Car modification, not a lot of people want to do it, but for the few that do, it’s usually out of “porma,” performance, or just plain old fun. There are also modifications that keep the car running, albeit with more dubious consequences if done incorrectly such as chassis modifications that are unsafe, at least according to the LTO.
Department Order No. 2010-32 dated September 8, 2010, is based on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) standard for motor vehicles which was also adopted by other nations in the ASEAN region. There is at least a concrete basis as to the foundations of the Department Order, and the UN-ECE sets certain standards and parameters with regard to vehicle design and classification for road safety, environmental protection, and more.
Included in the guidelines are also mounting standards for headlights, auxiliary lights, bodywork, and more in the interest of safety. It is also important to note that cars or passenger vehicles are not the only primary focus of this order, and other types of vehicles such as motorcycles, trucks, buses, and jeeps are also considered.
Editor’s note: this is our interpretation of Department Order No. 2010-32, and this article was made to help explain the order and shed light on possible interpretations. This is by no means a total explanation of the order, but rather a soft set of guidelines to navigate its particulars.
The term: Modification
Put simply, modification as per the LTO means a “physical change in the existing motor vehicle design.” This will be allowed provided that a Certificate of Road Safety from the car manufacturer can be secured and presented by the owner. The certificate means that the modification is recognized by the manufacturer to be safe, and will not compromise the integrity and safety of the vehicle in question. The LTO may also reclassify the vehicle depending on how the inspection goes and how extensive the modification was.
Tampering with performance
If you’re more the type to soup up your car and give it some fantastic amounts of power, better handling, or just to add some spice to your drive, the number one rule here is to make sure that the vehicle is still safe to drive and operate following the modification. The LTO states that “tampering with the engine performance, drivetrain, suspension, wheels and brakes of a vehicle, which are outside the approved parameters or its basic components, may affect its performance and may compromise safety is not allowed.”
So there is a bit of a gray area here. Of course, adding better brakes to your car can increase its safety. Adding grippier tires can also improve safety in some way. Adding more power to your engine, however, can be judged differently by the LTO, but the office makes it clear stating that
"Section 5. Guidelines and Requirements in the Reclassification and/or Registration of Modified Motor Vehicles:
- 5.2 The modifications involving safety and environment shall not be allowed, such as the following:
- 5.2.1 Axle modification;
- 5.2.2 Chassis modification;
- 5.2.3 Extended chassis / body;
- 5.2.4 Additional sidings of dump trucks;
- 5.2.5 Extended overhang;
- 5.2.6 Change of rim size;
- 5.2.7 Modification of handle bar and muffler; and
- 5.2.8 Reconfiguration of body dimension and design."
So there are a few modified cars out there that don’t just use two axles for their wheels. On the extreme side of things, there are three-axle SUVs in the market, however, these tend to be the more exotic side of the spectrum. Can an extra axle be fitted on a car? It’s possible with enough effort, though extremely rare. For trucks, jeeps, and even motorcycles, adding an extra axle may compromise safety because if the manufacturer intended only two axles for the chassis and thus the LTO does not allow it unless there is an express endorsement from the manufacturer that the vehicle is capable of meeting safety standards and requirements with an extra set of wheels.
“Chassis modification,” “Extended chassis/body,” “Extended overhang” “Reconfiguration of body dimension and design”
For these items on the list, it makes sense that the LTO would be against these types of modifications. Most cars are rigid enough for their dimensions and weight and adding length to a car’s chassis and wheelbase will affect its handling and ultimately its safety. Remember that cars are tested by the manufacturer before reaching the market. This goes for limousine-like conversions that may be a cause for concern should the welds or the material fail. On top of that, cars won’t handle the same way and it is likely that the chassis will flex in weird places should a modification be made that compromises the rigidity and structural integrity. Remember that most manufacturers dial-in chassis rigidity in order to keep a car safe to drive given its platform. Modifications made by third parties have no assurance of safety and no official testing to guarantee a safe experience and environment for passengers and operators.
This also rings true for trucks, buses, and jeeps, wherein operators may want to extend the chassis in order to accommodate more cargo or more passengers. Remember that commercial vehicles are rated for a certain load, and extending a chassis guarantees that you get more space, but it doesn’t guarantee that the modified chassis will be able to bear extra load.
