Why You Should Check Twice Before You Pay A Loud Exhaust Fine

(Image Credit: Dodge (edited by the author)

Most, if not all, U.S. states have laws on their books about how loud a vehicle’s exhaust is allowed to be. But sometimes they’re unjust. Even if fart cans are really annoying.

At this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan, many hot rodders were fined by the town of Royal Oak (where the event partially takes place) because the local government had written its own vehicular noise ordinances that were stricter than the state’s rules.


With the help of lawyers, many car owners who got such fines are actually getting out of them after all, the Detroit Free Press reports.

That’s because, in the state of Michigan, local municipalities are apparently not allowed to write such regulations if they supersede state rules. Michigan-based automotive attorney Steve Lehto goes into a little more detail (and rambles about the Allman Brothers) on how it all went down here:

Lehto posits that another problem with “muffler laws” is that they’re difficult to enforce. It sounds like the Royal Oak rules had sound measured “from 50 feet away” which is sort of arbitrary. In a large crowd of old American muscle cars, it would be almost impossible to single out one as an egregious noise offender from that distance no matter what the decibel limit was.

Sound levels are easy to measure, though. At least when the noisemaking thing is isolated. You can buy a dB reader on Amazon for less than $20 and I’m sure most police have access to such devices.

When I was in high school in Massachusetts, I got a ticket for running a modified exhaust on my Mazda RX-7. Not for noise, mind you, just for the fact that I’d changed my car’s piping. I mean, it was loud as a chainsaw mic’d up at a Metallica concert, but in Massachusetts you’re not allowed to change a car’s exhaust at all no matter what the resulting dBs are.


As with every law, every state (and country, of course) is going to have its own guidelines within which you have to operate. But as Lehto points out in this video, it might be worth talking to an attorney if you get a noise violation ticket because the “rules” you’re violating might not be legit at all.

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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL