Bolting on cold air intake systems, installing a cat back exhaust and tuning with a Hypertech Max Energy add power to your ride. But did you know they could render your ride illegal? This could certainly be the case if you live in California or a state that adheres to the CARB clean air standards. But, that doesn’t mean you should scrap your street machine for a Prius, just yet. With a little prevention and some understanding of the CARB standard, you can keep your daily driver on the good side of the law and Mother Nature.
The CARB Law
For years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been protecting the environment. At the same time, they’ve been busy confusing performance enthusiasts. A classic example is when two performance parts seem to be identical, yet one is street legal and the other is not. How is this possible? When an aftermarket accessory is designed, the manufacturer has the option to have it tested by an independent lab. If the part increases a vehicle’s emission above factory specifications, it’s considered illegal for use on public roads in states that have adopted the CARB emissions standard. Also, if the part removes or relocates a sensor, it’s not CARB exempt. Here’s why, any shift in a sensor’s position affects emissions and makes the part illegal, unless the test proves otherwise.
CARB Exempt Accessories
On the other hand, if a CARB exempt accessory passes rigorous testing without harming emissions, it receives a CARB executive order (E.O) number. These products include a sticker, metal tag or have the E.O number stamped directly on them. As a word of caution, before taking your car in for a smog check, be sure to have these numbers in plain view for the smog tech to see. Also, make sure to reload the factory tune if you are using a programmer like a Hypertech Max Energy, or risk failing the test.
CARB Certified Parts
Luckily, parts that are normally replaced at service intervals, such as oil filters, spark plugs and KN air filters don’t require certification. Keep in mind that while CARB certified parts are pricier than “off-road use only” accessories due to the testing costs, they give you the ability to enjoy your modified vehicle on public highways and byways.