Car owners want the 'show'; LTA says 'no'

SINGAPORE - Every day, an average of 60 cases of motorists illegally modifying their vehicles come to the attention of the authorities.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has dealt with an average of 1,838 cases every month till November.

This is a 26 per cent jump from the monthly average of 1,457 recorded for the whole of last year. In 2012, there were just 955 cases every month.

The rise in offences is due to stepped up enforcement, said LTA, which does ad-hoc checks on roads, as well as act on tip-offs from the public.

Motorists are also caught when they send their vehicles for routine inspections.

The "favoured" modifications to make cars go faster or "look better" include modifying the exhaust system, tinting windows and modifying headlamps.

Modifying the exhaust system typically involves removing catalytic converters, which is believed to increase horsepower while reducing fuel consumption. Motorists also opt to install after-market high-intensity discharge (HID) kits on cars originally fitted with conventional halogen bulbs.

"Illegally modified vehicle lights could cause glare or momentarily blind other drivers. This compromises the safety of the vehicle as well as its occupants and other road users," said an LTA spokesman.

LTA said the guiding principle in its regulations is vehicles used on the roads must be safe. Hence, modifications that adversely affect the performance of vehicles, road safety, and exhaust gas and noise emissions are not allowed.

Mr Bernard Tay, president of the Automobile Association of Singapore, said vehicle modifications have "gained in popularity in recent times, especially among the young, in part due to pop culture centred on motor sports, such as the Need For Speed film franchise".

He cautioned that over-modifications may overload the battery, causing short-circuit failure and even vehicle fires.

With high certificate of entitlement prices, many are keeping their cars for longer and may turn to modifications - sometimes illegal - to refresh their looks, said Mr Raymond Tang, honorary secretary of the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association.

Sources said there are between 10 and 20 workshops here where motorists can get illegal modifications done, or they can do so in Johor.

Those found guilty of illegally modifying their vehicles face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to three months' jail for the first offence.

Despite the possibility of getting caught, Mr Nareen (not his real name), 24, has shelled out $9,000 for a customised body kit and paint job, to make his Mitsubishi Lancer resemble a posh car like a Bentley or Chrysler.

"It's my passion... I take part in auto-styling competitions and people also book my car for weddings... Besides, I did nothing to my engine, so it's still safe to drive," he said.

This article was first published on Dec 31, 2014.
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