Fact vs. Fiction: Explaining California’s new exhaust noise law

Diamond Bar, Calif.—Beginning with the new year, a motorist cited for violating the current California exhaust noise law can receive an immediate fine. Previously, motorists received what is known as a “fix-it” ticket, which allowed for 30 days to correct the violation.

      

The issue

California Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1824 was signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in June of 2018 as part of the state’s budget process. The legislation amended how California law enforcement officials may issue a citation for exhaust noise violations.

The bill has generated significant concern within the industry and enthusiast community, along with some misinformation. Most notably, enactment of A.B. 1824 did not change existing laws pertaining to exhaust noise or the sale and installation of aftermarket exhaust systems in California. Here are the facts.

 

Were California’s exhaust noise rules changed?

No. Since 2003, exhaust systems installed on motor vehicles with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 6,000 pounds, other than motorcycles, may not exceed a sound level of 95-decibels when tested under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169 (May 1998). This was not changed by A.B. 1824.

 

Is it now illegal to install an aftermarket exhaust system on my vehicle?

No. The sale and installation of an aftermarket exhaust system remains legal in California so long as it does not exceed a sound level of 95-decibels when tested under SAE J1169 and complies with all other exhaust and safety laws and regulations.

 

If exhaust noise laws didn’t change, what did?

Beginning Jan. 1, a motorist cited for violating the current California exhaust noise law can receive an immediate fine. Previously, motorists received what is known as a “fix-it” ticket, which allowed for 30-days to correct the violation.

 

Options if given a ticket

Consumers in receipt of a ticket still have the option of seeking a certificate of compliance from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) demonstrating that their exhaust emits no more than 95-decibels. This SEMA-sponsored program allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. BAR does not currently issue preemptive certificates of compliance.

According to the Judicial Council of California’s Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules for 2019, the suggested base fine/fee for a first conviction is $25 with a total fee of $193.

For more information, contact Christian Robinson, SEMA’s Director of State Government Affairs & SEMA PAC, at stateleg@sema.org.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.