California enacts AB-1824 and the enthusiast community responds

Assembly Bill 1824 went into effect in California at the beginning of 2019. The assembly bill, which contains updates pertaining to Election Code, Government Code, Military and Veterans Code, and an update to section 40610 of the vehicle code, has come under fire by those within and even outside of the enthusiast community. Nearly 150,000 of whom have signed a petition to nullify the fines. They are upset because this is no longer a correctible violation.

In a December 2018 press release from the California Highway Patrol:

“Certain vehicle exhaust violations no longer correctable (AB 1824, Committee on Budget): A fine will become mandatory, not correctable, when loud motor vehicles and motorcycles are cited. Previously, a driver or motorcyclist who was cited for modified or excessively loud exhaust or muffler systems could correct the violation to avoid a fine.”

Teacher Jeremy Lee is upset with the new protocol. He started a Change.org petition to nullify the fine. Some of these fines, by the way, may reach upwards of $1000. According to Lee, what the law describes is vague and misguided.

AB-1824 petition

“Section 4 is targeting California car owners and creating an issue to cite and punish law abiding citizens including wasting law enforcement resources and time”, said Lee. “This law has no effect on California emissions and does not clearly describe what a modified, excessively loud exhaust or muffler system is”.

Who is the target here?

Others certainly seem to agree. As of mid-day on January 8, 2018, the petition gained 140,000 electronic signatures. This includes Pirelli World Challenge driver and California resident Mason Filippi. He believes the changes to the law do not properly reflect upon members of the car community.

“I think every automotive enthusiast can argue about how much a simple exhaust changes the feel of their car and what it is like to drive. A specific example would be people who drive at track days, a big part of a build is some sort of modified exhaust.” said Filippi. “I think that most of the car community has a great amount of respect for the people around them and we are just trying to enjoy our passion.”

Some think the changes to the law may be used as a way to profile certain groups of the community. Stephen Thompson is an automotive photographer and college student who often works in the exotic and tuner car space. He feels this subset is often seen as the more rowdy group compared to the often louder and smog-exempt traditional hot rodders.

“I do think it is an attack on automotive enthusiasts, because people modifying their exhaust does not contribute to unsafe driving, or lead to side shows. [California Legislators] are definitely misguided.” said Thompson.

Thompson, who agreed that there should be a decibel limit (which is currently set at 95) believes lawmakers are targeting sports cars and tuner cars.

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52 responses to “California enacts AB-1824 and the enthusiast community responds”

  1. neight428 Avatar

    There is a large and diverse car enthusiast community and aftermarket industry in California, and your elected representatives in Sacramento don’t seem to share your priorities. It’s a shame. This particular AB seems either unenforceable or ripe for arbitrary enforcement, which is a bad law.

    1. Tomsk Avatar

      Yeah, between this, the sky-high license and registration fees, sky-high fuel prices, wildly overzealous smog regs and the federal 25-year import exemption being rendered meaningless by said smog regs (unless you’re willing and able to spend, at minimum, the better part of ten grand to get the vehicle you want to import tested and certified), this is one of the last places you’d want to be a gearhead.

      But hey, we don’t have annual safety inspections, so at least the family that gets wiped out when your tie rod snaps and your brake pedal goes to the floor will at least go to their graves knowing you weren’t fouling the air…

      1. neight428 Avatar

        Particulates and stink associated with car exhaust are largely a non-issue now, so I’ll give those regs credit where it is due. But regulating every aspect of cars seems to have resonated with CA.gov and spiraled out of control. Import exempt JDM cars or a few Bitchen Cameros™ that are kept on the street by enthusiasts with a few extra dollars to spend are never going to reach a volume that will impact anyone’s environment, ever.

      2. Synchromesh Avatar

        Clearly you’ve never been a car enthusiast in Massachusetts. It doesn’t have horrible regs (I think OBD-I and older are exempt), nor the they have a problem with the 25 year old rule. However, people look at you angry when you drive an old car. They also try to run you off the road with their gigantic SUV, they rarely watch mirrors and generally drive like total asses. Horrific roads and weather don’t help much either. I moved to CA from many years in MA and believe you me, CA is still a heaven in comparison.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      Read the text of the bill (it’s linked above). It’s garbage law (lumped in with several unrelated items, like authorizing compensation for victims having to testify at the Golden State Killer’s parole hearings (but only through 12/31/19).

