California Exhaust Noise Testing Program Open for Business

August 2003
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has begun operation of the state’s motor vehicle exhaust noise testing program. The program, the product of a SEMA-sponsored law, will equip California automobile hobbyists to fight unfair exhaust noise citations issued by state law enforcement officers. Motorists can now prove their vehicles comply with state noise standards. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued.
Approximately 40 Smog Check stations that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations, located across the state, will issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95 decibels, under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169 (May 1998). However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation will be permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. Later this year, BAR will issue a regulation to provide for the cost to consumers for performing the test. Tests performed prior to the official establishment of the testing fee will be performed at no cost to consumers.
According to BAR officials, to have a cited vehicle tested at a state referee center, motorists must make an appointment by calling a toll-free number. Cited motorists should have the citation and vehicle registration available when calling.
"The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test," said SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "Through this procedure, cited motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that those vehicles comply with California’s exhaust noise standards.
"For years, the enforcement policy used by police officers deemed nearly all exhaust system modifications illegal, even where the noise levels were not excessive or unusual," McDonald added. "That policy left exhaust system manufacturers, dealers and their customers without recourse."
Hobbyists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance "prefer aftermarket exhaust systems," McDonald said. "By establishing this evenhanded testing process, this program should serve to benefit consumers who favor these state-of-the-art products, the aftermarket industry which markets them, and even police officers who are charged with enforcing the law."