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Car modifications and how they impact your car insurance
It's tempting to customise your car. But just be aware that your impulsive flight of fancy to personalise your car might turn out to be much more expensive than you had bargained for. For instance, you could be fined up to $2,000 or face up to 6 months' imprisonment if you carrying out any unauthorised modifications to your vehicle. Not only that, your car insurance could be void too. So it pays to know exactly what you can and can't do to your car.
What exactly is a car modification?
If you are replacing, adding or removing a vehicle's components or systems that are different to the manufacturer's original specifications, it is considered a modification. Some modifications are done to enhance the vehicle's performance, while others are purely for aesthetic purposes to enhance its looks.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has strict guidelines on vehicle modifications to ensure that road safety, vehicle exhaust gas and noise emissions standards are not compromised.
Before carrying out any modifications, be sure to check whether they require LTA's approval or whether they are outright illegal. And before you buy a used car, do check if the vehicle has been modified. If you have any doubts then it's worth getting an Assessment Service done which is available at LTA-Authorised Inspection Centres (AIC).
There are 3 types of vehicle modifications. These are:
- Modifications that DON'T need LTA's approval
- Modifications that DO need LTA's approval
- Modifications that are not allowed
Popular modifications that DON'T need LTA approval
Here are some popular modifications for which you don't need LTA's approval. But remember, you still need to comply with strict guidelines and manufacturer requirements.
Click here for the full list of modifications that do not need LTA approval.
A roof rack can come in handy but just be sure that it doesn't protrude out from the body of your vehicle, either to the sides, front or back. And be mindful that the cargo and the carrier on the roof rack should not exceed the loading capacity of the vehicle or the roof rack. Your cargo should also be securely fastened to the roof rack and no part of the cargo or its carrier should protrude laterally beyond the vehicle. Check out our blog for more information on overloading your car.
Bumpers, side skirts and body kits
Changing or adding body kits, bumpers or side skirts can give your car a new look. Just be sure that they are approved by the car manufacturer and do not have any sharp corners or edges. Their lowest points should also not come into contact with the road surface at any time.
When it comes to alloy wheels or sports rims, design, size and even weight do matter. Design may be subjective, but different styles complement different cars. As for size, bigger wheels are guaranteed to make any car look sportier. Lighter wheels may actually improve performance.
- The size should follow the car manufacturer's guidelines and should not protrude from the sides of the car body.
- The overall rolling radius of the wheels and tyres should also remain unchanged. What this means is that if you fit on larger wheels, the tyre profile will have to be lower.
Do bear in mind, however, that switching to bigger wheels may compromise on fuel efficiency and ride comfort.
Tyres are the only part of your car that comes into contact with the road, so a good set of tyres will enhance safety and also provide a better driving experience. Some tyres are better in the wet, some are designed for comfort, while some are quieter than others.
The guidelines are similar to those imposed on wheels.
Nothing like adding a spoiler to make your car look sportier, as long as you follow these guidelines:
- Spoilers should not protrude from the car body laterally or longitudinally.
- They should not have any sharp corners or edges.
- They should not obstruct the driver's view.
In-vehicle entertainment, information and communication systems
These include LCD screens, VCD/DVD players and other infotainment systems.
As always, the bottom-line is, safety first.
- Entertainment systems are meant for passengers, so the rule-of-thumb is that the driver should not be able to see the visual display unit of the system. If it is within the driver's field of vision, the system should automatically disable, or the screen automatically switch off when the car is in motion.
- Infotainment systems are designed to enhance safety and communication. They should therefore not distract the driver. Information displayed should be clearly presented and legible, making it easy for the driver to glean all the necessary information at one glance while driving.
Note that modifications which are not directly related to how your car operates and do not impact your insurance coverage are sometimes referred to as accessories. These include upholstery, audio equipment, multi media equipment, communication equipment, personal computers, satellite navigation and radar detection systems, provided they are permanently fitted to the car and have no independent power source.
