Law & Order

California Air Resources Board Issues Enforcement Advisory for Non-Compliant Performance Aftermarket Parts

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently issued an Enforcement Advisory to help the public understand how California law and regulations apply to the sale of emissions-related equipment that enhance highway and off-road vehicle performance. The document does not make any changes to the regulations or how California law is applied. Rather, it serves as a reminder of the law and how it is enforced by CARB. The Advisory notes that:

  • CARB enforces against any manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, dealer, installer, retailer and/or repair shop that offers for sale or sells an uncertified vehicle, an illegally modified vehicle, or an illegal part, or installs an illegal part on an emission-controlled vehicle operated on a public highway.
  • CARB has authority to enforce against individual vehicle owners that have violated the law by tampering, modifying, or installing illegal parts on public highway vehicles.
  • Penalties may range up to $37,500 per violation.
  • CARB has provided detailed examples of industry practices that demonstrate compliance.

The law applies to emissions-related performance equipment that can be installed on any public highway vehicle which includes a car, truck, on- and off-highway motorcycle and other on- and off-road recreational vehicles. Generically speaking, the law applies to performance products installed within the fuel/emissions system—from the air intake to the end of the catalytic converter. CARB has compiled a comprehensive product category list.

Subject parts produced or sold in California are required to receive an “Executive Order” (EO) from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) demonstrating that a vehicle will remain in its certified configuration when the part is installed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also recognizes an EO as demonstrating the part is legal for sale and use in all 50 states.

California exempts racing vehicles from vehicle emissions control requirements and defines a racing vehicle as a competition vehicle not used on a public highway. It is legal to market, sell and install performance aftermarket parts not covered by a CARB EO on racing vehicles. Nevertheless, it is illegal to market, sell or install those same parts on an emission-controlled vehicle for operation on a public highway. Such violations can occur regardless of any real or claimed intent regarding how the part will be used, such as the part will only be used on racing or competition vehicles.

The CARB Advisory provides an examples of industry practices that help demonstrate compliance by a responsible party, including:

  • Has, or is pursuing CARB EOs for covered products.
  • Installs, sells, advertises, or services only emissions legal parts (replacement parts and/or parts with CARB EOs) for vehicles with license plates and/or DMV registration.
  • Refuses to perform emissions-related repairs on licensed or registered vehicles that appear to be noncompliant (vehicle has missing or noncompliant equipment).
  • Recognizes that racing vehicles are not licensed or registered vehicles and should be trailered to any events or to any repair facility.
  • Products without CARB EOs should be labelled as illegal for operation on any public highway, and only legal if used on a racing vehicle.
  • Confirms that the consumer has a legitimate reason for purchasing a product without a CARB EO (ex: for a racing vehicle), and obtains information to document the sale (ex: consumer’s name, address, driver’s license number, affiliation with a racing organization or track, signed affidavit).
  • Tracks sales or installation of products without a CARB EO anticipating low numbers for true racing applications. Such records must be available for CARB inspection and kept for four years from the date of sale or installation.
  • Has a robust training program for all sales, marketing, and shipping staff on the anti-tampering prohibitions, and associated audit program.

SEMA has been a driving force in the effort to assist companies comply with California and federal clean air laws. SEMA has also established the SEMA Garage to assist members in testing their emissions-related parts. The SEMA Garage makes experts and resources available to help members navigate the compliance process, including:

  • Evaluation of your product and recommendations for compliance procedures.
  • Assistance with the CARB EO process.
  • Interaction with CARB staff on your behalf.
  • Review and evaluation of test data.

The SEMA Garage includes a laboratory where members can have their products tested at an affordable cost. The lab capabilities cover all tests (except evap) that may be required by CARB for the purposes of obtaining an EO for both gasoline and diesel vehicles. There are other test laboratories around the country as well. SEMA encourages it members to pursue testing of applicable emissions-related products for highway vehicles. For more information, visit