Modifications: Legal or Not
State laws have evolved over many generations and they continue to change. Some laws are better than others, and there is a constant need to remind state policy makers not to be biased in favor of the vehicle's original equipment, such as lighting, tires and wheels, suspension components, and bumper/frame height. For example, some state laws allow motorists to be ticketed when an officer has made a subjective noise level determination that the exhaust system is "louder than what came with the car." To cite another example, bills have been introduced in state legislatures to ban spinners even though they are legal at the federal level. Opposing arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive equipment and inspection laws is a constant challenge.
The hobby must work with legislators to mitigate legislation that would ban the installation of power booster systems, including nitrous oxide systems intended for off-road (track) use. The SEMA model bill aims to do just that with language that provides for the operation of a vehicle equipped for nitrous oxide, so long as the nitrous oxide is disconnected from the engine when the vehicle is anywhere other than the track.
Racing is a dangerous activity that should take place at a track. Many states have increased the penalties for involvement in street racing, such as Florida, with the Luis Ortega Street Racing Act, in an effort to cut down on street racing related deaths and injuries. The Racers Against Street Racing (RASR) is a coalition of auto manufacturers, aftermarket parts companies, professional drag racers, sanctioning bodies, racetracks, and automotive magazines devoted to promoting safe and legal alternatives to illegal street racing on a national level. The goal of RASR is to provide a professional controlled environment in which today's sport compact enthusiasts can safely participate in automotive-related events throughout the United States.
My Engine Is Not a Vegetarian-It Wants Gas
There is a battle raging in Washington that may force you to put ethanol in your car, whether you want to or not. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently allows gasoline to include up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10), a fuel additive made from corn or other biomass sources. The ethanol industry wants the EPA to increase the amount to 15 percent.
Ethanol attracts water. In turn, the resulting condensation can corrode the fuel lines, fixtures, and tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, etc). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the fuel/air mixture going into the cylinders. The mixture may be too lean, producing a hot exhaust capable of damaging the catalytic converter. The end result may also be more nitrogen oxides, a building block for smog.
Many newer engines and parts have been designed to be more compatible with alcohol fuels, and E-15 will not be an issue. But E-10 has been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more science before it rules on the request.
Why does it matter? The fact is gasoline without ethanol may eventually become scarce or non-existent when you pull up to the pump. We also face an education curve. For many people who already ignore the "contains 10 percent ethanol" sign will not understand that 15 percent may cost them a pretty penny in repair bills.