      But it doesn’t say a fine is mandatory. The cop can still write a fix-it ticket. It’s discretionary.

      “40610. (a) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), if, after an arrest, accident investigation, or other law enforcement action, it appears that a violation has occurred involving a registration, license, all-terrain vehicle safety certificate, or mechanical requirement of this code, and none of the disqualifying conditions set forth in subdivision (b) exist and the investigating officer decides to take enforcement action, the officer shall prepare, in triplicate, and the violator shall sign, a written notice containing the violator’s promise to correct the alleged violation and to deliver proof of correction of the violation to the issuing agency.
      (2) If any person is arrested for a violation of Section 4454, and none of the disqualifying conditions set forth in subdivision (b) exist, the arresting officer shall prepare, in triplicate, and the violator shall sign, a written notice containing the violator’s promise to correct the alleged violation and to deliver proof of correction of the violation to the issuing agency. In lieu of issuing a notice to correct violation pursuant to this section, the officer may issue a notice to appear, as specified in Section 40522.”

      1. neight428 Avatar

        That is garbage. I am going to end up on a rant here.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Sounds like there is a bit of discretion allowable there, so it might depend if you pass the attitude test?

        2. je zalanka Avatar
          je zalanka

          and guess which action the arresting officer will take??? the action with less paperwork.

      2. Vairship Avatar

        Yeah, we seem to have a lot of crazies in this post that didn’t bother to read (including apparently the blooger himself). You only get a fix-it *OR* fine if you exceed 95dB (5 dB higher than “a noise level likely to cause hearing damage in 8 hour exposure” http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm ), and will only get a DEFINITE fine if there is evidence of fraud, refusal to fix it etc.

        In other words, if you have Flowmasters on your car you’ll be okay because those meet CA law (being less than 95dB).
        If you have illegal or no mufflers, bypass devices etc AND refuse to fix it, you’ll get a ticket. Seems reasonable.

        We have an ass on a Harley-type bike that deliberately sets off car alarms at 5am every weekday by blipping his throttle next to parked cars that he knows are likely to have their alarm go off. Yes, he will likely get a ticket. That’s better for him than waiting until one of his neighbors takes matters into their own hands, so everyone is better off with this law.

  2. Greg Kachadurian Avatar
    Greg Kachadurian

    It’s such a shame to see California continuously targeting the richest and most diverse car community in the states – maybe even the world. It keeps me happy to be living in Georgia and there isn’t much which makes me think that… except Waffle House.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      Ah, Waffle House. Where cigarette ashes in your meal are considered the cook’s complimentary ingredient.

      There are two default “hell-no!”s from me when we’re traveling and in need of food: McDonald’s and Waffle House. I’ve fortunately not had to eat at either in the last 15 years.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Ha. We went on a holiday road trip last month and couldn’t get over how nearly every freeway exit in Georgia indicated a Waffle House ahead. We went out of our way (admittedly not very far) to sample a different WH on each leg of the trip. Funny thing is, there’s one 10 minutes from home and another about the same distance from work, and I only visit those once or twice a year.

      2. neight428 Avatar

        Smother ’em, cover ’em and take your chances, I say!

        1. Zentropy Avatar

          My wife tends to agree with you.

      3. 0A5599 Avatar

        Ha. We went on a holiday road trip last month and couldn’t get over how nearly every freeway exit in Georgia indicated a Waffle House ahead. We went out of our way (admittedly not very far) to sample a different WH on each leg of the trip. Funny thing is, there’s one 10 minutes from home and another about the same distance from work, and I only visit those once or twice a year.

      4. onrails Avatar

        My one Waffle House experience – somewhere in northern Alabama – was… interesting. I don’t remember too much other than nearly all Waffle House rumors were confirmed much to my amusement but the conversation between the wait staff and me is still etched firmly in my mind.

        “You want those waffles light or dark, honey?”

        “Light will be fine, thanks.”

