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What the Heck Is Legal in Your State?
From The December 2000 Issue of Off-Road Magazine
(Notice: This page is out of date. Please contact your local State Police or Highway Patrol. If you have updated information, please contact us.)
BY TORI TELLEM
LET'S KICK THIS OFF BY SAYING THAT finding out what's legal in every state is about as tough as figuring which one of those whiny, rodent gnawing survivors would pocket a million bucks. You want to do right by The Man, but it ain't all that easy to track down the info. Start with the highway patrol and they'll send you to the DMV, who will refer you to the offices of Public Safety, who will recommend that you talk with AAA, who will return you to the highway patrol.
Seriously, there's more passing of the buck in some states than at a banquet at the Sportsman's Lodge. We even had one state's finest tell us he didn't have a clue and we should call a local 4x4 shop. But that's nothing like the one who told us we needed to talk to the attorney general. Right.
We'd like to think your attorney general is far too busy to take calls from Billy Joe Bob about his 4x4.
But despite all that, we still managed to compile the rules of the road. We burned up the phone lines trying to get all this information, but you online users might want to start with Officer.com, which has links to the police and DMV in almost every state (as well as international information), making it a good source for phone numbers and addresses. If you have further questions regarding the laws in your state, the best bet is indeed the highway patrol-but get the answers before you hit the road, not after you've been pulled over.
One thing you should be aware of: All states that base their laws on headlights and taillights take their measurements from the center of the lamp to the terra firma.
There aren't codes dealing specifically with the suspension components; rather, you'll have to base your mods on the reflectors. They can't be more than 60 inches above the ground.
Alaska is another state that bases its laws on lights, and in this case it's the distance from the headlights and taillights to the ground, which is 54 inches max and 24 minimum front and rear. One note: This state requires mudflaps.
It's all about mudflaps. The rear fender's splashguards can't be more than 8 inches from the ground and must be wide enough, of course, to actually cover the full tread of the tires. However, 1/4-ton or lighter pickups are exempt, unless you've increased the OE bumper height. So, in other words, lift it, and you're stuck following the mudflap rules. Leave your pickup stock, and you can skip the flaps. Also keep in mind that empty or loaded, your truck can't be taller than 13 feet 6 inches.
There's no law governing suspension upgrades, but there is a statute that restricts the height of headlights. They can't be lower than 24 inches or higher than 54 inches from the ground. However, the overall height restriction is 13 feet 6 inches without permit, thereby limiting all those dreams you just had.
What you can do is dependent on the GVWR. If your truck's is 4,500 pounds, the maximum frame height is
27 inches. If the GVWR is 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 30 inches, and for 7,501 - to 10,000-pounders, it's
31 inches. Also keep in mind that the lowest portion of the body floor can't be more than 5 inches above the top of the frame.
No altering from the OE design is allowed. Psych!! It's not allowed unless you follow the rules: Headlights can't be more than 44 inches high, while taillights reach their legal limit at 72 inches.
Modifying the factory bumper height is OK, as long as you keep it at 30 inches from the ground, or lift the vehicle no more than 4 inches.
Short and sweet, without legal-eagle mumbo-jumbo: Don't let more than 30 inches get between the ground and the bottom of the bumper.
District of Columbia
The headlamps on every motor vehicle (and that means your motorcycle too if you've got one) must stay below 54 inches, and taillamps must not be higher than 72 inches. The low for the front is 24, and for the rear 15. But we would hope you'd be altering your truck in the other direction.
If your truck's net weight is less than 2,000 pounds, the max bumper height is 24 inches front and 26 inches rear. If it's more 2,000 but less than 3,000, it's 27 front and 29 rear. And if it hits the scales between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30 inches.
If you modify the OE bumper more than 2 inches above (or below, for that matter) the manufacturer's spec, don't be surprised if you're cited.
Hawaii also determines what's OK based on the GVWR. If your truck is 4,500 pounds or less, the front and rear bumpers' maximum height is 29 inches. If you're looking at 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 33 inches for both. And 7,501 to 10,000 pounds? Don't make it higher than 35 inches at either end. Also be aware that the allowable distance between the body and the framerail tops off at 3 inches.
Lift laws here depend on the GVWR. 4,500 pounds or less, the front bumper can be up to 24 inches and the rear 26 inches. For 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 27 inches in front and 29 out back, and for 7,501 to 10,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30 inches. Interestingly enough, 4x4s and dual-wheel trucks with a 10,000-pound or lighter GVWR can have 30inch-tall bumpers up front and 31 in back.
