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Lift Laws You Need To Know

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on February 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Lift Laws You Need To Know
Photographers: Chris CollardThe 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

The end is nearly near. For multiple months we have detailed lift laws and related legislation, starting in the Northeast (Oct. '10) and moving westward. Many readers have shared their vehicle-code experiences on our forums at 4wheeloffroad.com. For example, New Jersey has intricate "high-rise" vehicle legislation, enforced by inspection stations. Reader Lee Swobodzien posted his recent licensing experience on our forum:

"I just took my newly acquired '90 Chevy Blazer on a 6-inch lift with 35s through the stability testing. The Asbury Park location where you photographed the tilt wall is where I had my truck on the 19th of August. I have a listing of applicable rules and regulations provided by NJDMV on oversized vehicles. You hit the nail on the head but missed a few things.

"New Jersey has moved away from safety inspections, only doing emissions testing now, so it is the owner's responsibility to ensure safety. Overall, the testing of the stability takes 35-45 minutes to load the truck onto the scales then balance it with the driver-side wheels up on the comedy act of a bump and the passenger-side wheels on the scales. After that, the truck is measured on the front and rear bumpers and in the inner doorframe on the driver side, the wheel height and width are checked, and everything is crunched in a computer.

"Now the real adventure is the mud flaps. They will penalize you and fail you if they do not come fully down to the bottom of the rim. I found out the hard way, as I was 1/8 inch short. In all, though, you hit it dead-on, like I said. There were just a few things you missed. Keep up the great work, and keep the muddy action rolling."

Insurance Issues
Most 4x4 owners don't think to check their insurance policy before making modifications. In case of an accident where the driver of a modified 4x4 is at fault, an insurance company can decline to pay if the vehicle has illegal modifications. Then the driver might have to prove that the modifications weren't responsible for the accident.

The message here: Verify that lifts don't void your coverage. Some insurers refuse to cover any vehicle with a modified suspension. Others only cover vehicles with a maximum of 4 inches of lift. Some even offer extended coverage for aftermarket equipment. Like lift laws, insurance company policies regarding modified vehicles vary state by state.

Southwestern Flavor
This month we cover the states that are home to much of the country's greatest wheeling. Unfortunately, the vehicle codes in many of these states aren't as 4x4-favorable as the terrain.

Utah, a global Mecca for 4x4 exploration, has comparatively conservative frame-height laws.

Colorado's vehicle code is one of the most convoluted in the country. Any suspension alterations "from the manufacturer's original design except in accordance with specifications permitting such alteration established by the department" are violations.

Michie's Legal Resources, a website that hosts the Colorado statutes, makes an interesting comment: "This section's flat prohibition against any motor vehicle suspension system alteration, except the installation of heavy-duty shock absorbers or springs, is unconstitutionally overbroad: People v. Von Tersch, 180 Colo. 295, 505 P.2d 5 (1973) (decided prior to 1975 amendment)."

Next time we'll complete our lift law series with the Northwest.

Arizona
(Revised Statutes, Title 28)
Summary: Arizona doesn't have specific lift or frame-height laws. However, pickups with modified suspensions must have mudflaps. The state also defines allowable height ranges for lights and limits the number of allowable auxiliary lights for street use. Only four front-mounted lights can be on at any one time (§28-946).

Lifted trucks in Arizona aren't limited by frame or bumper heights. Mudflaps are required, though.

Rear Fender Splash Guards (§28-958.01): Lifted pickups under a GVWR of 10,000 pounds must have guards that prevent splashing of mud or water onto windshields of other motor vehicles. These guards have to be made of a flexible rubber material that's wide enough to cover the tires' full tread widths and must extend no more than 8 inches above the ground. SUVs and Jeeps aren't mentioned, so they're apparently exempt.

Headlights (§28-924): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22.
Taillights (§28-925): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Foglights (§28-938): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§28-938): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§28-938): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.

Source
Arizona State Legislature
www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=28

California
(Vehicle Code)
Summary: The state that leads the nation in overregulation specifies maximum frame heights. Also, body lifts are limited to 5 inches.

California regulates frame heights and body lifts. Front plates are also required for street use so that municipalities can profit from their photo-radar machines.
FRAME HEIGHTS (§24008.5)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 27 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 30 in.
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 31 in.

"(1) Frame means the main longitudinal structural members of the chassis of the vehicle or, for vehicles with unitized body construction, the lowest main longitudinal structural members of the body of the vehicle.

"(2) Frame height means the vertical distance between the ground and the lowest point on the frame, measured when the vehicle is unladen on a level surface at the lowest point on the frame midway between the front axle and the second axle on the vehicle.

"(3) GVWR means the manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating, as defined in Section 390, whether or not the vehicle is modified by use of parts not originally installed by the manufacturer."

Body Lifts (§24008.5): "The lowest portion of the body floor shall not be more than five inches above the top of the frame."
Fenders, Mudflaps (§27600): "Adequate protection" that's "at least as wide as the tire tread" is required.
Headlights (§24400): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22.
Taillights (§24402): Required.
Foglights (§24404): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§24405): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§24411): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.

