Mods and shockers
Here’s a true story. Once upon a time, not long ago, a man owned a Vauxhall Insignia, and he decided to modify it. Soon afterwards, he collided with another car. When his insurance company discovered the (undeclared) modifications, it paid out to the third party then chased the Vectra owner for the total sum (around £25,000).
Now, it’s true - the problem here is easy to spot the Vectra driver hadn't declared his mods. Not because he was a criminal at heart, but because he simply didn't realise that he should. It's a very easy mistake to make, because it’s a popular (mis)conception about car mods that you only need to declare them if they change the vehicle’s performance. But that's not the case. Almost anything can count as a modification, from tinted windows and alloys to spoilers and engine chrome covers. Even interior changes can count as a mod. The basic rule is - if you make a change to your car you should inform your insurance company. End of.
Of course, informing your insurance company of a modification won’t necessarily affect your policy. Some changes are entirely legal, and your insurer will merely document the mod without changing your premium. But the legality of mods is a tricky area. Often it’s not obvious (as indicated by our story above) whether a modification is legal or not. Here’s the situation on a few mods which (according to the ABI) were particularly popular in 2019.
They can look pretty cool, it’s true. But neon lights are a tricky area, legally speaking. So, for example, white lights are allowed on the front of the car, and red lights can be fitted to the side. But it’s illegal to fit red lights to the front of your car, and green lights are a no-no on any part of the vehicle – as are any kind of flashing or spinning lights. And remember – while you’re allowed to have neon lights fitted to the bottom of your car, you still have to ensure that they’re out of sight and that only the glow of the light can be seen. You also need to be able to control the lights with an independent switch – otherwise they’re illegal.
Just like neon lights, window tinting is sometimes legal, sometimes not. The main deciding factor is their darkness: the driver must be able to see out of the rear or side windows properly. To ensure this, the front windscreen must let at least 75% of light through and the front side windows 70% (for cars made in 1985 or after). The police have special equipment to check these values, and if your windows are too dark, you could be in trouble. At the very least, you’ll have to remove the offending windows.
It’s legal to lower suspension, as long as it doesn’t affect the steering or headlight aim. Over-lowering can also reduce the effectiveness of the way the car handles, putting the driver and passengers at risk. However, this modification is mainly cosmetic and most insurers will accept it without affecting your premium.
Large or big bore exhausts
It may be tempting to consider an exhaust mod for a horsepower boost, but most big bore and sports exhausts are illegal for use on public roads in the UK (because of excessive noise and emissions). Drivers caught with an excessively noisy exhaust may receive an on-the-spot fine of £50, and could have their car taken off the road until the offending modification is removed. However, filters and turbos are permitted, so long as the car passes an MOT emissions test.
These are tyres which have been stretched to fit a wider wheel rim than they were originally intended for. This can place excessive stress on a tyre, contributing to blow-outs and accidents.
Stretched tyres are not currently illegal in the UK, but they must comply with Construction and Use Regulations, 1986. If they don’t, your car is deemed not to be roadworthy, which can invalidate your insurance.
Tuning (usually called ‘remapping’) the ECU of a car is a very popular mod. This is because a tuned ECU pushes more air and fuel into the engine to give higher acceleration. It’s quite legal to do, but it’s the job of an expert – so it should be carried out by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. And remember – while it’s not illegal, it’s a good example of a car mod which will push up your insurance premium.
A modification may or may not be legal, but one thing is certainly legal – to purchase from the Desperateseller.co.uk used cars section. We’ve got a great choice - why not check them out now!