You can't lift the body from the chassis more than 3 inches. In terms of bumper height, a 4,500-pound GVWR or less and your front bumper can't go higher than 24 inches, and the rear must be no more than 26 inches. GVWRs between 4,501 and 7,500 mean 27 inches at the front and 29 at the rear. Finally, if your truck is between 7,501 and 9,000, the allowable altering is 28 and 30 inches.
Simply put, that bumper needs to stay within 3 inches of the factory height. Keep those headlights at 54 inches while you're at it.
We've been told that Iowa has repealed requirements concerning lifted 4x4s. For now, that means the general height, weight, and width requirements that apply to all other vehicles in the state apply to your four-by. Translation: The height cannot exceed 13 feet 6 inches, and the width can't go beyond 8 feet.
There aren't laws specifically about the suspension, but rather about headlight, taillamp, and reflectors. Headlights should be no higher than 54 inches (no lower than 24 inches), and the taillamps can't reach higher than 72 inches (or below 15). Reflectors must be present front and rear (out back they can be incorporated into the light or stand alone) and can't be higher than 60 inches or lower than 15.
Currently, there are no restrictions in terms of bumper height. The Kentucky General Assembly has addressed the issue before but, lo and behold, no one could agree on anything. Just keep it at what most mortals would call safe.
It's a headlight state. No matter what kind of motor vehicle you drive, the lights can't be higher than 54 inches. Alter the suspension however you deem fit, as long as the lights are up to code. FYI, foglights can't be higher than 30 inches from the ground.
Headlights: Don't even think about going higher than 54 inches. However, keep in mind that the original suspension cannot be "disconnected", but don't let that stop you from bolting on heavy-duty shocks and overload springs. Other need-to-knows: Don't remove or disconnect the ABS, and the tires can be only two sizes larger than the manufacturer's recommendation. Spring-shackle extensions are also a no-no.
No trucks or multipurpose vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less can be taller than 28 inches. A truck beyond 10,000 pounds-but not more than 18,000 pounds-can go beyond 30 inches (you Excursion owners just made it into that first grouping under the wire). Lift more than those 30, and you'll be ticketed and/or given a Safety Equipment Repair Order (SERO) to fix the violation.
Get out your calculator: The maximum allowable mechanical lift (as well as what's acceptable in terms of bigger rubber) can be determined by this formula:
Maximum Lift = Wheelbase x Wheel Track
For example, if you did that formula and came up with 2 inches, then a 2-inch lift and a 2-inch increase in tire size is allowable, equaling a total lift of 4 inches over stock.
Lift blocks between the front axle and springs, or lift blocks that exceed 4 inches in height between the rear axle and springs, are not allowed. Shackle replacements cannot exceed the OE length by more than 2 inches, and ixnay on the coil-spring spacers. In terms of acceptable height, less than 4,501 GVWR, and your frame height cannot exceed 24 inches, and the bumper height can't go beyond 26 inches. For GVWRs between 4,501 and 7,500, those numbers are 24 and 28 inches. For 7,501- to 10,000-pound vehicles, keep the height at 26 and 30 inches.
The maximum legal height for bumpers is 25 inches from the bottom of the bumper to the ground. If you attach something to the bumper to make it conform to the legal height, it must be just as strong as the factory bumper or meet SAE standards. Simply bolting on pieces of wood or metal isn't gonna cut it, folks. If you slap on a lift kit, you might actually be required to register your truck as a "reconstructed" vehicle, and that would mean you'll have to pay an additional road-use tax and need an inspection where a new VIN would be applied.
No vehicle can be modified in any way that will put it over the state's 8-inch total-lift limit, and the maximum suspension lift front and rear is 6 inches (so make sure your big tires won't be over the limit if you raise the suspension that much).
Here's another state that uses the GVWR as the bumper-height guideline. For vehicles 4,500 pounds and under, the front bumper can't be taller than 24 inches and the rear must see no more than 26 inches. For 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 27 inches front and 29 rear, and for 7,501 to 9,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30 inches.
No laws here, but your truck will need to meet the lighting requirement, which is that headlights are no higher than 72 inches or lower than 15 inches.
There aren't any specific laws concerning lift kits, but mudflaps get all the attention. They must block the entire width of the tires.
We'll cut to the chase: The bumper height, be it front or rear, cannot go beyond 24 inches.
No vehicle's height (and we're talking loaded too) may be taller than 13 feet 6 inches. Don't change the height or alter the bumper in any way that would make it farther than 20 inches from the ground.