        Time passes. My friend’s waffles (he ordered “dark”) arrive and he starts eating. They look ok, not great, but it’s food. I’m hungry and we’ve got a lot of miles ahead of us. The waitress comes back with a plate of waffles that look like an old saddle with indentations. And the cook. Uh oh.

        “I keep putting them back in the iron but they’re not getting any lighter. Will dark be ok?”

        Me: “Wait, THOSE waffles, or are you making new ones each time?”

        “No, these. I keep trying to get them lighter by turning the knob down but I guess it’s not working right.”

        Confused glances between my friend and I as we try to process what we just heard.

        Me: “That’s fine. I’m glad you didn’t waste any batter on my account. Thanks for trying though.”

        I’m sure there are many fine Waffle House establishments, but for some reason I haven’t been tempted to go back in one.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    All they have to do is set a reasonable, measurable, objective standard, and then compliance is straightforward. If people should then choose to exceed the limit, they should expect to pay a fine. Simple as that. I like aggressive-sounding exhausts, but some are obnoxiously loud and do qualify as “disturbing the peace”. I think modification should be permitted, but there do need to be limits for street-legal vehicles.

    When I bought my E28, the cat and muffler were blown wide open and it sounded terrible. I cut out the rot and temporarily straight-piped it. It was ridiculously loud, and I had to feather-pedal it away from the house out of respect for my neighbors. Once on the main road, I would open it up, but my wife said she could hear me more than a mile away. It was obnoxious, and I probably deserved a fine. (I’ve since Magnaflowed it, and it’s aggressive but no longer loud.)

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      I agree. The only change seems to be that it’s an automatic fine instead of a “fix-it” ticket. Am I not correct in my understanding? It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me; if you’re under the 95 decibel limit, you can still take that evidence to court. If you really are in violation of the law, you deserve the fine.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        And for those that think a fine for 1 dB over the limit is ridiculous, keep in mind that 96 dB represents 26% more power than 95. Three dB over the limit is twice as powerful.
        No offense to Jeff, but judging from the video, my guess is the Hoontruck blew the limit. Yes, it sounds badass, but even as the driver, I think it would have eventually gotten on my nerves.

      2. Tiller188 Avatar

        It looks, from the text of the law, like if the violator in question has violated sections 27150 and/or section 27151 of the vehicle code (the relevant laws pertaining to exhaust systems and their noise levels), then the officer “may take other appropriate enforcement action”. Like 0A5599 said above, that makes it look like it’s up to the discretion of the officer whether to issue a fine or a fix-it ticket (or something else, for that matter — the language is vague enough to make me nervous, regardless. I’d almost prefer a mandatory, well-defined fine).

        The other issue I have, though, is that if you look up the appropriate sections of the vehicle code, 27151 establishes a 95 dB limit, but section (a) of 27150 simply states that “Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.” Again, vague language; who determines “excessive”, or better yet, “unusual”? These two things taken together look like one of those cases where one could easily shrug it off because, “well, it’s really not that big a change, and it MIGHT be the case that nothing will be different [depending on the officer involved]”, but where it’s opening a door to discretionary and widely-varied enforcement.

        It kinda reminds me of the proposition that came up in California about daylight savings time recently (not a great comparison, because I don’t particularly care about it, but it was amusing): the discussion around the proposition seemed to revolve around “should we keep daylight savings or not”, when in reality the text of the proposition was simply going to grant the state legislature the option to make a change to California’s participation in daylight savings at some unspecified point in the future without putting it to a vote. “We’re not actually going to change anything right now, but how about you give us the power to do it…sometime…without asking you?” Yeah, no.

        1. je zalanka Avatar
          je zalanka

          the language makes it seem reasonable to send a car to the crusher immediately by tow vehicle.

        2. je zalanka Avatar
          je zalanka

          how about this. muffle the hell out of it. install a five kilowatt sound system that emulates an performance exhaust system. have the system gain tuned by engine load. have fun with it.

        3. Vairship Avatar

          In 27.150.2(b) it states: “Exhaust systems
          installed on motor vehicles, other than motorcycles, with a
          manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 6,000 pounds
          comply with Sections 27150 and 27151 if they emit no more than 95 dbA
          when tested in accordance with Society of Automotive Engineers Standard
          J1169 May 1998.”

