Exhaust law update backfires

Local assemblyman authors bill to reinstate correctable violations.


A.R. Broom

Actuators like these are currently illegal.

A.R. Broom, @AlexanderRBroom

The clouds of confusion and firey outrage among automotive enthusiasts after the enacting of California State Assembly Bill 1824 have finally subsided. From the ashes have recently come a bill co-authored by Jim Frazier, the state assembly member who represents Los Medanos College and surrounding areas, which plans to restore the correctability of the violation so many enthusiasts fear.

The two violations in question, which relate to the modifications of vehicle exhausts, can now come with a fine of up to $1000. But according to the SEMA Action Network, a lobbying group supported by the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, fines of that severity are rarely given on the first offense.

Introduced last year by the State Assembly’s Budget Committee, AB 1824 was a direct request from an unknown member of the former Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, according to Nannette Miranda, Communications Director for the Office of Assemblymember Phil Ting, chair of the Budget Committee.

The fourth section of the Assembly Bill only pertains to two existing California Vehicle Codes. Section 27151(a) states that a person cannot modify their exhaust to be louder than the legal limit of 95 dB. The Bill also refers to Section 27150, the other citable code in AB 1824, which says, “no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.”

This law is not just problematic for modified cars enthusiasts. There are currently vehicles available for sale which come with said devices straight from the factory. These laws put citizens at risk for costly violations at the discretion of law enforcement officials which they may not be able to fix, and have to deal with after the fact.

Some enthusiasts, like LMC student Alex Rivas, believe these laws will leave room for discrimination. Rivas says he understands where the law may be coming from, that it’s meant to lessen nuisances due to noise from cars and motorcycles alike, but he does not see the need for such fines when enthusiasts already spend enough money on their cars.

“I don’t see the point in [making the fine mandatory;] they’re going after a small portion of the population, hoping to get a big effect,” said Rivas. “[You] could have the quietest exhaust on [a] Mustang and still be able to do donuts.”

For Rivas there is no true correlation between having a loud exhaust and those who do stunts with their cars.

“There’s a broad spectrum of automotive enthusiasts and going after one group of us is going to make it worse for all of us,” said Rivas.

Rivas claims that more than 20 people in his circle have been adversely affected by the legislation, some of those with stock exhausts.

Jason Dearman, LMC’s Automotive Technology department chair, believes Frazier’s bill is taking a step in the right direction, but still thinks there is too much regulation on vehicle noise.

“I disagree with the regulation in total, but if he’s willing to walk it back, that’s great,” said Dearman.

Dearman, who proclaimed his enjoyment of custom cars, is in favor of having emissions reduction equipment, and even noise limits but wishes for simpler regulations.

“I agree with the exhaust laws all the way to the [post-catalytic convertor oxygen sensor,] keep the environment clean,” said Dearman. “But everything after that, it doesn’t matter, it’s not an emissions problem…When you take that [freedom to modify] away, you take away people’s ability to build a car the way they want it.”