RAC Cars News


Modifications That Could Get You Into Trouble

By raccars Published

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Aftermarket modifications are popular with those who enjoy tinkering with cars for the fun of it and those who wish to make improvements without spending too much money. However, some of these aftermarket tuning efforts can not only get you into trouble, but can also be dangerous.

The three most popular aftermarket adjustments are the removal of the diesel particulate filter, xenon headlight fitting and vehicle electronic control unit remapping or 'chipping.' All are illegal and, although they can put other road users in danger, rarely lead to prosecutions.

Diesel particulate filters are a hot topic in the press at the moment, as they are prone to failure. Faults are especially prevalent among van drivers and others whose driving involves lots of stopping and starting, such as those navigating urban traffic. Diesel particulate filters struggle with the temperatures involved with town centre driving and are prone to clogs and associated failures when used this way. The resulting repairs can be lengthy and expensive.

To overcome the problem, some garages will remove the filter but neglect to advise the motorist that this is illegal and has the effect of increasing emissions. While illicit removal has always been illegal, it has also been a cause of MOT failure since January 1 2014, but some garages continue the practice. There is no way of excusing DPF removal as an accident as the engine management computer must be reprogrammed as part of the process, but an MOT pass can still be achieved by mechanics who remove the unit's cover, take out the filter inside and then weld the cover back on, to fool MOT testers. Very few prosecutions occur as a result.

Xenon headlight conversions are also fraught with risk, as incorrect settings to the washing and self levelling functions can cause dangerous glare to oncoming traffic, potentially leading to an accident. Motorists go for the conversions because of their stylish appearance but the headlights must be professionally fitted to comply with the law and to match safety regulations.

Chipping or ECU reprogramming has long been a cheap and popular way to increase a vehicle's official power output but carries various risks. Warranties will be invalidated by a chip, as will insurance policies if the insurer has not been informed of the usage of the chip in the car. However, insurers will often refuse cover to chipped cars and will increase the premium price, meaning motorists neglect to inform them and are, as a result, driving around uninsured, albeit without meaning to.

Rest assured all RAC Cars dealers are carefully selected and check and prepare their vehicles to the highest standards.

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