Dr Jay's Tech Topic

Legal Modifications

I just received the new edition of the STAR magazine; the official quarterly publication of STAR Touring and Riding and while flipping through the magazine came across the Tech-Talk article about making more power. I found it to be a little misleading so I decided I needed to write an addendum.

Now while I am not going to discuss the articles merits, or give away any of my engine building secrets, I do need to point out one glaring flaw. Nowhere in the article does it mention or even touch on the Legal issue regarding modifications to Emission Controlled Motor Vehicles.

Yep, everything discussed in the article is one way or another ILLEGAL to perform on your Street Licensed Yamaha. So we need to address the question, what is legal and what isn't?

A Short history of the Clean Air Act (CAA) includes the original Clean Air Act of 1963, which established funding for the study and the cleanup of air pollution. But there was no comprehensive federal response to address air pollution until Congress passed a much stronger Clean Air Act in 1970. That same year Congress created the EPA and gave it the primary role in carrying out the law. Since 1970, the EPA has been responsible for a variety of Clean Air Act programs to reduce air pollution nationwide. In 1990, Congress dramatically revised and expanded the Clean Air Act, providing the EPA even broader authority to implement and enforce regulations to reduce air pollutant emissions. The 1990 Amendments also placed an increased emphasis on more cost-effective approaches to reduce air pollution. The Federal EPA Standard is the baseline law and individual States can pass their even more stringent laws.


The legislation which built the anti-tampering laws we will discuss happened in the 1970's, so it is NOT a new law! It pertains to all "Motor Vehicles" and includes all Street Licensed Motorcycles.


First and most important to remember is that "it is illegal to modify ANY component or part of a motor vehicle which would cause the vehicles emission output to change". Remember this is in effect as of 1970- it is not a new law!


According to the law, It is ILLEGAL to modify any of the following components:

Air Boxes (does not pertain to the air filter itself, only the air filter housing)
Carburetors (including any and all internal components)
Any fuel injection component- including sensors, ECU"™s or any other component
Intake manifolds (other than factory replacement parts)
Cylinder heads (other than factory replacement parts)
Camshafts (other than factory replacement parts)
Valves (other than factory replacement parts)
Pistons (other than factory replacement parts)
All Ignition components (including but not limited to advancers, coils, wires, ECU"™s)
Any part of the Exhaust system that contains any emission related component


An Aftermarket manufacturer of "Performance" parts can get around this law by having their parts "Certified". While this is costly for the manufacturers it is the only way their parts can be deemed compliant. To be in compliance with the law when replacing any component on the above list, be sure it is a "certified" replacement part.


What does this mean for those of us that want to hear the exhaust? It is OK to change any part of the exhaust system that does not contain emission related components. An exhaust emission related component includes Catalytic converters and AIS (Air Injection) components. Now, with our Yamaha's we are pretty lucky. Yamaha builds the AIS systems into the cylinder head, but some models are equipped with Catalyzers. Yamaha has attempted to keep the catalyzers in the main collectors and not in the mufflers, so it is Legal and OK to modify the mufflers on our Yamaha's. In short, it is OK to replace the mufflers by using a "slip on" aftermarket muffler, but changing the Full system when it has a catalyzer is ILLEGAL!


** 5/2/2012 - The EPA has decided to start enforcing the NOISE limit section of the CAA and has decided that if your replacement mufflers are not stamped as approved for replacement use, therein certifying that they are noise compliant, you could be cited for a noise infraction- EVEN IF THEY ARE WITHIN FEDERALLY MANDATED NOISE LIMITS!!


For years we have been pretty lucky in that there hasn't been a lot of crackdown on our industry. For many years people have modified their motorcycles to whatever extent they wanted, but beware- TIMES ARE CHANGING.


I expect that in California, Motorcycles will be included into the annual Smog Check Program any year now, as soon as they figure out the logistics. But if you ride an OBVIOUSLY modified motorcycle and you happen into one of those roadside smog inspections, you can and will be cited and fined. The penalty is a $10,000.00 fine PER OCCURRENCE.
 (if you have a illegal exhaust and an illegal air box (i.e.: Big Air Kit) this could cost you $20,000.00!


Now if you really want a BIG power increase that is legal- buy a new V-max!!!


Ride Safe and SMART!


Dr. Jay