Every car has specifications the manufacturer mandates, which are documented in the R.C. People make modifications to cars to improvise the look and make the car more efficient, economical, and comfortable. As per the ruling by the Supreme court of India in 2019, modifying your car is illegal in India.
The judgment by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran said in its verdict - "No car can be altered to change original specification made by the manufacturer. Such particulars cannot be altered, which have been specified by the manufacturer for entry in the registration certificate." According to the provision of the Act, 'alteration' means a change in the structure of a vehicle.
However, we need to know which alterations or modifications are allowed and which aren't. Let us look at a few changes to cars and the rules we must abide by while making those.
Painting the car in the same colour as before is allowed; however, approval from R.T.O. is necessary if a different colour is to be given, and the change should be documented in the R.C. book. Any colour can be chosen, except the army green colour, which is reserved for vehicles belonging to the Indian army. Experts advise that while selecting a different colour, the original colour is removed entirely by scraping or sandblasting, not just priming over the existing colour and applying the new paint. This is necessary because in case the new colour chips, the older colour peeking out looks worse. One reason why the permission of R.T.O. must be sought before painting the car is to reduce the number of crimes, as changing the colour of a car can be used by criminals to get away undetected.
No structural changes are allowed to be done to a vehicle. If such changes must be made, the reason must be justified, and permission from A.R.A.I. (Automotive research association of India) has to be taken.
Car horns are generally designed so that other motorists or pedestrians get an idea about the car's design from the sound of the horn. For example, smaller cars have a horn higher in pitch than larger ones. Changing the car horn is not illegal; however, the frequency of the sound should not exceed 80 decibels. Air horns or pressure horns are banned, taking into consideration the safety of the environment as well as people, as they cause noise pollution,
Sometimes, the car engine may start giving problems even though the rest of the car is in good condition. A faulty car engine can be replaced with a new one with the necessary permission from the R.T.O. One can improvise the Horsepower and efficiency by replacing the engine. However, the capacity of the new engine should not exceed that of the original one. It should match the specifications given by the manufacturer. The bill passed by the Supreme Court in 2019 prohibits modifications that do not comply with the manufacturer's stipulations. If any changes are made, they must be done with proper approval from R.T.O. This includes the change in car seat number, which must show in the R.C. book, and this can be done only with R.T.O.'s go-ahead.
In India, it is illegal to change a car's exhaust unless it is approved by the R.T.O. Aftermarket exhausts that exceed 100 decibels and cause a nuisance to motorists and pedestrians are banned.
Making alterations in the car suspension and changing the ground clearance can enhance the quality of the drive. However, care should be taken so that a significant margin does not change the ground clearance. A change of a few millimetres is acceptable, but lowering the height too much or increasing it by several inches can pose problems. When dealing with suspensions, one must understand the difference between coil springs and shock absorbers. Coils carry the vehicle's weight and enhance the ride's quality. Shock absorbers dampen the oscillations of the coils and smoothen the ride. So changing the shock absorbers will give the ride a better quality of smoothness. Cracked or worn-out bushings may have to be replaced to improve the suspension.
A tinted window blocks the majority of the sunlight that can otherwise directly filter inside a car through the windows. India is a tropical country, the sun shines almost every year, and the summer season can take temperatures to intolerable limits. As a result, despite the air conditioning, the sun streaming from the car windows can make the passenger extremely uncomfortable due to the prickly heat of the direct rays. Tinted windows filter out most of these rays so that the inside of the car doesn't bear the brunt of the heat. Tinted glasses also provide the occupants' privacy as everything inside the car is not visible without the tinted windows. In 1988, the Motor Vehicles Act was passed, stating that the front and rear windshield should allow 70 % V.L.T. (Visual Light Transmission), while the windows should allow 50 % V.L.T. However, in 2012, the Supreme court of India passed a ruling prohibiting tinted glass or any alternatives like sun film. The trigger for this ruling was the increasing number of crimes that could take place in the close confines of a car with tinted glasses. However, if the tinted glass conforms to the standards dictated by the Motor vehicles act of 1988, then it is acceptable. Lighter shades of tint can be used, which are equally effective against U.V. rays and sunlight and yet aren't too dark. While purchasing the product, it is better to confirm that the brand is reliable and that all these government regulations are met.
The number of car seats in a car cannot be altered. However, modifications can be made to suit physically disabled persons. These modifications may include customizations like automatic or hand-operated accelerators or brakes, adapted mirrors, or wheelchair lifts. Certain modifications can also be made to make the posture healthy while sitting in the car. In India, especially in metro cities where the daily average travel time to and fro from the office exceeds two hours, the car seats must maintain a good and healthy posture. If the car seats do not hold a good posture, they may give rise to back and neck problems in the long run. Specially designed cushions are available that effectively reduce the flaws in the car seat design and give a better posture to the rider. Even though the number of car seats cannot be reduced or increased, there are several aftermarket modifications that can make the car seats plusher and more comfortable.
In India, the government has laid down rules regarding the number plate, which must be abided by. Changing the font, size, and dimensions or adding fancy animation or artwork is not allowed. So basically, any kind of fancy number plates are not allowed.
The car roof is an integral part of the structure of a car, and as such, any modifications in the same can compromise the structural integrity of the car. Hence any alterations to the car roof, like cutting the car roof (convertible style) or creating a sunroof, are not allowed.
Changing the headlights and tail lights is not allowed. One cannot change the colour of the lights as well. Too bright lights can temporarily blind the driver of an oncoming car, which may lead to accidents. Equipping the car with additional flashing lights of any form, colour, or beacon lights is illegal and not allowed. The only lights which can be safely installed are L.E.D. lights and artillery lamps. The artillery lamps should not be above the prominence of stock headlamps and should be covered on public roads. Similarly, the tail lamps can be modified with L.E.D. intercalate to make them look posher, but changing the colour of the tail lamp is illegal and not allowed.
A crash guard, also known as a Bill bar, is a metallic structure attached to the front of the bumper of a car. It was originally designed to save the car in the event of a collision by absorbing the shock of the initial impact. However, crash guards prove to be more dangerous. One reason is that they reduce the distance between two cars and can themselves be the cause of the collision. Secondly, they bear the impact of the crash but transfer the energy to the entire body of the car. And third, the most important reason is that the protective airbags open in the event of collusion only when the vehicle's bonnet bears the impact. If the impact is on the coast guard and it does not reach the bonnet, airbags do not open, which can be very dangerous.
Car tyres can be altered if they fit within the specifications laid down by the car manufacturer. While changing tyres, due consideration should be given to the speed rating and the load index. The new tyres should have better quality as regards speed rating and load index while still conforming to the manufacturer's specifications. Attaching massive tyres that do not fit the specifications is risky and illegal. The car's width should never protrude beyond the car's body.
The body lift kit helps to increase the car's height without making any changes to the car's suspension. However, these can prove dangerous and are illegal in India.
Increasing the width and length of a vehicle to make it look like an expensive car is illegal and banned in India.
According to the Automotive research association of India (A.R.A.I.), a modified car must undergo mandatory manifold checks by government-recognized agencies. While making any modifications to a car, one should decide the priority and make those changes in the legally appropriate way. Some changes are illegal, some are allowed with R.T.O.'s permission, and some can be done without any other hassle. The knowledge of these should be borne in mind before making any alterations or modifications to a car in India.