Source
California Department of Motor Vehicles
www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/vctoc.htm

Colorado
(Revised Statutes, Title 42)
Summary: For a state that has so many modified 4x4s, Colorado has a clunky code where suspensions are concerned. The applicable section, quoted below, seems open to interpretation. If "manufacturer's original design" means springs and shock absorbers, then any modification other than airbags should be OK, right? Or does it mean that IFS trucks can't be converted to solid axles? Or do pre-TJ Jeep bobtails have to run leafsprings? What are the "specifications established by the department"? If anyone knows, please email us at 4wheeloffroad@sorc.com

Colorado's laws are quirky. Vehicles must retain the original suspension design. No fender or mudflap laws appear to be on the books. This wide-track CJ has a plate-and not much tire coverage.

Suspension Alteration (§42-4-233): "No person shall operate a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under the laws of this state upon a public highway with either the rear or front suspension system altered or changed from the manufacturer's original design except in accordance with specifications permitting such alteration established by the department. Nothing contained in this section shall prevent the installation of manufactured heavy-duty equipment to include shock absorbers and overload springs, nor shall anything contained in this section prevent a person from operating a motor vehicle on a public highway with normal wear of the suspension system if normal wear shall not affect the control of the vehicle."

Headlights (§42-4-205): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24 inches.
Taillights (§42-4-206): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20 inches.
Passing Lights (§42-4-212): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 20 inches; two lights maximum.
Foglights (§42-4-214): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§42-4-216): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.

Source
Colorado Revised Statutes
www.michie.com/colorado

Hawaii
(revised statutes, chapter 291)
Summary: Hawaii uses bumper heights, measured at the highest point on the bottom of the bumper, instead of delineating suspension lifts. (Dropped bumpers don't count.) Body lifts are defined, and headlights must be mounted within a specific height range.

Frame Heights, Body Lifts (§291-35.1): "The vehicle frame rail, measured from a level surface to the bottom of the vehicle frame rail, shall not exceed the attached bumper height. The maximum distance between vehicle body to vehicle frame rail shall not exceed three inches. The distance between the vehicle body to vehicle frame rail shall be measured from the vehicle body mount seat to the vehicle frame rail mount seat."

BUMPER HEIGHTS (§291-35.1)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 29 in. front, 29 rear
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 33 in. front, 33 rear
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 35 in. front, 35 rear

Headlights (§291-25): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22.

Source
Hawaii Legislature
www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/hrs/default.asp

Nevada
(revised statutes, chapter 484)
Summary: Nevada keeps its vehicle-height bureaucracy to a minimum. GWVR determines maximum allowable body height off the ground. Any combination of aftermarket products is presumably allowed as long as the vehicle's body stays within spec. Vehicles exceeding 10,001 pounds GVWR or manufactured prior to 1935 are exempt.

Nevada is renowned for its legal leniency on many matters. The vehicle code is comparatively simple, using GVWR to determine maximum allowable body distance from the ground.
MAXIMUM BODY HEIGHTS (§484D.610)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 28 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 30 in.
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 32 in.

"The measurement taken to determine compliance with this section must be taken from level ground to a portion of the body or parts attached to the body which have not been added or altered from the manufacturer's original body design."

Headlights (§484D.110): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillights (§484D.115): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Foglights (§484D.180): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§484D.180): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§484D.180): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.

Source
Nevada Motor Vehicle Laws
www.dmvnv.com/codebook.htm

New Mexico
(Vehicle Code, Chapter 66)
Summary: New Mexico doesn't have any lift laws. Acceptable light heights are legislated. For lights having greater than 300 candlepower output, a maximum of four forward lamps can be illuminated at any one time (§66-3-834).

Headlights (§66-3-804): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 20.
Taillights (§66-3-805): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20.
Fog Lights (§66-3-827): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§66-3-827): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24 inches; one light maximum.
Driving Lights (§66-3-827): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16 inches; one light maximum.

Source
New Mexico Code
law.justia.com/newmexico/codes/2006/nmrc/jd_ch66-ea3.html

Utah
(State CODE, TITLE 41)
Summary: For a state that has such prime wheeling, Utah has fairly conservative frame-height laws. Any lift that keeps the frame under the specified height is allowed. (Stacking frames on top of each other doesn't count.) Fender and mudflaps are required on vehicles that have altered track widths.

Lift Blocks (§41-6A-1630): Front lift blocks are prohibited. Stacking two or more rear blocks isn't allowed. This section also makes it illegal to use non-OE wheel spacers to increase a vehicle's track width.

Body Lifts (§41-6A-1630): The lowest portion of the body floor can be no more than 3 inches above the top of the frame.

MAXIMUM FRAME HEIGHTS (§41-6A-1631[iii])
Under 4,500 lb GVWR 24 in.
4,500-7,499 lb GVWR 26 in.
7,500 lb and over 28 in.

Fenders (§41-6A-1630[2]): "If the wheel track is increased beyond the OEM specification, the top 50 percent of the tires shall be covered by the original fenders, by rubber, or other flexible fender extenders under any loading condition."

Bumpers (§41-6a-1632): Required for vehicles originally equipped with them, must be at least 41/2 inches tall, and must extend no less than the wheel-track distance (among other stipulations).
Headlights (§41-6A-1604): Mounted a minimum of 15 inches above the ground.
Taillights (§41-6A-1610): Mounted a minimum of 15 inches above the ground.

Source
Utah Code
le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE41/TITLE41.htm

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