What Makes A Car Street Legal?

Oct 26 • Law • 931 Views • Comments Off on What Makes A Car Street Legal?

There are obviously a ton of drivers on the road, and every driver has a different vehicle. However, all of these vehicles meet state regulations when the manufacturers release them to the general public. Any time you change anything on your vehicle, from the tires to the hood of your car, you need to ensure that you are not breaking any laws unless you care to be pulled over and questioned.

Many may not realize, but Federal law does not dictate what makes a vehicle street legal. That responsibility falls onto state lawmakers. In order to be able to drive on public highways, the following is generally required by every state and are some of the typical inspection items seen on a state-by-state basis. Be sure to check local rules and laws to ensure you are not forgetting something specific to your area.

Requirements For Vehicles To Be Street Legal

  • Bumpers: There needs to be a functional bumper beneath or behind the vehicles roll pan.
  • Reflectors: There need to be reflectors or lamps on the side and rear of the vehicle. The sides need to be amber colored, while the rear needs to be red. These colors cannot change either and are standard across every state.
  • License Plates: You are not allowed to hide or obstruct the view of plates and should be visible from 100 feet away. Plates mounted in the rear must also be lighted so to be visible at night.
  • Vehicle Lights: Every light on the exterior of the vehicle must be approved by the Department of Transportation; this includes the light itself as well as the color. Impact barriers and protective grilles must not obstruct the lights in fashion. Lights on the undercarriage of a vehicle are only legal in certain states, so be sure to check local law regarding that. There must also be Hi and Low beam indicators on your dashboard to ensure you are not blinding other motorists.
  • Emissions: Emission tests must be conducted and the exhaust emission system must meet state standards.
  • Mufflers: Any pipe that is used to increase noise or create unusual noise is illegal. Also, any muffler system that is arranged in such a place that a person could burn themselves upon entering or exiting the vehicle is prohibited.
  • Wheels: Wheel spacers are not allowed, which are used to widen the wheel base, though wheel adapters are legal. The tread depth on your tires must be 2.32nds deep. There must also be no visible damage and every tire must be properly inflated. There must be mud flaps which cover 50% of your tires, this is especially true for vehicles with lifts and large custom tires.
  • Brakes: Must be inspected to ensure proper function and must not be defective or have any unusual wear or tear.
  • Seat Belts: Any passenger in your vehicle, as well as the driver, is required to wear a seatbelt when the vehicle is in motion. So if you intend to have three sitting in the back seat, you will need that third belt buckle as well.
  • Steering: Butterfly steering wheels are not street legal, and can only be used on recreational vehicles. Every vehicle that is driving on a public road must have a circular wheel that has a 13-inch outside diameter. The steering system must also be inspected for functionality, proper linkage, and any excessive wear that has or can potentially occur.
  • Mirrors: Every vehicle must have at least an interior rearview as well as a driver’s side mirror.
  • Windshield: Vehicles must have functioning windshield wipers. The windshield itself must allow 70% light transmittance, while driver and passenger windows must allow 43% light transmittance. There must also not be any obstructions that hinder the drivers view on the windshield, such as graphics or even cracks.
  • Engine Hoods: Air intakes on hoods must not obstruct the drivers view, and cannot be more than 4 inches higher the hood surface.
  • Horn: The horn must be able to be heard from at least 200 feet away. There are no restrictions as to what the horn must sound like.

So long as you stick to this guideline, you should be ok when driving around any state so long as there is no impending danger being brought upon by your vehicle being on the road. If that is so, enjoy your ride and drive safe!

The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on twitter @AAMCOColorado. I am writing on behalf of AAMCOColorado.com, where you can receive the best Colorado Transmission Service in the state.

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