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Jazz Up Your Car With Care

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Car owners would do well to find out what is allowed and prohibited before they start tinkering with their ride. Illegal modifications are not only unsafe, they can lead to jail time!

If you are thinking of adding some oomph to your car, jazzing it up to give it more character or boost its performance, be aware that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has strict guidelines on vehicle modifications to ensure that road safety, vehicle exhaust gas, and noise emission standards are not compromised. Before carrying out any modifications, be sure to check if they require LTA’s approval or whether they are illegal. Before you buy a used car, do check if the vehicle has been modified. Be prepared to pay a hefty fine or even spend some time in jail if your vehicle does not comply with LTA’s guidelines and manufacturer requirements. Over the past two years, LTA has issued an average of 600 notices a month for illegally modified cars.

The aftermarket is a big playground for car enthusiasts to tinker with their rides. As some modifications tread a fine line between illegal and legal, it’s best to do your due diligence before any installation.

Owners have plenty of options that provide performance and aesthetic upgrades for their cars, and one area is the exhaust system. Popular brands for this system include Mugen and HKS. Owners have to make sure that these parts are tested and certified locally and approved by LTA for use here. Aftermarket exhaust systems that are certified by a foreign automotive body such as the Japan Automotive Sports Muffler Association (JASMA) and approved for use in other countries may not necessarily be approved for use on our roads.

Most new cars are fitted with daytime running lights (DRL). This is a good safety feature, especially in dimly lit areas during the day, such as HDB car parks, where the lights only come on after 7pm. However, older car models don’t normally come with DRLs; according to LTA, cars not factory-fitted with one are not allowed to be fitted with aftermarket DRLs. Also not allowed are decorative lights — you’ve seen movies with cars that have neon lights at the undercarriage or wiper washer. According to LTA, these are distractions that may disorient other road users, and are therefore banned here.

For cars that don’t come with a sunroof, it is still possible for the owner to install one if he or she fancies it. They just have to make sure that the sunroof is a recognised type and model and conforms to international standards, after which the newly installed sunroof has to pass an inspection at an LTA-Authorised Inspection Centre before it is deemed safe for use on our roads.

Similar to individuals who feel that wearing sunglasses or fancy eyewear makes them look cool, some owners may also feel that their car’s aesthetics will be enhanced with tinted or masked-out headlights. Decorative headlight mask panels with cut-outs may look sleek, and tinting the headlights may look fabulous, but they are illegal. According to the LTA, these modifications may adversely affect the actual performance of the lights on the roads, thus making them unsafe.

There are actually a whole slew of modifications that are legal and don’t need the LTA’s approval. These include having factory-fitted tyres changed for quality ones that can better the car’s performance, or getting some really nice alloy wheels to pair with those new tyres. Also allowed are modifying the car bumpers and side skirting, although these have to be approved by the vehicle manufacturer. They should not have any sharp corners or edges.

If you are looking to do some modifications, consult LTA’s website for a better understanding of what’s legal and what’s not. You may be surprised that there’s quite a lot you can do to add that little something to yourride.

Another thing that you ought to consider before making modifications to your car is the motor insurance implications. For example, some companies will decline to insure modified vehicles, even if the changes don’t require LTA’s approval. So always declare modifications to your insurer for underwriting, and check with the company before carrying out modifications.

If you are considering taking out a motor insurance policy, do check out AAS Insurance Agency’s AA Motor Plus, which has been jointly created by Liberty Insurance.