Fact vs. Fiction: California’s New Exhaust Noise Law

The Issue

California Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1824 was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in June of 2018 as part of the state’s budget process. The legislation amended how California law enforcement officials may issue a citation for exhaust noise violations. 

The bill has generated significant concern within the industry and enthusiast community, along with some misinformation.  This document seeks to clarify the matter.  Most notably, enactment of A.B. 1824 did not change existing laws pertaining to exhaust noise or the sale and installation of aftermarket exhaust systems in California.  Here are the facts.
 

Were California’s exhaust noise rules changed?

No. Since 2003, exhaust systems installed on motor vehicles with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 6,000 pounds, other than motorcycles, may not exceed a sound level of 95-decibels when tested under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1492. This was not changed by A.B. 1824. 
 

Is it now illegal to install an aftermarket exhaust system on my vehicle?

No. The sale and installation of an aftermarket exhaust system remains legal in California so long as it does not exceed a sound level of 95-decibels when tested under SAE J1492 and complies with all other exhaust and safety laws and regulations.
 

If exhaust noise laws didn’t change, what did?

Beginning January 1, 2019, a motorist cited for violating the current California exhaust noise law can receive an immediate fine. Previously, motorists received what is known as a “fix-it” ticket, which allowed for 30-days to correct the violation. 
 

What are my options if I get a ticket?

Consumers in receipt of a violation still have the option of seeking a certificate of compliance from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) demonstrating that their exhaust emits no more than 95-decibels. This SEMA-sponsored program allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. The cost for the test is $108. BAR does not currently issue preemptive certificates of compliance. 
 

If I get pulled over, will I receive a $1,000 fine?

According to the Judicial Council of California’s Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules for 2019, the suggested base fine/fee for a first conviction is $25 with a total fee of $193.
 

I’ve still got questions?

Please contact Christian Robinson, SEMA’s Director of State Government Affairs. 
 

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