          So if you make 95dB or less you meet the requirements of all of 27150 as far as not being “excessive”


          1. Tiller188 Avatar

            Ah, thanks for that! When I searched for the text of section 27150, I only ended up with the first part of it; didn’t see the subsections. That makes a lot more sense…I was surprised that there would be no clarifying language around “excessive or unusual”. That’ll teach me to be more careful with cross-checking my search results…

    2. Tiller188 Avatar

      Re: “reasonable, measurable, objective standard” — agreed! If we’re going to have regulations dealing with something that can be measured, they should be using objective measurements to ensure equal application. …so, can we abolish the CARB certification program already? (Seriously, it’s always bugged me that we can, and are periodically required to, use sniffer tests to actually measure the pollution impact of a given vehicle, but somehow that measurement is insufficient and certain components of a vehicle are not to be replaced with anything that hasn’t been blessed by a government bureaucracy.)

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I think the problem there is that not all states require annual emissions testing, so CARB certification is a way to ensure that certain manufacturing specs are met to (hopefully) ensure emissions compliance. Not that I disagree with you. I think measurement is the best way, but I recall guys in NC that would install their car’s catalytic convertor in order to pass emissions, then remove them for 12 months, until the next inspection.

        1. Tiller188 Avatar

          I’m not sure whether the emissions testing practices of other states has much bearing on it — California’s emissions standards effectively define the manufacturing/engineering requirements for legally registering a car here, whether it’s by CARB certification or by requiring a particular level of measured “cleanliness”. I’m with you on the “clean the car up for the test” problem, though; that’s the biggest potential issue I can see.

          Then again, I have also known of people here in California who have modified their cars to smog-failing status, as well, and either returned the car to stock (-ish) for inspection, or found a shop who would look the other way. As something of a counterpoint, I’d suggest that relying on CARB certification rather than measured emissions standards promotes something of an “in for a penny, in for a pound” mentality. That is, if someone is bound and determined to modify their car, and the dearth of CARB-approved parts means that one of their desired modifications is effectively legally impossible (downpipes being a good example in my case, at least last I checked), they may decide, “well, whatever I do, I’m going to run the risk of getting busted, so I might as well get the cheaper/better-flowing straight-through downpipe instead of one of the high-flow catted versions”. There’s not much incentive to use “cleaner” aftermarket parts, because even if they test clean, if they’re spotted during the visual inspection, it’s a fail anyway, and thus you’re stuck doing the emissions-parts-hokey-pokey before each test regardless. On the other hand, if there are various aftermarket parts available, any of which is legal so long as the emissions test comes back clean, the emissions effectiveness may become a point for comparison shopping. “Well, I could make more power with this one…but this other one still gives me a nice boost, and it’ll still pass smog, so I don’t have to mess with anything every year when I get my inspection.” I’m sure there would be some people who would run whatever they pleased and pull the old switcheroo when it came time for the emissions check, but I’m imagining that there’s significant crossover between that group and the group that does that right now, CARB or no. The question is whether there is a significant group of people who want modified cars badly enough to run illegal modded setups now and do the emissions-test-swap, but who would prefer not to deal with that hassle and would seek out “clean-enough” aftermarket parts if such things got them out of that particular pickle. I’m dubious about the incentive structure that CARB certification promotes, but I’ll admit I don’t know how the alternative would pan out.

      2. Vairship Avatar

        Sniffer tests aren’t fraud-proof, just ask VW…

        CARB has to be able to tear the system apart and inspect every inch of it, and they can’t do that unless the manufacturer sends their stuff to CARB labs to get approval and CARB has enough clout with car manufacturers that getting caught (like VW/Audi/Porsche) really hurts them.

        Asking CARB to just rely on sniffer tests for every Made in China fly-by-night aftermarket company is not realistic because when caught, they’ll just shut down and reopen under a new name. Hence the requirement for sniffer tests AND CARB-certified.

