The Youtube videos and Instagram reels that teach you how to customise your flashy car or bike with alterations like protruding rims, after-market loud exhaust and big wheels, don’t tell you one tiny but important detail.
Customisation may help your car or bike stand out and grab eyeballs, but it is illegal. Besides, you may end up catching the attention of the law and pay hefty fines too!
Apart from the illegal aspect, alterations to vehicles such as the after-market exhaust especially in the 350 cc and above bike category result in extreme noise pollution. Cars with protruding rims and wheels that change the overall dimensions of the vehicle are also dangerous and can cause accidents.
As per the rules, any modifications made to a vehicle need to be referred to the Regional Transport Office (RTO). Even minor alterations like those in horns cannot be done without an RTO approval.
RTO RS Desai said any alteration that amounts to a change in the length or size of the vehicle, that results in pollution over and above the approved standards, or additional fitments needs RTO approval.
“The vehicle owner can make an application for such an approval and can go ahead with the alterations if the RTO gives a primary approval,” said Desai.
He said once the alternations are made the vehicle needs to be brought to the RTO for inspection.
“The officer-in-charge will approve only if the alterations meet the standards set by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), the agency for testing and certifying vehicles,” said Desai.
The RTO has in the past six months fined 61 people for alterations. In April this year, the RTO fined 25 persons and collected a fine of Rs 1,25,000 from offenders. Physical alterations which change the size or dimensions of a vehicle can result in a fine of Rs 5,000.
Similarly in March, 26 vehicles were fined Rs 1,30,000 for alterations while in February a fine of Rs 35,000 was recovered from seven offenders. In January this year and December last year, a combined fine of Rs 15,000 was collected from 3 offenders.
ARTO Nilesh Parmar said the simple rule for alterations is that any changes in the vehicle after they have been approved by the company post-manufacturing, are not allowed.
“This includes changes in headlights, exhausts or installation of fitments, safety guards, grills and other fancy things that change the vehicle in any way in the manner that it was approved is not allowed,” he said.
“Even the dimensions of the side mirrors, lamps with high luminous intensity, mountings and accessories need an ARAI certificate if altered,” Parmar said.
He said the overall length and weight, the decibel of the horn or the luminous intensity of lamps are predefined and have to meet the Indian standards.
The Ahmedabad police recently nabbed 174 offenders who had modified their bike silencers and fined them Rs 1,43,000. A traffic official said the department has also carried out a drive against rickshaws that alter their heights to make them appear taller.
Lack of instrument
Interestingly, though the traffic department is keen to nab offenders who opt for modification through aftermarket exhausts or brighter lights, they lack instruments to adequately measure how these additions impact pollution levels.
“Decibel metres can help cops measure the sound of the exhaust to know whether it is beyond the permissible limit. Similarly, instruments that measure luminous intensity also help us know if the intensity is beyond what is appropriate. But the traffic cops lack these instruments and in their absence, it becomes difficult to penalise the riders,” said a traffic official. He said many cops also lack the training to identify such modifications.
Shahrukh Shaikh of Vijay Bullet, an auto parts dealer at Mirzapur said as many as 50 people change the exhausts of Royal Enfield or Bullet bikes every day. “All aftermarket exhausts are illegal but they are in demand. The traffic cops nab offenders for such modification but lack the instruments to measure or check the alterations made post-RTO passing,” said Shaikh.
Other dealers of aftermarket accessories at Mirzapur said they are illegal and claimed they don’t help with modifications though they did display exhausts and other aftermarket accessories. Shops also sell aftermarket accessories for foreign bikes. A dealer whom Mirror approached said the price of exhausts starts at Rs 800 and can go up to Rs 8,000. “There are Indories, Punjab, Delhi and other exhausts,” he said.
JCP (Traffic) Mayanksinh Chavda said exhausts that cause noise pollution and air pollution are not allowed. “We have carried out drives, especially against motorcycles that have modified exhausts or silencers. We regularly impart training to our staff to identify vehicles that have been altered in any way,” said Chavda.
The department plans to carry out more drives against such offenders. As for penalising superbikes and bikes that have numerous accessories and modifications for noisy exhausts, Chavda said none of them has been penalised so far. “Most superbikes have undergone RTO inspection and their alterations may have been approved. However, we may refer such offenders to the RTO to check if their alterations were indeed approved,” he said.