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Tuning, Modification, Ecu manipulation, The Legal aspects

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I wanted to hear from other tuners on what they are running up against when it comes to working on on-road vehicles. All that area around vehicles that need to comply with safety and emissions standards. How are people operating their businesses? What rules exist in your area or don't exist? Do you stick to installing programmers and with carb legal ratings or utilized waivers when using "off-road" use only parts.

I'm aware of one California-based tuning shop that won't work on a car with a license plate. Customers need to trailer the car to the shop, or leave it in the parking lot with no plates (If you drive the car into the lot, they won't tune it!) -- they really do only want to work on cars for off-road use, but there will always be customers that want their modified street car tuned.

I don't work on street cars at all, only purpose built race cars, or seriously modified cars that are only used for track-day events.

Modifications of street cars in Norway is a pain to get approved, so to my knowledge, most tries to make it look stock. Cars are rarely pulled over and checked, but there is a test every other year. This includes an emission test performed at >2000rpm in neutral.

We have an equally complicated system in the United States with a set of federal laws, state laws and in my state we fallow two sets of inspection laws where by we utilize the state of California emissions standards for all new cars sold in the state but than only one county in the whole state requires emissions testing and the rest of the state does not. What I'm curious about is how tuners are dealing with their local laws in relation to vehicle modifications that effect emissions and emissions equipment primarily. Do you have to keep these systems in tack? Do you classify all work performed as for "off road use only" and if so how are you handling logistics of getting vehicles to and from your shops? Has it forced you to work solely on a dyno and forgo road tune edits. Are you trailering to local tracks as an substitute for a road tune?

If the car is tested in the "cruise area", you can replicate the OEM tune, and there should be no difference in the emissions. The setup needs to be sound, though, injector sizing, spray pattern etc. In addition to getting a bang on stoichiometric mix, backed with closed loop control, and you may need to fiddle with injection timing. If a car was fitted with catalytic converter from the factory, chances are that the emission requirements are more strict, and you may need a cat to pass inspection. A race cat or an exhaust tube section for swapping between a cat and straight tube is a possibility. I have never heard of anyone testing the charcoal canister, but they may check if it is there or not.

How to classify the work isn't something I have though about, as I don't run a shop, but I'm curious what others do.

We're quite lucky here in NZ as there are currently no emissions standards enforced or tested for. It will come in time but I think right now the cost of the testing equipment is prohibitive for our country. I'm not specifically complaining.

I think it will become more and more prevalent that modified vehicles will need to prove that they can pass an emissions drive cycle test. This requires an ECU that is capable of doing so as well as a mechanical engine configuration that is capable. For example if you go and fit a set of 1700 cc injectors and a cam with 300 degrees duration then no tuner is going to be able to pass emissions testing.

I can't speak for tuners in regions where emissions compliance is mandatory but it is a concern that you should be factoring into your business. I'd recommend having a chat to a solicitor and seeing where you stand legally. I'd specifically be finding out whether a signed waiver/indemnity form that states that the vehicle modifications are for off road use use only is sufficient to protect you - I'll suspect it may not be unfortunately.