California Has the Strictest Car Modification Laws

Most car enthusiasts can hardly resist the temptation to pimp their ride to reflect their personality and lifestyle. Riding in a modified vehicle gives one some contentment because the adjustments and additions to their autos distinguish their cars from others out there. That is why in most cases, a modified car is a source of pride for its owner.

It is also worth mentioning that modifying your car comes at a price and what you pay depends on the extent of modification you want to do on your vehicle. For some individuals, the end product is much more important than what they pay for car modifications. That means that such people will ensure their vehicle has every modification they want. Unfortunately, some states have strict modification laws.

Different modifications you can do on a car

An orange car illustrating car modifications you can do to a car regarding suspension.
Car modifications | Getty Images

First, understand that some vehicle modifications impact a car’s performance while others are simply for cosmetic reasons. Although some auto modifications are entirely harmless, some can get you slapped with a fine and ticket, especially if the alteration is not street legal. 

You may also discover that some cosmetic enhancements can land you into problems with authorities if you are new to the idea of car modifications. Note that there are several performance upgrades that you can do on your vehicle. Here are some of the modifications you can do on your car, but checking the laws in your state is advisable. That way, you will gain insight into the vehicle modifications your state permits and those it does not.

Window tint

Most states have laws restricting tint that make it impossible to see inside the car and the reflective kind. There are also those with strict rules regarding window tint. For instance, in Illinois, a driver will only get away with any side or front window tint if they have a documented medical condition. 

Those states that don’t ban tint outright specify a range of permissible percentages since tint is measured according to the percentage of light that can still pass through the windows.

Suspension upgrades

An aftermarket suspension system will be legal only if you remain within your state’s limits for ride height adjustments. Also, understand that the ideal aftermarket suspension system can upgrade the performance of your vehicle. The reason is that when the suspension system is done right, a qualified mechanic can tune it to optimize your car for the way you drive, and your auto will also handle much better.

A good suspension is a worthwhile investment when you want your commute to be more enjoyable or when you want to race your automobile.

A paint job

Although it is not an actual crime, an obnoxious paint job may not blend well with good taste. The general rule is that you can paint your vehicle however you want, and a vinyl wrap can also get you the same effect. The only thing is that you need to be careful not to appear like you are impersonating an emergency or police auto.

Also, note that repainting a car yourself is not an option because it is time-consuming and hiring an expert to handle the task is quite expensive. However, if you insist on taking on the job yourself, ensure you review your local pollution ordinances to ensure you are not cited for chemical and paint fumes.

Supercharging and turbocharging

Another popular car modification you will hardly miss out there is adding a supercharger or turbocharger to a vehicle. These devices force in more air, creating more power, thereby “boosting” your auto’s engine. If superchargers and turbochargers do not make your vehicle fail your state’s safety inspection or emission check, they remain legal, which is not the case for nitrous oxide.

California’s strict car modification laws


Are Modifications Allowed on a Leased Car?

Various laws govern vehicle modification for autos on California roadways. So, whether you are moving to the state or are altering your current ride, ensure your car is street legal by adhering to the set rules and regulations. In America, California has one of the stricter car modification laws, Top Speed reported. Below are some of the aspects that California laws govern when it comes to vehicle modifications.

Restricted colors

According to California law, a car or other vehicle should not display the color red at the front since this color acts as a warning in the rear of vehicles among other automobiles, including lighting up the brake lights. Red should also never be used for underglow lighting for vehicles in California, and using flashing lights is also prohibited.


Using TV screens while driving is allowed in California as long as the driver has no screen visibility. So, TV monitors should be installed where the driver cannot see them or behind the driver.

Lifted suspension

According to YourMechanic, the maximum frame height in California is 23 inches, and any lifted suspension on a car or truck should not exceed that.

Engine modifications

Since California is susceptible to poor air quality and smog, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) studies aftermarket parts before approving those that will be permitted for installation on an on-highway driven vehicle or car.