You can raise the suspension only 4 inches above stock height. Go any higher and your truck becomes classified as a "High Rise" and it must undergo a stability.test at a state facility.
The restrictions this state has are that headlamps can't be higher than 54 inches, and taillamps can't be higher than 72 inches. However, it's no-holds-barred on the type of Iift used.
AII 1990-and-newer commercial vehicles and trucks can't go crazy and get that bumper above 24 inches from the ground. Also keep in mind that headlights must not be more than 54 inches above the cement, and taillights can't be higher than 72 inches. Turn-signal lights can't exceed 83 inches.
Don't even think about going higher than 6 inches from the factory height-unless, of course, you get a written OK from the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. You don't need a permission slip if yours is a multipurpose ride atop a truck chassis that sees some dirt.
A height of 14 feet, loaded or unloaded, is the limit. Keep in mind that if your tires poke out from the body, you're best advised to stick on fender flares to keep the police at bay.
This state keeps an eye on the GVWR for bumper height. For 4,500 pounds and under, 24 inches is the max at the front, 26 at the rear, and 4,501 to 7,500 is 27 to 29. For 7,501 to 10,000, it's 28 and 31 inches. If the body or truck-bed height is altered, the difference in height between the body floor and/or the bed floor to the top of the framerail can be no more than 4 inches.
Before you pick out that lift kit, keep in mind that headlights can be no more than 54 inches from the ground, and the taillights' can't exceed 72 inches.
Oregon doesn't have a maximum bumper-height law, but headlights can be only 54 inches from the center of the headlight to the asphalt. Also, the maximum height of a vehicle, with anything on top or loaded, is 14 feet.
Be aware that increasing the wheel track by using spacers or similar doodads thicker than 1/4 inch is a very bad move. On medium and heavy-duty trucks, the rear bumper must be within 30 inches of the ground when the truck is unloaded.
For all vehicles with a 10,000-pound GVWR or less, you can raise the chassis or body no more than 4 inches from the OE height.
You can't modify either up or down by more than 6 inches from the original height.
There aren't regulations for the suspension, per se, but the taillights can be no higher than 72 inches.
There can be no more than 4 inches between the body floor and the top of the frame. The distance between the bumper and the ground is 24 inches for GVWRs of 4.500 and less; 26 inches for 4,501 to 7,500; and 28 inches for 7,501 to 10,000.
Laws concern lighting but not bumper height or even lift blocks. The headlamps must be mounted between 24 and 54 inches from the ground, the taillamps between 15 and 72, and the foglamps between 12 and 30.
After being told it's a "mathematical nightmare" to figure out by one local trooper, we got the scoop from another trooper: If your vehicle's wheelbase is 100 inches or less, the most you can lift can be determined by:
Maximum Lift =
Wheelbase x Wheel Track
For 4x4 wheelbases beyond 100 inches, you can lift a total of 8 inches, butyou'll have to remember your new tires do that equation (so if you lift 4-inches, you can go up in tire size that much too).
For trucks and multipurpose vehicles, the allowable bumper-height increase for front bumpers and rear bumpers depends on the GVWR. For 4,500 pounds and under, it's 24 inches front and 26 inches rear. For 4,501 to 7,500, it's 27 and 29, and for 7,501 to 10,000, it's 28 and 31.
Don't even think about driving on these highways if there are more than 28 inches between the bumpers and the road if your truck falls in the 4,500-pound GVWR rating. For 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, the front bumper must stay lower than 29 inches and the rear 30 inches; for 7,501 and 15,000 pounds, it's 30 at the front and 31 at the rear.
You can lift your truck in Washington without fear, as long as the kit is manufactured by an aftermarket company and is designed for your make and model of truck, as well as installed the right way. You know this already, right? Right?! Body lifts can't use more than a 3-inch spacer and are not allowed to raise the body more than 4 inches above the frame after all the components are installed.
The most space you can have between the body and the frame is 3 inches, while the acceptable gap between the bumpers and the ground is 31 inches for a 10,000-pound GVWR or less. More weight than that, you're free and clear.
Wisconsin law says that vehicles with up to an 8,000-pound GVWR can be pushed 5 inches above the OE height, and the tires can be increased by up to 4 inches in radius over the factory size, equaling an acceptable 9-inch lift.
There are no official statutory guidelines for bumper height, frame height, rear blocks, or shackle lifts-all laws referring to these alterations say vehicles must simply be in "safe" working condition.