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Blog: Pimp your ride without breaking the law

A modified car with engine exposedLegal blogger Jeanette Miller, senior partner at Geoffrey Miller solicitors, looks at the law around modifying your motor.

When I passed my driving test at 17, I was unbelievably excited finally to be able to share my sister’s Mini Metro.

Of course, today, most young drivers wouldn’t be seen dead in what I was proudly driving around.

But new drivers who are tempted to pimp their ride without sufficient care could have their licences revoked.

There are lots of ways in which you can modify your car. Some are legal and some are not.

Most offences relating to vehicle modification are punishable by a fine only but there are some for which you could receive penalty points.

As a new driver you want to avoid these, as it could mean you have to re-sit your test all over again - and a pimped-out car looks far less cool with L-plates on it.

Window tinting

For any car first used after 1 April 1985, the amount of light transmitted through the front windscreen must be at least 75 per cent.

The front side windows must transmit at least 70 per cent. There is, however, no restriction on rear passenger windows or the rear windscreen.

Window tints restrict your ability to see more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, especially in low light conditions.

Visibility problems tend to be particularly bad around dawn and dusk or the sudden onset of bad weather when light levels change quickly.

Offenders may be subject to enforcement action, such as a prohibition notice, which stops you from using your vehicle until you have paid to have the extra tint removed.

If you are stopped by the police you may also get a penalty notice or a court summons and could face a fine.

If you have an accident with overly-tinted windows it is possible that you could be charged with dangerous driving as you were driving a vehicle which was in a dangerous state.

Also, your car insurance may potentially be invalidated in these circumstances.

Restrictions on noise

Although having a souped-up sound system is not itself an offence, you must not use a car on a road in such a manner as to cause any excessive noise.

This applies to all parts of the vehicle, even the exhaust. There are regulations that mean that all exhaust systems must be fitted with silencers.

A horn should not be used at all between 11.30pm and 7am in built-up areas.

The noise which a horn makes must be continuous and uniform. In particular, it cannot be a two-tone horn, which sounds similar to an ambulance’s siren, for example.

Customised number plates

Any modification to a number plate is illegal.

There are specific rules about the font, size and spacing used, while a non-reflective border and the Euro symbol with the national identification letters are optional additions.

There must not be any other markings or material contained on the number plate, largely because of automated number plate recognition technology in speed cameras and some police cameras.

The DVLA normally gives offenders warnings before it revokes use of the plate, and your number plate is supposed to be checked during your MOT.

Finally, any reflective covers or coatings to try and avoid getting flashed by speed cameras are also illegal.

In-car TV or DVD player

Vehicle regulations prohibit the driving of a car if the driver is in a position to see, directly or by reflection, a television-receiving apparatus, DVD player or similar.

So it’s OK to have a DVD player installed in the back of a front seat so that the passengers in the rear of the car can see it, but the driver must not be able to. However, sat nav systems are allowed.

If you break this law, you may face a fine.

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director at motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

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Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director of motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.

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