        1. Tiller188 Avatar

          Oh, absolutely, sniffer tests aren’t perfect; I didn’t really expand on the problem of “cleaning up the car for the test”, but I was thinking about the whole “Dieselgate” thing as well as the efforts of individuals temporarily putting their cars back to stock. Not many things are fraud-proof, though, and there will always be bad actors who will try to circumvent the regulations — I do wonder, for example, what’s to stop a fly-by-night manufacturer from sending a “ringer” part for examination and certification, or even from forging certification stickers to put on their parts. (Admittedly, not knowing all the details of the approval process, I don’t know how effective either of those would be at getting around it.)

          At any rate, I probably shouldn’t have gone off on a rant on CARB certification; at the end of the day I’d just rather that the final arbiter of whether a vehicle is “clean enough” be measured data, and if the testing is being circumvented, then I’d rather the solution be, wherever possible, better data collection methods. Ultimately, as I understand it, it was better emissions data, collected from multiple sources and using more-involved testing scenarios, namely live road tests, that pulled back the curtain on the Volkswagen emissions scandal (credit where it’s due, it was CARB that commissioned the study to investigate apparent discrepancies between US and Euro market cars).

  4. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

    Germany has vehicle noise restrictions which contributes to a more livable society- and I’m quite jealous of them. Recently I was deafened twice, once by a Hyundai Veloster with a literal straight pipe slowly cruising the downtown district while pointlessly revving his engine, and another time by a bro with a Cadillac CTS with apparently no muffler whatsoever. He revved the thing while I was unfortunately walking behind it and I had diminished hearing for a day – and possibly permanent loss. If the law is written such that a specific sound level at a specific distance cannot be exceeded, and it’s CLEARLY written for standardized enforcement then I’m all for it. Bro’s revving their Harleys at stoplights and bro’s in their brodozers set to maximum loud are an aspect of America I can’t wait to see receding into memory.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      My senses were once annoyed by the sight of a man eating a baguette, I shall seek to have this practice more fulsomely regulated.

      1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

        A more apt comparison would be that man jamming the baguette up your bottom without your consent.

      2. Bob Kuykendall Avatar
        Bob Kuykendall

        False equivalence FTW!

        1. neight428 Avatar

          Well, you know what they say, “one man’s hearing a loud noise in a city is another man’s sodomization with baked goods”

    2. Manxman Avatar

      What I think is funny is that I can go to a BMW motorcycle gathering and with all the bikes running I can have a conversation in a normal voice. Wen I’m at a Harley gathering I have to wear earplugs and shout to be heard. My Sportster has stock pipes and seems loud to me but not compared to aftermarket pipes.

  5. Bj Ruland Avatar
    Bj Ruland

    Does everyone now have to be a lawyer to live in California?

    I had to yell that over the loud exhaust in Wisconsin.

  6. Mark Docallos Avatar
    Mark Docallos

    So if my OEM catalytic converters have gotten damaged due to some road debris and had to replace them with much more affordable aftermarket, but similar to OEM spec, catalytic converters, would that be considered a “modification” to my OEM exhaust system?

    1. Bob Kuykendall Avatar
      Bob Kuykendall

      Great strawman!

    2. neight428 Avatar

      Unless they have changed protocol recently, if it has a CARB approval number, I think it’s good to go. That is to say, the regulator gets to decide if it is similar enough to OEM spec.

    3. Zentropy Avatar

      I think that would be considered “replacement in kind”.

  7. Bob Kuykendall Avatar
    Bob Kuykendall

    I just came here to see who thinks they own the road.

  8. darendt Avatar

    Just gives the cops a reason to harass more people and send them to the state ref. Even though the law states they must be pulled over for some other crime, like speeding, they will end up pulling you over because of the exhaust. Since when do cops obey the law? They speed, look at laptops while driving and use cell phones while driving as well. They sit with the engines running while writing tickets to soccer moms for doing the same.

    1. je zalanka Avatar
      je zalanka

      for those who have never heard of the “Golden Rule”, welcome to the real world. reach between your legs and get a good grip on yourself and say goodby too your cherished prized possessions because the tax man will be taking them away to give them to someone in more need them than you.

