Car Modifications – Legal or Illegal?

Can you get Away with Car modifications?

  1. No. Even simple modifications risks your car being unroadworthy
  2. Traffic officers are stopping modified cars and removing their licence disks
  3. These same traffic officers are forcing owners to go through a roadworthy process
  4. You may not make any modifications not specified by the manufacturer
  5. Only technicians carrying a letter of authority regarding the car may work on the care

Most of us have fancied the idea of adding extra headlights to our cars to tuning up the engine. This is what gives it that special personalisation. Alas, there is a downside. Did you know that car modifications – changes made to your car which differ from the manufacturer’s original specifications –  can increase the cost of your car insurance.

Modified Cars of Crime

Car modifications are nothing new – people have been changing the looks and performance of their cars for centuries. Some of these cars were used for bank robbers long ago and were modified so that they Legal and Illegal Vehicle Modificationscould outpace any police car and drive over any terrains.

Today there are  1000’s of different kinds of modifications, and many of them are for illegal street racing. Some of the most popular modifications in South Africa include:


  • dark tinted windows
  • tail fins
  • engine boosting
  • the fitting of bigger wheels
  • changing the exhaust/silencer system to emit outrageously loud sounds that far exceed the approved decibels levels.


When alterations to your car fall outside the manufacturer’s approved accessory installation, it can affect the warranty of a vehicle. The car can also be unfit for use on public roads and it may even have to go for  re-testing at a vehicle testing station.

Not All Modifications for Street Racing

In South Africa, law officials are showing zero tolerance for these street racers, but what about people who do modifications just for the sheer fun of it. Is it worth it in the light of  the possible for making alterations to your car?

In Cape Town, law enforcement officials have taken modified vehicles right off the road based on their interpretation that the vehicle is not the same as when it left the factory.

The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 stipulates that a car must comply with the relevant requirements as specified in the Government Notices, and that it needs to comply with the requirements relevant to such motor vehicle design.

Vehicle modifications are tricky though because in some instances, such as with old VW Beetles, some drivers opt to remove the drum brakes and replace them with disk brakes. That is because this is an improvement in safety – a necessity in fact.

There are in fact some ‘valid’ reasons for modifications, some of which are:-

  1. Tyre selection – tyres that improve road holding and which stand up better in wet weather conditions
  2. Smash and grab window tinting
  3. Improved lighting
  4. Computer mapping boxes to improve fuel economy but this can result in car warranties being affected

Valid modifications are those that involve the fitment of manufacturer approved accessories. These won’t affect the vehicle’s warranty.

It is when people start tampering with the performance of the engine and the brakes for instance that they start going outside approved parameters and are seen as a threat to road safety and this is when you can expect to be pulled off the road and face paying a huge fine.

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All info was correct at time of publishing November 9, 2017