‘Quick Fix’ Modifications Costing Lives, Warns IAM

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Britain’s leading independent road safety charity is warning that some popular aftermarket vehicle modifications are not only making cars and vans illegal; they could also be risking lives.

Britain’s leading independent road safety charity is warning that some popular aftermarket vehicle modifications are not only making cars and vans illegal; they could also be risking lives.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has highlighted three of the most common aftermarket tweaks that render vehicles illegal – and noted that people are rarely prosecuted despite the risks to other road users. The tweaks are:

  • diesel particulate filter removal;
  • fitting xenon headlights; and
  • reprogramming or ‘chipping’ vehicle electronic control units (ECUs)

Diesel particulate filters (DPFs) can sometimes be troublesome, especially for van operators making frequent stops in urban areas. Due to the fact the DPF doesn’t run at the optimal temperature in town centre driving, the item can sometimes clog up and fail – causing an expensive and lengthy repair.

Some garages offer to remove the filters, assuring the operator the modification is acceptable – but the result of these back-alley tweaks is to increase deadly pollutants and CO2 emissions.

IAM head of technical policy Tim Shallcross said: “DPF removal has always been illegal but since 1 January 2014 has also been reason to fail an MOT. Some garages are blatantly still doing it. In short – they are selling a service that’s killing people.”

“Removing a DPF isn’t a task that can be done accidentally, as it involves reprogramming the engine management computer. Before 1 January it wouldn’t count as an MOT fail; but unscrupulous traders still offer to cut the case open from the top of the unit, remove the filter and welt it shut again – in an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the tester to achieve an MOT pass.

“This is disgraceful, but people are rarely prosecuted for this openly advertised service.”

The popular trend for xenon headlamp conversions is also a major hazard – not having a self-levelling or washing function means they can dazzle oncoming traffic, potentially causing an accident.

Shallcross said: “Fitting this kind of lighting is illegal. Claiming ignorance of the law is no excuse; these lights which people choose because they look stylish could potentially have tragic consequences.”

Finally the reprogramming of ECUs, or ‘chipping’ is another popular modification that is fraught with hazards for a number of reasons.

Shallcross said: “No aftermarket warranty company will offer to cover a car that has been chipped. If you don’t tell you insurer it is likely to invalidate your policy.

“But if you do tell your insurer, he could refuse to cover your car at all, or could demand a hefty increase to your premium. Is it really worth it in the long run?”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. The IAM is the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, dedicated to improving standards and safety in driving, motorcycle riding and cycling. The commercial division of the IAM operates through its occupational driver training company IAM Drive & Survive. The IAM has more than 100,000 members in the UK and Ireland. It is best known for the advanced driving test and the advanced driving, motorcycling and cycling courses. Its policy and research division offers advice and expertise on road safety.

Media contacts:
IAM Press Office – 020 8996 9777
press(dot)office(at)iam(dot)org(dot)uk
ISDN broadcast lines available
iam.org.uk

ENDS ALL

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Tanvir Nandra
Institute of Advanced Motorists
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