  9. Eric Brunson Dundabar Avatar
    Eric Brunson Dundabar

    back to good ol racism… No longer the black guy need to be scared walking.. Now its your car with an exhaust. lmao

  10. patrick townsend Avatar
    patrick townsend

    I happen to AGREE with this decision!! Florida started their law in the early 90’s, and it was MUCH NICER to NOT have to listen to all those MORONS driving by ALL NIGHT!! A car DOESN”T have to be LOUD to be powerful!!!!!

  11. glockprime Avatar

    For all the people complaining about loud cars, the law specifying an objective limit, like 95dB at some distance, is ok. However, arbitrary, subjective enforcement is NOT. Cops should have to prove your guilt, such as with calibrated equipment, before issuing anything.

  12. Fix AB 1824 Avatar
    Fix AB 1824

    Over 200,000 Californians have signed the petition to fight #AB1824. Prejudicial fines for car modifications, unfairly targeting car enthusiasts and hurting the auto industry. Help us fight back! ✊ Follow us on Twitter at @fixitcalifornia

  13. je zalanka Avatar
    je zalanka

    you poor bastards. do you not feel like the frog that was put in the pot of cold water on the stovetop and had the heat turned up very slowly until it was boiling? Hmmm?
    CA resident voters did this to themselves. the sad thing is their willingness to spread their foulness to other states. damn shame…

  14. The_Tolo Avatar

    Yes, street racing and street take overs are stupid! Plain and simple. Let’s be real though. There isn’t a street racing event or street take over happening daily. There isn’t a death associated with it every time as well. California/CHP should definitely focus elsewhere…..like maybe raising the fine to a $1000 for those who cut the double solid yellow line and into the carpool lane! Those who enter the carpool lane without a carpool should also be fined double the amount! There are more accidents, deaths, and motorist cited on a weekly basis because of this bad habit that they should focus on raising that fine vs raising the exhaust fine forcing us to pay a visit to the state ref. If anything, people that cut the double solid line should be forced to pay the hefty $1000-$2000 fine and be foreced to take traffic school as well. Think about it, if they are looking to make money quickly, they would make a fortune if they raised the carpool violation fines! I carpool daily from the Southbay on the 405fwy north to Santa Monica Blvd and I can tell you… I have seen everything from daddy’s mini van’s, to old folks in Buick’s, endless hybrids, and countless motorist without carpool’s hoping in over those lines! I myself have nearly missed crashing into them numerous times because it happens when you least expect it! Just the other day, a kid cut over the double solid lines and just so happen a motorcycle police officer was coming by and nearly slammed in them because of them crossing those lines… of course he got pulled over but he’s going to get fined LESS for nearly taking someone’s life vs someone having a slightly louder exhaust having to pay double. It honestly just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe if they raised that fine, it would get people to think more than twice of cutting over into the carpool lane like that. It most certainly will save more lives than this crazy exhaust law. That’s just my 2 cents.

    1. Whoa, What? Avatar

      This. A whole lot of this.

      I live and work in the South Bay myself, and there is nothing worse than the 91 East, especially with the asshats that cross in and out the carpool lane on the double yellows. Especially in the non-FastTrak sections. The 405 is also pretty bad going north towards Santa Monica.

  15. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    CA has a political monoculture. ICE automobiles were long ago pronounced unacceptable by this cohort. I have no expectation for rationality or logic from Sacramento. Unless your car is electric, or runs on some sort of unicorn farts, they don’t want to hear from you.

  16. Daren Matthews Avatar
    Daren Matthews

    Hey, why not post opposing opinions on your site? It’s a very simple equation, while Americans are free to worship their vehicles in any manner they wish, sometimes in very immature fashions like assuming loud pipes are impressive, what right do they have to force other Americans to worship them too? Tell, what right protected by law does anyone have to impose on other Americans inside their own homes? Do not all Americans deserve peace and quiet in their own homes? More importantly, do not all Americans deserve respect from other Americans? Loud pipes just give the finger to all other Americans so some can stroke their egos and man hoods with their vehicles. Loud pipes are a choice, not a necessity. Loud pipes do not automatically give you more testosterone guys, in the end I think it’s a matter of growing up and showing respect and maturity towards others that happen to share this nation with you.