South Africans who modify their car could find themselves on the wrong side of the law

There is a booming online aftermarket for car parts and accessories which is being accessed largely by informal mechanics indulging in their favourite hobby.

However, changing a manufacturer’s specs on a vehicle should be done with great caution, warns Jeff Osborne of Gumtree Autos.

“Firstly, it’s a bit of a legal minefield. The relevant acts are inadequate to cover most modifications and, in particular, lack detail, which means the authorities have a broad license to interpret almost any changes as illegal simply because the vehicle is no longer identical to the way it rolled off the production line,” he said.

“Obviously, any modifications which demonstrably improve the safety of a vehicle (better brakes as an example) will not be problematic but almost anything else could get you into trouble.”

Osborne said that some areas to keep an eye on include:

  • Being able to prove that a replacement engine has been legally obtained – all engines and chassis should have VIN numbers or other forms of identification;
  • Completely darkened windows are illegal immediately and attract attention from the police;
  • Highly exaggerated noise from massive exhausts is anti-social, drains expensive fuel and, once again, draws notice from the authorities.

“The best way to protect yourself is to get a roadworthy on the modified vehicle once you have finished the work,” said Osborne.

“Leaving aside the law, your primary concern should be the safety of the modified vehicle.”

Read: Here’s how South Africa’s petrol price has rocketed since the start of 2019

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South Africans who modify their car could find themselves on the wrong side of the law