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Illegal Things You Didn’t Realize You Were Doing to Your Car

With the laws in each state varying on specific topics — from window tinting to modifications — it’s hard to know precisely what is illegal and what’s in the gray area. You’d be surprised to find that there are a lot of driving practices and even accessories that people use that are illegal in most states. Now, most of these things won’t get you thrown in the slammer or anything crazy like that, but they may land you a ticket or a fine. Most of these laws have to do with car safety, but some of them are less regulated than others or ignored altogether.

Illegal car accessories

There are a lot of accessories that you can buy for your car, so it’s generally understood that if you can buy something for your car without having to make a pit stop in a back alley, it’s probably legal. This isn’t necessarily the case, and there are some pretty common car accessories you can find in everyday cars that are actually illegal in some way, at least in most states.

Air freshener hanging from rearview mirror | Justin Sullivan

The most common mistake that people make has to do with car air fresheners, and it’s something most drivers are guilty of at least once in their lives. Driving with something hanging from your rearview mirror is actually illegal in most states. The law is based on the idea that having objects hanging from the rearview mirror reduces visibility and can be distracting, but you probably won’t get pulled over for having a Little Trees Vanillaroma hanging in your windshield.

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Radar detectors are less common, but they are just as illegal, if not more. Some radar detectors or radar jammers are legal in certain states, but it’s easier to assume that they are all around a big no-no. You can buy both of these accessories in even your most average auto parts store, so it’s easy to understand why people don’t realize that they are illegal.

Common illegal modifications

If you’ve ever modified your exhaust, you’re probably aware that it’s illegal in most states. States like California require annual emissions testing which usually checks to make sure your car doesn’t have a modified exhaust. On top of that, some states have limitations on how loud your car can be, which — you guessed it — makes most aftermarket exhaust systems illegal as well. You can get away with this in some states more than others, like Florida with emissions testing isn’t part of annual inspections (because there aren’t annual inspections in Florida), but they are still technically illegal in most states.

Old exhaust pipes lie in a junkyard | Stratenschulte/picture-alliance

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Vehicle laws vary by state so it’s important to keep up with your car modification and accessory laws by state. Just because somethings are easy to purchase doesn’t necessarily mean that they are legal, and this list if just the tip of the iceberg for illegal vehicle practices. None of these are severe enough that you should be too concerned, after all, they are all very common, and there’s no rush to take your air freshener down from your rearview mirror.