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Thinking About Modifying Your Car’s Exhaust System? Read This

Posted on 03/25/24 by admin in Auto Accidents

Do you enjoy working on your car? You’re far from alone. According to a survey, nearly two thirds of American car owners worked on their cars at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The home repair and modification trend is even more prevalent among young people. The same survey found Gen Z car owners are most likely to work on their own cars. So long as modifications comply with the law and maintenance is conducted safely and responsibly, Malloy Law supports enterprising motorists who work on their own cars, whether as a way to save money or for recreation. The right to modify and repair a product legitimately and legally purchased is a bedrock consumer protection. But the freedom to modify your vehicle is not freedom from consequences of doing so irresponsibly. If you’re thinking about modifying your car’s exhaust system, read this blog post. You may be surprised.

modifying car exhaust

Car Exhaust Regulations in Our Region


In Maryland, the state department of transportation is empowered to regulate and set standards for exhaust systems. All vehicles are required to be fitted with a muffler that prevents unusual or excessive noise. Muffler cut outs, bypasses, and other noise-making attachments are not permitted on highways. All extensions meant to amplify engine sounds are also banned.

The legal limit for exhaust noise emissions in Maryland is 80 decibels.


Starting in July 2022, Virginia police are empowered to stop drivers with exhaust systems in violation of the state’s noise emission standards. These standards are as follows: “No person shall operate any motor vehicle with a gross weight of 6,500 pounds or less with an exhaust system that emits noise in excess of 85 decibels. Such noise level shall be measured from a distance of at least 50 feet.”

VA motorists should also note that further measures are being debated and considered to curtail noise pollution in Virginia. These may include acoustic cameras and bans on the sale of aftermarket exhausts. Virginia also bans so-called “flame throwers” meant to augment the exhaust projected from a car’s tailpipe with pyrotechnic effects.

Washington DC

DC law states that “No person shall drive and no owner of a vehicle shall permit or allow the operation of any such vehicle on a highway unless it is equipped with an exhaust system in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise.”

Furthermore, D.C.’s Department of Buildings does have a noise ordinance. This ordinance reads: “Every person living in the District is entitled to reasonable noise levels that do not threaten life, health, and enjoyment of his or her property.”

Washington DC’s government is also exploring automated enforcement of noise violations through cameras.

modified exhaust system

Penalties for Illegally Modifying Your Car’s Exhaust System

The most common result of getting ticketed for an unlawful exhaust or other illegal automotive accessory is a “fix-it” ticket. This citation requires you to remove the modification or otherwise bring it within compliance with the law. Additionally, you can be fined.

In general, illegal car modifications will be categorized as misdemeanors. This means the penalty will, except in abnormal cases, generally be monetary.

If You Are Worried Your Car’s Exhaust Falls Outside of the Legal Limit

If you are concerned that your vehicle may be louder than the legal limit in your state, you may wish to take the following steps:

  • Raise the issue with your mechanic at your next vehicle inspection.
  • Contact your local Department of Transportation Office for guidance
  • Drive slowly in residential areas, and keep an eye on your RPM
  • Conduct a home test with a decibel meter (apps to measure sound should be available on most modern smart phones)
  • Replace your muffler

modifying your car's exhaust system

How Malloy Law Can Help

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with an illegally modified vehicle, contact Malloy Law Offices today for a free consultation. Our firm is home to the region’s car accident specialists. Our experienced and diverse team will pursue just compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional trauma. Don’t let reckless, irresponsible motorists derail your life. Contact Malloy Law today and let’s win your case.