet the law ultimately caught up with loud cars and put a cap on how loud they can be. According to Ticket Snipers, cops can issue tickets for loud exhausts starting at $196 in California—a state that's known for its strict regulations.
17 Studded Snow Tires
Tuners can install metal studs in tires, which enable vehicles to drive better in snow. Studded tires, however, can do damage to roads, making it illegal in many states. According to It Still Runs, they aren’t allowed in Alabama, Texas, Florida, most of Maryland, Louisiana, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin.
16 Nitrous Oxide
If there’s any wonder why this one’s excluded from the list of appropriate mods on the road, just watch The Fast and the Furious movies. These tanks are compact, look cool and give cars a major performance boost. Yet according to Tuner University, there are reports of these blowing up engines.
15 Colorful Headlights
White, yellow and amber—those are the typical headlight colors, and tuners want more. Unfortunately, laws don’t allow other colors. While every state varies on what colors are acceptable, according to Your Mechanic, other colors aren't as easy to see on the road. They may look cooler at the end of the day, but law enforcement won’t allow them.
14 Window Tents With Less Than 70 Percent Visibility
It seems like window tints that are too dark are rampant on the road today. According to Car Bibles, states such as Alaska require windows to have at least 70 percent visibility. Without a doubt, cars look nicer and more sleek with the windows dark, but law enforcement doesn’t like the look.
13 Aspherical Mirrors
It’s something of a mystery why aspherical mirrors are still illegal. For whatever reason, these mirrors—which actually extend the visibility for drivers—aren’t allowed. Popular Mechanics reports that it can even help reveal a driver’s blind spot. If a mod can actually help prevent accidents, it seems like the law would allow.
12 Remote Car Starter
Don’t worry—remote car starters are legal. There is, however, a caveat. Car owners who have them aren’t allowed to turn on their vehicles and let them run unattended without risking a ticket. According to Lifewire, there are even some laws that require an automatic shutdown feature built-in to the devices.
11 Electronic License Plate Cover
Everyone has to show their license plate at all times. Imagine if someone committed a hit and run and they didn’t have a visible license plate? That’s why the law doesn’t look too kindly on these electronic devices that cover up plates. Cheat Sheet reports that cops will ticket drivers if a custom plate hides numbers.
10 SplitView Displays
Car dashboards get upgrades with each passing year. Popular Mechanics reports that automakers such as Mercedes-Benz have screens that can show two different images simultaneously depending on the perspective one views it from. As revolutionary as this technology is though, Popular Mechanics notes that Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin don't allow it.
9 Off-Road Light Bars
While it’s technically legal to have light bars off-roading at night, the law makes it clear where drivers can't. According to Cheat Sheet, drivers have to cover the lights up whenever they take highways. It doesn’t pose as much of a danger to people off-roading, but it can impede others’ vision on highways.
8 Cold Air Intake System
There’s more than one way to add power to a vehicle. Many of the methods are illegal for various reasons, however. One such mod that falls in this category are cold air intakes. According to Motorists.org, these systems can burn through fuel more and even raise the amount of emissions a car produces, making it an illegal mod.
7 Flashing Brake Lights
Countries outside the U.S. have already implemented this feature in their cars. Tuners hope it’s only a matter of time before the states lift a ban on flashing brake lights. According to Popular Mechanics, Mercedes-Benz puts this on their cars in Europe, which serves to alert other drivers if a car is braking especially hard.
6 Underglow Lighting Kits
We regret to inform American drivers that some states don’t allow neon lights. These not only provide a practical use, but also make cars look out of this world. Nothing makes a car pop at night quite like neon lights installed on a vehicle’s undercarriage. According to FindLaw.com, Michigan doesn’t allow them at all, while other states—such as California and Arizona—do allow them but with restrictions.
5 Intelligent Headlights
Technology is changing the driving experience. There are already headlights by BMW that can isolate specific areas—such as an oncoming car—and actually dim the light in a space around the vehicle. As cool as this technology is, however, Popular Mechanics reports that laws around the country don't allow it (for now).
4 Rolling Coal
Part of what makes rolling coal appealing is how eye-catching it looks. Having a rich black smoke billow out of a huge truck’s tailpipe makes the vehicle look even more menacing than it already is. However, all signs point to it not being very good for the environment which is why there are laws banning modifications that cause this (Asheville Citizen-Times).
3 Magnetic-Mount Video Camera
Imagine if cars provided a camera owners could mount to the car to get a live feed out of through their front display. While the law allows rear-view cameras, the law wasn’t fond of this feature offered in Land Rovers. Until it’s legal, tuners will keep wishing they had a way to see areas around their vehicles (Popular Mechanics).
2 Extreme Lift Kits
Car owners love to emphasize certain qualities of their rides. For many truck owners, they use lift kits to make their vehicle feel that much taller and imposing. According to Zero to 60 Times, while some states don’t enforce restrictions, some states put a cap on how high a truck can sit based on the height of its bumper and lights.
1 Bucket Seats
Not all bucket seats are illegal, so it depends on what state drivers are in. The actual seats will also need to meet certain safety requirements. According to Popular Mechanics, Porsche even had to remove bucket seats from the 911 model back in 2011. Drivers like these seats because they’re lighter and can improve a car’s performance.
Sources: Ticket Snipers, Tuner University, Zero To 60 Times, Asheville Citizen-Times, Cheat Sheet, FindLaw.com, Car Bibles, Your Mechanic, Motorists.org, It Still Runs, Lifewire, Popular Mechanics