California Cop Tickets Stock Hyundai Elantra N for Exhaust Noise

After police suspended the car’s registration for excessive noise, the owner hasn’t been able to get the car back on the road.

byLewin Day|
Hyundai News photo


The California owner of a 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with a police officer suspending the car's registration over its noise output. The kicker? The vehicle is entirely stock as delivered from the factory.

Update: 10/03/22 9:37 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from the owner of the vehicle.

Update: 10/04/22 6:58 p.m. ET: Hyundai's comment has been added to to the article.

As reported by YourTestDriver, the story began when Reddit user OkCandidate103 was pulled over by police. He had been driving his Elantra N in N mode, which increases the volume of the exhaust and includes some pops and crackles on the overrun. The officer immediately questioned the driver as to why their car was "backfiring," questioned whether it was in "track mode," and stated that the vehicle was not able to be driven on the road in such condition. As captured in a dash cam video shared by ENtense on Youtube, the officer goes on to claim the owner will have to pay thousands of dollars to have the "track mode" removed before the car can be re-registered.

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To attempt to get the car registered again, the owner took the car to the California State Referee for inspection. The car successfully passed smog as expected. The inspector then asked the owner which drive mode was the loudest, and when the owner said "Sport," the noise test was run in Sport mode. California requires cars to remain at or below a 95 dB limit. The Elantra N failed the test, averaging 98 dB in Sport mode, and hitting peaks of 102 dB due to the pops from the exhaust.

The problem appears to be that the test was not done according to spec. As per the relevant standard, SAE J1492, the noise test is supposed to be done in "any mode that can remain enabled through a power on/off cycle," of which Sport mode does not qualify. The Elantra N resets to the Normal drive mode through a power on/off cycle.

The results of the test leave the owner in a difficult situation. They are allowed to test the vehicle again, but are required to show proof that the vehicle has been "fixed" to comply with noise regulations. There is nothing to fix, though, as the vehicle is entirely stock. The owner approached the dealership for help, and was given a letter stating the vehicle was in the same condition as delivered from the factory. Beyond that, they were only able to advise the owner to consider temporarily fitting a muffler silencer to help pass inspection.

The owner is waiting to hear back from Hyundai corporate on the problem, and fears that the matter may have to be taken to court. After the dealership indicated they were unable to help, he applied to Hyundai for a buyback as he was making payments on a vehicle that could not be registered. Initially, he was told by the company that a buyback was not possible. A day later, he was contacted by a new case manager who indicated this was a mistake, and that the matter was being processed again to determine if a buyback could be approved.

The Drive has reached out to Hyundai for comment on the matter. A representative for the automaker indicated that it is aware of the problem and is working with the owner to rectify the situation.

The reality is that a stock Elantra N should pass California's noise tests if they are indeed executed properly. The owner should thus have had little issue getting the car through inspection and registered once more. There's also something to be said for educating owners that certain drive modes may fall afoul of noise statutes in certain jurisdictions.

As it stands though, the owner has a car they can't drive and seemingly little recourse on the matter. That's not the experience anyone expects to have when driving a brand-new car. It seems that a combination of overzealous policing and poor bureaucracy has left the owner in a frustrating predicament.

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