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10 Illegal Car Modifications in Los Angeles, California

If you are a self-identified auto enthusiast, making countless modifications to your car may have been your ultimate dream. While you might have gotten some of those wishes come true in the form of custom vinyl wraps or impressive bumpers, getting others to fruition may not be so simple. 


It’s because some of the most sought after car modifications are illegal in many cities, especially in Los Angeles, California. As a result, you need to be wary of what kind of enhancements you make to your car while living in the City of Angels. 


To help you steer clear from violating these restrictions, here are 10 illegal car modifications in LA.


1. Modifying Your Exhausts


If you like to announce the presence of your wheels everywhere you go, deleting your mufflers or silencer might have crossed your mind. In LA, you actually need to remove that very thought from your brain instead. 


It’s because California explicitly prohibits modified exhausts that drive up the sound of your vehicle. Such an action not only costs you a fine on the spot, but also increases the probability of taking a trip down to the Bureau of Automotive Repair. 


While this may keep you from adding the extra boost to your engine’s horsepower, going against this rule comes with a world of problems. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, stay away from any modifications that cause your exhaust’s decibels to grow to excessively loud levels.


2. Installing Window Tint That is Too Dark


Luxuriously dark windows are quite a sought after modification for any car. But in most regions, they are also a dangerous change to make. It’s because if your window tint is too dark, it affects your visibility. This can put you as well as others in unnecessary danger. 


LA is not far behind when it comes to putting limitations on how dark the window tint can be for a car. According to 2020 laws, your windshield and front windows need to have a visual light transmittance (VLT) of at least 70 percent. 


Seeing that it is quite a reasonable request even for the trendiest cars, complying with this regulation isn’t that difficult. What makes it even easier to follow is the fact that this limit doesn’t apply to your rear windows.


3. Applying Red, Amber or Blue Window Tint


A black car with red window tints sounds fierce, but that can only remain a design in your mind if you live in Los Angeles. 


√√ Red Reflective WINDOW TINT | Home Car Window Glass Tint FilmIt’s because when it comes to tinting your windows in LA, seeing the world through rose colored glasses isn’t allowed, quite literally so. The city’s law doesn’t permit you to tint your windows in a red, amber, or blue color. This limit is applied in combination with the 70 percent VLT requirement. 


This is why, you wouldn’t find any auto glass specialists who agree to tinting your car windows any of these colors. Since these shades are only limited to emergency vehicles, this requirement once again stands on the side of being logical and easy to follow. 


4. Too Bright Underglow


An underglow light looks futuristic and elevates your car’s style to a whole new level. When done the right way, it can make it seem like you are driving a vehicle right out of the future. 


Thankfully, LA allows neon underglow lights to be installed on vehicles. But the permission comes with its own stipulations. For instance, the neon underglow cannot be too bright. That is to say, it can only emit a diffused and non-glaring light of 0.05 candela per square inch of area.


If your car’s neon underglow is too bright, you aren’t allowed to drive it within the streets of LA. Keeping this in mind, make sure that you are complying with this requirement at all times to strike the perfect balance between style and functionality.


5. Installing Red Lights Towards the Front


Planning to make modifications to your grille or need to enhance your underglow neon lights? Make sure that you aren’t adding a crimson light to the front. 


person sitting on carIt’s because a red light in the front of your car can mistakenly replicate brake lights to other drivers and pedestrians on the road. This can be distracting at best and dangerous at its worst, which is why this practice should be avoided at all costs. 


In case you do need to flaunt your style through some shaded lights in your car, you can turn to other shades to add to your neon underglow. As long as it’s a diffused and non-glaring light that follows the brightness limit described above, you can install it without any worries.


6. Adding a TV Screen on the Driver’s Side


Having in-car entertainment systems is a primary requirement for every modern driver. If you want a next-generation entertainment system yourself, you are not asking for much. 


But just remember that California law doesn’t allow placing a TV screen in direct view of the driver. It’s quite a technical requirement. But it is in place to bar you from using any device that diverts your attention from the road. 


Since most in-car entertainment systems are designed in a way where the screen isn’t in the same direction of the windshield, they aren’t in the direct view of the driver to begin with. This helps you comply with this requirement with ease. That is, if you aren’t buying third-party components such as standalone screen devices that could go against this regulation.


7. Increasing Vehicle Height Past Certain Limits


While lowered cars are all the rage in Los Angeles, some also move towards lifting their car suspension for a unique style. If you want to go down that route, you need to be aware that the maximum frame height you can achieve for a passenger vehicle is 27 inches. This limit can change upon your gross vehicle weight, which is something that a reliable mechanic can determine for you after taking a look at your car.


Keeping this in mind, don’t be surprised if your LA mechanic stops lifting your car at this limit or suggests you to make other modifications to your car instead. 


The reason behind this requirement is simple as well. Since a higher frame height makes it difficult to control your vehicle, there aren’t many instances where you may want a bigger height than the specific limit. In case you dreamed of driving your own version of a monster truck, remembering this little requirement comes in quite handy.


8. Doing Engine Mods


In order to improve the air quality around California, the Golden State strictly controls any engine modifications to regulate emissions. This limitation also applies to vehicles in Los Angeles. 


If you are about to do an engine mod that is going to improve your engine’s performance but going to affect its emission control, taking that risk is not worth it. Not only can it harm the air quality for everyone, but also has the potential to land you in trouble with the law. 


Keeping this in mind, make sure that you stay as further away as possible from unregulated engine modifications. Make sure that any engines or vehicles that you are dealing in are California Certified. This will help you comply with this easy to follow law. 


9. Hanging Items from the Rearview Mirror


In Los Angeles, even smaller modifications that can obstruct your view of the road can be a big cause for alarm. For instance, if you hang any dangling air freshener on the rear view mirror that proves to be distracting, you can be driving too close to the wrong side of the law. 


person driving car during daytimeTo make sure that this small and temporary modification doesn’t become a permanent headache for you, simply avoid hanging any items from your rear view mirror. 


If you have to use an air freshener, use one that doesn’t need to be hanged to your rear view mirror. Similarly, if you want some heartwarming decor, make sure to limit it to your dashboard in a way that doesn’t seem to be distracting or obstructing your view.


10. Designing Uber Colorful License Plates


With the emergence of Etsy and other craft items platforms, it has gotten easier to find customizable products that are made just for your taste. But before you think about using them to get highly unique license plates, you need to remember local regulations. It’s because California has specific license plate color rules. 


In LA, you are only allowed to have license plates that follow one of these four color combinations. 


  • Blue characters on white background. 
  • Yellow characters on black background.
  • Yellow characters on blue background. 
  • Blue characters on white background. 


These requirements make sure that your license plates are easily readable and distinguishable from a distance. If you violate this simple rule, you can land on the wrong side of the law quite easily. 


By keeping these illegal car modifications in mind, you can make sure to stay away from unnecessary trouble. With that being said, there are still plenty of legal enhancements that you can make to your wheels in LA. You just need to consult with a professional mechanic to find the best set of modifications for your vehicle. 

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