Meters and gauges
Many drivers like dressing up their dashboards with a plethora of extra meters and gauges that can rival aeroplane cockpits. Examples include vacuum gauges, oil temperature gauges or battery voltage meters etc.
These should not obstruct the driver's view, nor interfere with the vehicle controls.
Sunshades should not display graphics or words that are pornographic, obscene or vulgar. Or seditious and offensive towards any religion.
Curtains can be fitted on passenger windows provided that they don't obstruct the driver's view and are not drawn when the vehicle is moving.
Tinted glass helps to reduce the heat and glare from the sun.
- They must comply with international standards for safety glass.
- They mustn't hinder the transmission of signals between the In-vehicle Unit (IU) and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries.
Tinted films can be installed on glass windscreens and windows provided they are non-reflective and comply with the same regulations as tinted glass.
Air intake filter
As the name suggests, an air filter prevents dust and dirt in the air from entering the engine. It is also important that it does not restrict air flow. The filter that you are replacing with should not affect the structural integrity of the vehicle.
It's worth knowing too that routine maintenance where like-for-like parts are used and are in accordance with the manufacturer's standard specifications are not not considered as modifications.
Modifications that DO need LTA approval
Aftermarket exhaust systems
Comprising the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter and muffler, a car's exhaust system plays an important role in controlling the vehicle's emissions to meet environment standards.
- Certification from the product manufacturer is required to establish that the proposed aftermarket exhaust system is suitable for the make and model of the vehicle.
- You'll need test reports from LTA or NEA-recognised test laboratories to show that the aftermarket exhaust system complies with noise and exhaust emission standards for your particular model.
- Catalytic converters and mufflers cannot be removed.
The addition of sunroofs may affect the safety of the vehicle. The sunroof must meet international standards. And it must pass an inspection at an LTA-Authorised Inspection Centre(AIC).
LTA allows transmissions to be changed from manual to auto and vice versa. You need to submit these for LTA's approval and you'll need the following:
- Invoice of the proposed transmission from the supplier
- Certification from the manufacturer stating that the transmission is suitable for the vehicle
Other midifications that need LTA approval include superchargers or turbochargers and swapping of engines.
Click here for the full list of modifications that need LTA approval.
Modifications that are not allowed.
These modifications compromise everyone's safety including you and your passengers and other road users. Or they pose a nuisance to the public. These include the following:
- Air horns are shrill and loud. They are distracting and a nuisance to others.
- Decorative lamps, such as wiper washer LEDs, undercarriage neon lights, vehicle-interior neon lights or flashing decorative lights may distract and disorient other road users.
- Tow hooks have sharp and hard surfaces that may aggravate injuries in the event of a collision.
How do car modifications affect your insurance?
Modifying your vehicle may have implications on your insurance coverage. Even when the modifications do not require LTA approval or have passed LTA inspection, insurers may decline to insure some modified vehicles.
Ensure that you declare any modifications to your insurer for underwriting. Typically, insurers are concerned about modifications that affect how the car operates, such as changes to the engine, exhaust systems, and suspension systems.
Routine maintenance where worn-out or faulty parts are replaced with new ones in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications or installing accessories such as audio equipment and upholstery don't generally influence the car's operation and hence, should not affect your insurance coverage.
But always declare all modifications, irrespective of acceptance by LTA, for underwriting.
And when in doubt, it is always best to clarify with your insurer before carrying out any intended modifications.
- You must inform your insurer if you make any modifications to your car, even if it has passed LTA's inspection standards. Non-disclosure may result in your claims being repudiated.
- Many insurers consider modifications made to a car when deciding what premium to charge for a policy; some insurers also do not wish to insure modified cars.
- We recommend in all instances where your car is modified that you advise your insurer or prospective insurer of what changes have been made to your car.
For more information on vehicle modifications click on the General Insurance Association website.
And OneMotoring here.
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