What Can't You Do to Your Car in California

California Driving – Things You Can’t Do to Your Car

The romance of California driving in a car that’s been customized and modified the way you want might be less romantic than you think.

There are some modifications you can perform for your car that will make it look flashy, unique, and powerful, but California has some of the strictest laws, which means there are some things you can’t do to your car when you want to live and drive in this state. Before you change the look, performance, or build of your car, you should make sure you’re going to adhere to the local laws.

Colors and Lighting Restrictions

The front of your car should not have red displayed in it at all. If you want to drive around in California, you need to ensure the front of your car uses other colors. The reason for this is that red is used as a warning in the rear of vehicles, and lawmakers in this state want to avoid confusion for drivers when behind the wheel.

You’re also restricted from using lights that unnaturally light up the brake lights, from using red for underglow lighting, and from using flashing lights of any kind. These are all part of California driving and rules that you must follow.

Everyone Except the Driver Can Enjoy a Screen

Not as strict of a law as the red color conversation, but one that does make sense, is that screens, such as television screens and rear-seat entertainment screens, can be used in California as long as the driver does not have any visibility of the screen. This means the monitors have to be installed where the driver won’t see them, usually behind the drive. Sorry drivers, you won’t get to watch your favorite shows while driving on the road.

Limited Lifting of Your Vehicle

California has deserts, it has mountains, and it has some remote beaches. These areas are accessible by 4×4 that has been lifted up to drive over some of the obstacles that are in your way. Unfortunately, you cannot lift your vehicle more than 23 inches. That’s nearly two feet, but if you were looking for a suspension lift to build a monster car or truck, you’ll have to do it in another state. That being said, you should be able to handle most of the obstacles that are in your path on the way to the wilderness and remote areas that you’ll find.

Engine Upgrades Must Have the CARB Stamp of Approval

The smog factor in California has been one of the biggest stories of this state for many decades. With that factor now under control, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) isn’t about to let you emit more exhaust than they desire. Before using aftermarket parts to upgrade your car, you’ll have to ensure they have been approved by CARB. This is part of the challenge of California driving and a restriction you must adhere to if you want to enjoy driving your car in this state.

Keep the Sounds Down

You’ve heard them driving around, those people that have a sound system in their car that can be heard from several blocks away. Whether you like it or not won’t matter in California, your sound system must be such that it cannot be heard for more than 50 feet away from the vehicle. The sound of your car is another factor in this state. Your exhaust system makes a lot of noise, and some drivers like to increase this sound. In California, you cannot modify the exhaust system to be louder than when it came off the production line. Vehicles that weigh less than 6,000 pounds must keep the exhaust sounds below 95 decibels.

You’re Limited with the Body Lift

If you hate the suspension limitation and think you’re going to gain more height by lifting the body, think again. When you want to enjoy California driving, you have to keep your body lift to five inches or less, and your vehicle cannot exceed 14 feet in height. There are more specifications for the frame lift that you must adhere to as well. While there are limits, you’ll still enjoy the lift you can have when you build a vehicle to your desires.

Your Engine Modifications Must Pass Muster

After you modify your engine to have some of the new parts you want to enjoy, you’ll have to pass a Smog Check and emissions tests to ensure your vehicle passes inspection for both of these tests. The emissions must be certified as the same or newer models of the vehicle that you own. You won’t see big trucks rolling coal in California; they take their air quality seriously and expect drivers to modify vehicles to meet these standards and protect the air quality as well.

Know the Lighting Restrictions

Forget about that massive light bar with several lights that you want to put on top of your truck, it’s not allowed. You can only have two fog lamps, no more than two spotlights with white lamps, and these lights have to be only a specified power. The spotlights you use can only be up to 32 candlepower and cannot light up the roadway more than 300 feet from your vehicle. Additionally, no more than four lights can be it at any single time, which might render those spotlights useless when you’re driving.

Tinted Windows Are Limited

One of the least strict regulations for California driving has to do with the window tint you want to enjoy for your vehicle. The top four inches of your windshield cannot have a reflective tint, but you can have a tint for this area of the car. The front side windows must allow more than 70 percent of the light through. The rear windows and back side windows can be tinted to any darkness you desire. If mirrored or metallic tint is used, it cannot be more reflective than the standard window.

While these restrictions sound like you might not want to modify a vehicle and drive it in California, most of them are easy to follow and adhere to. Build your car, know the laws, and enjoy what you’ve created.

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