California enacts an un-sound exhaust law

Publish Date: 
Jan 3, 2013
By Mike Vaughan

IN 2010, one of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final acts was to sign SB435, the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act. This law gives police the authority, starting on Jan. 1, 2013, to ticket motorcycles with non-compliant exhaust systems.

It applies only to 2013 motorcycle models and exhaust systems. Older bikes equipped with aftermarket systems purchased before Jan. 1, 2013, are not affected.

Although it would be virtually impossible to tell.

An older bike that has a non-compliant aftermarket exhaust installed or purchased after the 1/1/13 deadline would also be in violation of the law.

A rider must be initially cited for another infraction -- such as speeding, not signaling or an illegal turn -- before he or she can be cited for violation of SB435. A first conviction generates a fine of between $50 and $100, which can be dismissed at the discretion of the court upon proof of correction. A second conviction raises the fine to not less than $100 or more than $250, but there's no provision for dismissal of the fine.

The law, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavely (D-Santa Monica) was proposed because “current state and federal noise control statutes are rarely and unevenly enforced.” Requiring the display of an EPA label would be a “readily visible indication of whether a motorcycle has been tampered with..." she stated at the time. She pointed out that enforcing the law would not require any special technical training or equipment, and that delaying the bill’s effect until 2013 would give aftermarket manufacturers adequate time to react.

Tim Calhoun, executive vice president of Leo Vince, indicated to Dealernews that his company has identified exhaust systems that can be built as SB435-compliant, but that they are going to take a “wait and see” approach to determine if and for what models they will be building pipes. 

"We have the science to [build a compliant pipe]; it just has to make financial sense," Calhoun said. "The big issue is who’s going to buy them... The reality is there is nothing you can do to them. You can’t modify them, they’re going to perform fairly equal to stock, there’s not going to be a substantial weight savings – you’re going to have looks and maybe a little bit better sound, but there’s not a lot to them.”

Calhoun noted that the California market had “just about dried up last year. There was about a 70 percent reduction in sales. A lot of that had to do with Tucker Rocky and what they’re going through with CARB, and sending out letters to their dealers saying, ‘We've been subpoenaed and you may be subpoenaed too...' A lot of dealers just backed away from exhausts completely…a substantial loss for all aftermarket exhaust makers.”

There are a number of problems with SB435, Calhoun said. (Dealernews also contacted other exhaust manufacturers and is awaiting response.) “In my opinion the law was not well planned and not well executed. It started out as an emissions bill and became a sound bill. There are a lot of better ways to address that. J2825 [see below] is a much better form of testing relieving the worst of the offenders out there.”

Random enforcement and owner’s actions create additional problems, Calhoun said. “You’re going to be seeing cops on both sides of the fence, some will be pulling over any bike… the bike maybe a 10, 11 or 12 [model year] where the law doesn’t apply. Worse yet, you’re going to see a lot of owners just gut their stock exhaust, they’re going to run horribly, make lot of noise and not address the issue, or they’ll replace their exhaust with a non-compliant system [and] when they get a ticket they’ll satisfy it by putting the stock exhaust back on, then change back again, so you’re really not stopping much of anything."  (continued)