Beginning December 1, 2021, the Carolina squat—a truck modification that lowers the rear suspension and raises the front—will become illegal in North Carolina. So-called squatted trucks are questionable in many ways, as their raised front end compromises the driver’s view of the road ahead and can blind oncoming traffic when the headlights are on. Plus, let’s be honest: Squatted trucks look downright strange.
Of course, the Carolina squat isn’t the only modification to be made illegal. From “rolling coal” to massive lift kits, there are many customization trends that are potentially dangerous to motorists or the environment (or both), making them against the law.
Seven Car Modifications That Could Be Illegal Where You Live
Ever since cars became commonplace in the early 1900s, drivers have been adding modifications to enhance performance and improve appearance. Some automotive trends, however, might not be safe for the street or good for the environment.
And that’s why government agencies step in to regulate certain customization trends. If you’re considering performing one of the modifications on this list, you might want to think twice, as each one is prohibited on some level, either federally or locally.
The Carolina Squat
We’ve already touched on the puzzling Carolina Squat trend (also known as the “California lean” and the “Tennessee tilt.”). Not only does the modification reduce the driver’s view of the road ahead, but it also compromises the vehicle’s braking, suspension, and steering systems, reducing overall safety and causing components to wear out more quickly. The squatted truck look definitely isn’t for everyone, either.
Recently, North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, signed a bill banning the Carolina Squat. Beginning December 1, 2021, trucks sporting the modification will be illegal in North Carolina. Violators could have their driver’s license revoked for a year.
Extra-long Swanga Wheels
When you first see a set of swanga wheels, you might wonder whether the modification is even legal. The trend involves protruding wheel spokes, known as elbows, that can stick out a foot or more from the vehicle. You’re most likely to see cars with swanga wheels in Texas, where the trend began.
One of the primary issues with swanga wheels is that they can stick out far enough from the vehicle to be illegal in some states. In Texas, for example, it’s illegal to have a set of rims that cause the car to be more than eight feet wide and/or protrude into another lane.
Sky-high Lift Kits
A modest lift kit improves ground clearance, thereby enhancing a vehicle’s off-road ability. But when a truck is lifted sky-high, the modification can be both dangerous (since it compromises handling and braking) and illegal. Also, a massive lift kit puts additional strain on a vehicle’s undercarriage components, causing them to wear out more quickly than usual.
Exactly how high of a lift kit is too high will depend on the laws in your state. For example, a vehicle can’t be lifted more than four inches in Connecticut, eight inches in Mississippi—and just two inches in Georgia.
Extreme Negative Camber
Camber is an alignment angle that refers to the inward or outward tilt of the wheels when viewed from the front of the vehicle. When the top of the wheel is tilted inward, that’s referred to as negative camber.
For years, modifying a vehicle’s undercarriage for extreme negative camber (a trend sometimes referred to as “hellaflush”) has been popular, particularly within the import tuner car community. Extreme negative camber isn’t good for a car’s tires, steering, or suspension—and it’s also illegal in Québec, Canada. The modification, which officials claim can have a negative effect on a vehicle’s handling, has been prohibited in the province since 2014.
“Rolling coal” is a semi-popular trend that involves modifying a diesel engine’s control system so that black smoke billows from the truck’s exhaust. Not only is the practice bad for the environment, but the black smoke indicates that the engine is getting too much fuel, which is a waste of money. Over-fueling can also lead to internal engine damage.
What’s more, the environmental protection agency (EPA) prohibits modifying or bypassing a vehicle’s emissions control device(s), which effectively makes rolling coal illegal. Some states also have their own laws on the books banning the practice.
Under the EPA’s Clean Air Act, a person can be liable for a civil penalty of up to $4,819 for removing or modifying emissions equipment. A dealer or vehicle manufacturer can face much higher penalties.
The EPA also points out that: “Tampering, including installation of a defeat device, can void manufacturer warranties. Also, tampered vehicles and engines may not be covered by insurance policies, and states may prohibit the registration of tampered vehicles and engines.”
Super Loud Exhaust
Since the dawn of hot rodding, performance mufflers and exhaust systems, which give a vehicle an aggressive sound, have been a popular modification. What you might not know, however, is that nearly every state has laws regulating loud custom exhaust systems.
For instance, installing a cut-out device—a modification that opens up a pathway for exhaust gases to bypass the muffler—is illegal in several states. Many states also have rules on the books that limit exhaust noise. In Montana, for example, “a person may not operate a motor vehicle with an exhaust system that emits a noise in excess of 95 decibels”.
Will You Actually Get Busted?
The million-dollar question is: Will you actually get busted for the modifications on this list (if they’re illegal in your area)? The answer is that it depends on how strictly the laws and regulations are followed where you live.
But since most of the modifications on this list can be harmful to the environment, dangerous to other drivers, or damaging to your vehicle, it’s often best to forgo them, regardless of whether or not there are laws in place.