Our state-by-state survey of the state of current lift-law legislation finally comes to a (grand?) finale. Previous articles in this series are online at 4wheeloffroad.com.
Crossing State Lines
Technically, the vehicle must comply with the regulations for the states it's in as well as the one where it's licensed. Some states' enforcement toward visiting vehicles is letter-of-the-law, while others are less likely to pull over tourist-dollar 4x4s that are in the ballpark on bumper and frame heights, assuming other violations aren't present.
Noncompliance for current pet-peeve equipment such as fenders/mudflaps can be the reason for getting pulled over. A domino effect of violations can then ensue. This often depends on the officer's knowledge of the vehicle code and what type of day he or she is having. When in doubt, play it safe and trailer your trail rig to other states.
This month's collection of states reveals extreme approaches to vehicular regulations. Washington State has one of the densest codes in the country. In contrast, Wyoming apparently believes in its residents' common sense concerning safely lifted 4x4s.
Since we started this series last fall, some states have altered height laws or proposed changes. For example, Iowa is considering limiting frame heights to a modest 23 inches.
Hopefully, Iowa's bill won't slide through unchallenged.
SEMA, the trade association comprised of aftermarket parts manufacturers and sellers, opposes overly restrictive laws and pushes for intelligent legislation that's based on actual engineering data: frame and bumper heights ranging from 24 to 28 inches, depending on GVWR. (See "Lobby for the Hobby," Dec. '11.) SEMA employs lawyers and lobbyists to represent the multi-billion-dollar automotive-accessories industry.
To keep tabs on upcoming lift-law legislation, all enthusiasts are encouraged to sign up for the SEMA Action Network email blasts at www.semasan.com. Also, the website LiftLaws.com routinely updates its state-by-state listings of lift regulations. Finally, feel free to post your lift-law experiences on our forum, www.4wheeloffroad.com/community.
(Administrative Code, Title 13)
SUMMARY: Alaska follows the current trend of setting allowable frame heights (measured at the lowest point between the tires) instead of focusing on components. Also, body lifts are limited to three inches.
|FRAME HEIGHTS (§04.005)|
|4,500 lb GVWR or less||24 in.|
|4,501-7,500 lb GVWR||26 in.|
|7,501-10,000 lb GVWR||28 in.|
Body Lifts (§04.005): "... A Motor Vehicle May Not Be Modified To Position The lowest portion of the body floor more than three inches above the top of the frame ..."
Rear Fender Splash Guards (§04.227, §04.265): "No vehicle may be driven upon a highway or vehicular way or area with sharp protuberances, or with fenders, bumpers, or other equipment removed, and which may endanger persons or other objects.
"No person may drive a motor vehicle unless it has a device which effectively reduces the wheel spray or splash of water or other substance to the rear of the vehicle.
"The device required in [the above] of this section must be installed and maintained so that the device placed behind a wheel extends downward to a distance of 14 inches from the surface of the ground when the vehicle is standing on level ground."
Headlights (§04.020): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22.
Taillights (§04.025): Minimum height of 20 inches above the ground at their center points.
Bumpers (§04.272): "If a motor vehicle was equipped, when assembled, with bumpers or other collision energy absorption or attenuation system, the system must be maintained in good operating condition, and no person may remove, disconnect, cause or knowingly permit the removal or disconnection of a part of the system, except temporarily in order to make repairs, replacements, or adjustments, during which time the vehicle may not be driven."
Alaska State Legislature
(Statutes, Title 49)
Summary: Idaho uses bumper heights to limit lifts.
|BUMPER HEIGHTS (§49-966)|
|4,500 lb GVWR or less||24 in. front, 26 rear|
|4,501-7,500 lb GVWR||27 in. front, 29 rear|
|7,501-lb GVWR or more||28 in. front, 30 rear|
|4x4s, dualies under 7,501 lb GVWR|
|30 in. front, 31 rear|
Fenders, Mudflaps (§49-949): Fenders or covers must be "constructed as to be capable at all times of arresting and deflecting dirt, mud, water, or other substance as may be picked up and carried by wheels ..."
Headlights (§49-905): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24; two lights minimum.
Taillights (49-906): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20; one light minimum.
Foglights (§49-918): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§49-918): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§49-918): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16 inches; two lights maximum.
(Montana Code, Title 61)
Summary: Montana doesn't have any law on lifts, frame height, or bumper height. Lights must be mounted within a specified range above the ground. Bumpers and tire coverage are both required.
