It is not enough these days to simply own a car that gets you from A to B; modifying vehicles to make them look more stylish or perform more efficiently is a big earner for the auto industry, and motorists like to drive a car that has something of their own personality in it.
Some of these changes can be comprehensive, while others are just minor cosmetic modifications or mods, as they are known among motoring aficionados. But even the most seemingly innocuous mods can land you in trouble with the cops if you find yourself breaking local laws.
And as many States in the US have different rules about vehicle modifications, you could even end up breaking the law simply by driving over the State line in your customized car!
19 Modified Lights
One way to personalize your vehicle and make it stand out from the crowd is to modify the headlights or taillights so that they are a different shape. However, this can be a hazard to other road users who might not appreciate or comprehend the unusual style of your modified brake lights.
18 Negative Cambered Wheels
This unusual car modification came to the US from Japan, and as well as looking striking is supposed to improve the car’s handling at high speed. However, several States have clamped down on these kinds of mods, with cops being issued with gauges to check if the camber on cars is within legal limits.
17 Removing The Car's Muffler
As the name suggests, the muffler is there to reduce the noise from your exhaust and removing it will dramatically increase the noise level when you accelerate or rev your engine. Drivers who have carried out a muffler delete will soon find themselves pulled over if their cars are deemed to be too noisy.
16 Tinting The Front Windscreen
Celebs first started the trend of tinting the windows of their cars to try and retain some privacy from the paparazzi photographers, but now it seems that every driver wants a bit of tint on their car windows. However, installing a dark tint on your windscreen is a big no-no as it can obscure your view of the road.
15 Studded Tires In The Summer
In many parts of the US, studded tires are a necessity in the winter months. However, not everyone remembers to take them off as soon as the weather warms up, which can lead to them getting into trouble with the cops. Some States forbid the use of studded tires altogether including, unsurprisingly, Texas and Florida.
14 Using A Roof Light Rig On The Road
If you have a jeep or a pickup that you like to take off-roading, then you will know that sometimes a roof-mounted light rig is needed to help you see in the dark. While it is not always illegal to have one these fitted, you should make sure that you always keep it turned off when you are driving on the road.
13 Neon Lights In The Wrong Color
Neon lights are another craze which ordinary drivers have borrowed from the world of street racing. The rules surrounding where you can have neon lights on your vehicle, and what color those lights can be, vary dramatically from state to state – so do your homework before you start any cross-country road trips.
12 License Plate Covers
License plates are the quickest and easiest way for police officers to establish who a vehicle belongs to – so it is hardly surprising that covering or disguising your license plate in some way is a sure fire way to get yourself pulled over by the cops. Either the driver has something to hide, or they are planning to commit a traffic violation and don’t want to get caught!
11 Extra Dark Tinting On Side Windows
While it is perfectly legal to have dark tinted windows, opt for tinting that is too dark, and you might just attract the attention of the local police. There are restrictions on how dark the windows can be, and like the license plate cover, this kind of modification is simply going to make cops suspicious that you have something to hide.
10 Polluting Exhaust Pipes
Mufflers aren’t the only thing that drivers can remove from their exhaust pipe; it is also possible to remove or disable devices which control the emissions from your engine, usually in a bid to try and improve engine efficiency. Many States take these environmental rules very seriously, and a cloud of dirty smoke at the back of your car is a red flag to cops.
9 High Suspension
Some modifications are relatively new, but the trend for raising or lowering the suspension of a vehicle has been around for decades. Lifting the suspension is great if you are planning on taking your vehicle off-road, which is why it tends to be rucks and jeeps which are lifted, but there are restrictions as to how high you can go.
8 Low Suspension
Similarly, there are also rules on how low you can take your vehicle when it comes to taking it closer to the ground. A lowered suspension is supposed to improve handling, but go too low and you are going to break the law and damage your car’s undercarriage on speed bumps…
7 Extra Loud Stereo Systems
It isn’t just a loud engine that can get you a ticket for noise pollution. Custom stereo systems can easily break the rules on noise limits in residential areas – especially if you are blasting out your favorite tunes in the middle of the night. Keep the volume turned down unless you are far away from peoples’ homes.
6 Colored Headlight Bulbs
It isn’t just changing the shape of the headlights, taillights or brake lights that can get you in trouble with the police. Putting colored bulbs into your headlights to match your paintwork might seem like a neat customization, but there are strict rules about what color bulb you can use for each light.
5 License Plate Frames
It’s self-explanatory that any driver who goes to the trouble of covering their license plate is going to get into trouble, but many motorists might not realize that decorative license plate frames are actually illegal in some states, because they make it difficult for cameras to read the numbers and letters.
4 Rolling Coal
Some people who own diesel cars, particularly trucks, like to modify their vehicles to increase the amount of fuel that enters the engine, thereby producing impressive black sooty clouds from the exhaust. This is illegal in many states because of the environmental damage it can do.
3 Flame Shooting Exhausts
Another popular modification which can be blamed on the Fast and Furious franchise is exhaust pipes which shoot flames, rather than fumes. Devices can be added to exhausts to create this impressive effect, but they are illegal in both North Carolina and Virginia, as well as being frowned upon by many serious drivers as a frivolous mod.
2 Nitrous Oxide Systems
The Fast and Furious franchise has a lot to answer for when it comes to car modifications. One which featured heavily in the films, but which is illegal in several States and European countries, is NOS or Nitrous Oxide System, which is designed to give the car a short but impressive increase in speed.
1 Installing Radar Detectors
Many modern navigation systems have the locations of speed cameras pre-installed, so you know when to hit the brakes. But some motorists go one step further by having radar detectors fitted to their cars. These are illegal in several States, although a surprisingly high number allow their use, probably in the hope that they will actually encourage drivers to slow down.
Sources: Automotive Aftermarket, Wade Auto, Garage Chief, Neon Laws