Dale Amy
October 7, 2010

Other states choose not to specify a quantifiable noise standard. These states are shown in yellow in the map. Typical language in these states' statutes includes prohibitions on "excessive or unusual noise" from a vehicle's exhaust system. While most motorists believe that exhaust systems should not be used in a way that causes overly loud or objectionable noise, these vague provisions fail to provide a clear and objective standard for those seeking more durable exhaust systems that enhance a vehicle's appearance and increase performance.

Legislative language that effectively limits the use of aftermarket exhausts can be found amongst both yellow and red states. Such language includes sentences such as, "No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in any manner which will amplify or increase the noise or sound emitted louder than that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle." While such language does not specifically prohibit all modification, it does not provide any means of measuring whether a vehicle has been acceptably modified. Such language also negatively affects the aftermarket industry by placing the noise limit authority in the hands of the OEMs and ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.

Green on the map identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation to provide enthusiasts and law enforcement officials with a fair and enforceable alternative. The model legislation establishes a 95-decibel exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Under this standard (SAE J1169), a sound meter is placed 20 inches from the exhaust outlet at a 45-degree angle and the engine is revved to three quarters of maximum rated horsepower. The highest decibel reading is then recorded.

Lobby For The Hobby
The foregoing are just some of the legislative issues currently under scrutiny. As our opening quotation suggests, saying or doing nothing will simply help permit these legislative evils to triumph. What can we do? Well, while our individual voices might be small, we can join together with the SEMA Action Network (SAN) to present a large, cohesive voice in defense of our automotive rights.

The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, vehicle clubs, and members of the specialty automotive parts industry in the United States and Canada who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With nearly 40,000 members, 3 million contacts, and an ability to reach 30 million enthusiasts through print and press, the SAN is the premier organization defending the rights of the vehicle hobby.

In its efforts to promote and protect the specialty equipment industry and the automotive hobby in the states, SEMA partners with state lawmakers from across the country through the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. Formed in 2005 to supplement the work of its grassroots hobbyist network (SAN), the Caucus is a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles, and over the past several years, its efforts have achieved a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community and specialty equipment industry on issues including equipment standards, registration and titling classifications, emissions test exemptions, as well as the rights of hobbyists to engage in backyard restorations.