UAE: Why modifying your car could be dangerous

James Jose /Dubai Filed on July 18, 2021
Alamy photo used for illustrative purpose

Unauthorised vehicle modifications could lead to fines, black points or even vehicle confiscation.

As day turns into night, more often than not, the deafening sound of modified cars hurtling down the road fills the air. There is that element of a speed junkie in most of us, with a large number passionate about race cars and racing — that need for speed. But some perhaps take it a tad too further by tinkering with their cars and driving it on the streets — for that adrenaline rush.

But the flipside to it is that such drivers, and cars, not just endanger the public, apart from creating nuisance and disturbance to residents, but also put themselves in harm’s way.

There have been many instances of cars catching fire due such modifications and authorities have repeatedly warned car owners not to do so. Tinkering with cars carries strict sanctions like a fine and black points and vehicle confiscation.

And road safety and auto experts weighed in on why it is dangerous to modify cars.

“Vehicles are created by the manufacturers in such a way that the individual components like engine power, suspension, braking system, visibility (window tinting) and so on are in balance. Certifying bodies like ESMA (Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology) homologate on the same criteria,” Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, told Khaleej Times.

“Hence, if any part is modified/tuned, the balance is not there anymore and the vehicles do not correlate with the given specifications anymore which causes issues with the vehicle safety which can be an issue for the motorist, the passengers and other road users, it can lead to nuisance like noise pollution, and it can result also in issues with the car insurance in case of accidents,” he added.

The Dubai Police seized 2,105 vehicles between January 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, for violating traffic laws. The violations include massive modification of cars with power boosters to increase the speed.

Not "road legal"

Madhu Chandan, an automobile professional in Dubai, listed out some of these modifications, which are not “road legal.”

“A lot of them modify their cars with superchargers, turbo chargers, Nitrous (NOS),” said Madhu.

“And when it is not tuned well from a professional, there are chances of the engine getting blown up. That is when fire mishaps happen. And when you are driving in the street, the driver is not wearing any safety equipment like helmet and overalls. That is when you risk our life,” he added.

Madhu, who has competed in the Middle East Rally championship from 2012 to 2014, as a navigator, urged car owners not to transform a normal street car into a race car. “Race cars are legally prepared with a roll cage and all safety equipment, with the driver wearing a fire-retardant suit, gloves and helmet,” Madhu explained.

Edelmann felt that stringent action needs to be taken against such motorists and garages. “Certainly, there are meaningful and authorised modifications like for off-road desert cars, but motorists must stay away from any unauthorised modifications, especially with regards to performance engine tuning, sound tuning, over-limit window tinting, light system tuning and bodywork alterations. Strict enforcement against violating motorists and garages must be in place,” Edelmann said.

Madhu too echoed Edelmann. “Such modifications are legal at racing at racetracks, drag racing, hill climbs, rallies, races and autocross events,” he said.

“Adhere to the rules issued by the authorities, which is safer for everybody. If you have the need for speed, do it in a secure and controlled environment that is safe, like a racetrack,” Madhu added.

James Jose

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