That being said, the last item in this grouping includes modifying the dimensions and design of your vehicle. That may include making your vehicle shorter by cutting away parts of the chassis or other things like trimming off the bumper perhaps? We’re not too sure and the LTO hasn’t clarified this statement.
It’s a common trend nowadays for enthusiasts to fit aftermarket bumpers or body kits on cars to achieve a certain look or add a certain level of protection, which is the case if you like off-roading. However, the LTO does draw a certain line here, in which an extended overhang could be a detriment to safety. There are no specific numbers or guidelines that cover this, however, so it can be open to interpretation.
Steel bumpers or custom body kits are all too common in the world of off-roading and road cars respectively, and there are aftermarket mods out there that make a car look bigger or tougher or more aesthetically pleasing. However, we feel that the vehicles with extreme overhang like those vehicles with very apparent protrusions from the front, rear, or side, will be scrutinized more than your typical body kitted vehicle.
“Change of rim size”
Among all the things on the list, this is something that’s in another gray area. Yes, there are wrong ways to change your car’s wheels. Aftermarket options are out there and it’s not uncommon for enthusiasts to change their rims. There are also other things that are of note with regard to changing your rim size like offset, width, and diameter to name a few. While you can change your rims to an OEM-spec size, remember that part of the reason why people change wheel sizes in the first place is for either performance or “porma.” Perhaps the LTO is more against the extreme ends of the spectrum where wheels are either too big or too small, going against the specifications that a certain chassis can accommodate, but seeing as there is a lack of clarification in this area, it’s still a bit gray.
Remember that this parameter also applies to motorcycles, trucks, and cars, so it’s a bit of a blanket statement, to say the least.
“Modification of … muffler”
Exhaust systems are among the more common mods done to cars by enthusiasts to get a more exciting tone out of the engine whenever the car is accelerating. Let’s face it, if you like driving, there is a little something special about being able to hear your car going at full tilt. However, the LTO deems this to be an illegal modification. We can trace this back to the UN-ECE standards, in which emissions play a big role. Modifying your muffler will not only make your car louder (to the ire of people around you who don’t enjoy noise), but it will also make your emissions worse by comparison to stock, especially for exhaust modifications that remove the catalytic converter for “added power.”
The LTO’s press release (2018)
DOTr, LTO Press Statement
On the alleged arbitrary apprehension of owners of modified vehicles
The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is NOT arbitrarily and subjectively apprehending owners of modified vehicles.
However, the LTO must implement the existing law.
Modification of a motor vehicle was defined by Department Order No. 2010-32 dated 08 September 2010 with subject: Harmonization of Motor Vehicle (MV) Classifications of LTO and LTFRB.
The DO is aligned with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), the standard followed by other ASEAN countries.
Section 5, Number 5.2 of the Order states: “The modifications involving safety and environment shall not be allowed, such as the following: Axle modification; Chassis modification; Extended chassis/body; Additional siding of dump trucks; Extended overhang; Change of rim size; Modification of handle bar and muffler; and Reconfiguration of body dimension and design.”
Modification, or physical change in the existing motor vehicle design, is allowed provided a Certificate of Road Safety from the manufacturer can be presented by the owner, to prove that the modification will not compromise, in any way, safety. The same is also subject to inspection by the LTO for possible reclassification.
Please note that tampering with the engine performance, drivetrain, suspension, wheels, and brakes of a vehicle, which are outside the approved parameters or its basic components, may affect its performance, and may compromise safety.
On the other hand, enhancements to features and performance such as interior and exterior trimmings are allowed, for as long as the existing design of the vehicle is not compromised.
The Department of Trade and Industry likewise came up with Philippine National Standards (PNS) to cover locally rebuilt vehicles such as jeepneys.
The assumption that the LTO is focusing its resources on apprehending owners of modified vehicles is not fair. The Law Enforcement Unit of the LTO is out there on the road every day, apprehending ALL types of violators.
As a matter of fact, only one modified vehicle has been impounded in the most recent operation held in NLEX, and the reason for it is because the vehicle is not currently registered.
The DOTr-LTO appreciates the ongoing discussion on this matter, most prominently on social media. In the spirit of transparency and good governance, our doors are open for a dialogue where recommendations and suggestions may be presented and discussed, putting on topmost priority the safety and welfare of the public.