Headlights (§61-9-203): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22; two lights minimum.
Taillights (§61-9-204): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15; one light minimum.
Foglights (§61-9-217): Mounted no higher than 30 inches; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§61-9-217): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (§61-9-217): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.
Bumpers (§61-9-430): "(1) A motor vehicle of less than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or rating registered in Montana, except a motorcycle, a quadricycle, a motor-driven cycle, or a farm tractor, must be equipped with a front bumper and, unless the vehicle is equipped with work-performing features that make installation impractical or unnecessary, with a rear bumper.
"(2) This section does not apply to a street rod, as defined in 61-1-101 , vehicles not originally equipped with front or rear bumpers, or vehicles for which bumpers were not required by federal law or regulation at the time of manufacture."
Fenders, Mudflaps (§61-9-407): Required, must extend down to at least 20 inches above the ground for vehicles 8,000 pounds GVWR or less, at least 10 inches above the ground for vehicles exceeding 8,000 pounds GVWR.
Montana Code Annotated 2009
(Revised Statutes, Title 59)
Summary: Oregon is one of the most lenient states in the country for lifted vehicles. Tires must be covered to contain road debris. Maximum heights for auxiliary lights are spelled out.
Auxiliary Lights (§59-816-060): Maximum height is 54 inches.
Fenders, Mudflaps (§59-815-180, 59-815-182): Required, must extend the full section width of the tread and protrude down to at least 27 inches above the ground.
Oregon State Legislature
(Revised Code, Title 46; Administrative Code, Title 204)
Summary: Washington addresses more aspects of vehicular components than most states-so many that the state uses two codes to contain all of the requirements. For example, lug nuts can't extend past the tire tread, the maximum vehicle turning radius is 32 feet, and steering wheels must have a minimum 12-inch diameter. (Also, no part of the steering wheel can snag the driver's clothing or jewelry.) Mandated bumper heights determine allowable lifts. Body lifts (maximum 4-inch space between frame and body) and swaybars are also covered. Exceptions are made for kit and collector vehicles.
|MAXIMUM BUMPER HEIGHTS (§204-10-022)|
|4,500 lb GVWR or less||24 in. front, 26 rear|
|4,501-7,500 lb GVWR||27 in. front, 29 rear|
|7,501 lb GVWR and more||28 in. front, 30 rear|
Bumpers (§204-10-022): Vehicles originally equipped with bumpers shall "maintain that system in good operational condition." Similar to Alaska's code, removing or disconnecting bumpers/"energy-absorption or attenuation systems" except to repair them is illegal. Replacement bumpers must be from a "recognized manufacturer" or must meet "the bumper standards set under [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] 49 CFR 581," SAE Bumper Standards, "or equivalent standards." Bumpers must be at least 4 1/2 inches tall.
Body Lifts (§204-10-036): "Body lifts are permitted provided that they are manufactured by an aftermarket manufacturer, designed for the make and model vehicle on which they are installed, and installed according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Body lifts may not use more than a three-inch spacer and may not raise the body more than four inches above the frame when all components are installed."
Swaybars (§204-10-036): "Anti-sway devices to control lateral movement" are required in rear-coil-spring suspension systems.
Frame (§204-10-022): Fabricated frames must be certified as meeting SAE Standards, IIHS 49 CFR 571, and labeled in accordance with FMVSS criteria.
Fenders (§204-10-022, 46.37.505): These must cover the entire tread width and extend down to at least the center of the axle. "Coverage of the tire tread circumference must be from at least fifteen degrees in front and to at least seventy-five degrees to the rear of the vertical centerline at each wheel measured from the center of the wheel rotation. At no time can the tire come in contact with the body, fender, chassis, or suspension of the vehicle."
Headlights (§46.37.040): Mounted no higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24; two lights minimum.
Taillights (§46.37.050): Mounted no higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15; two lights minimum.
Foglights (§46.37.180): Mounted no higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12; two lights maximum.
Passing Lights (§46.37.180): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24; two lights maximum.
Driving Lights (46.37.180): Mounted no higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16; two lights maximum.
2007 CFR, Title 49
Revised Code of Washington
Washington Administrative Code
(Statutes, Title 31)
Summary: For 4x4 enthusiasts, Wyoming is the final frontier in the Lower 48. The state doesn't have any laws on the books regarding frame or bumper heights. Light heights aren't specified either. Street-compliant vehicles must have at least two headlights and two taillights.
Title 31 of Wyoming Code