Motor Vehicle Registration has become quite the yearly, err, hassle, for most vehicle owners. Long lines, and if you now add the pandemic to the mix, you have yourself a lot more to worry about. Recently, the Land Transportation Office has released new guidelines for a motor vehicle to be registered as road-legal, and one (of many other) criteria caught our eye.

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As it is one of the most easily modifiable parts of a vehicle, exhaust outlets are now required to produce a maximum of 99dB (decibels). By using a 'sound level meter', licensed technicians will conduct a test on every car’s exhaust outlet for it to be considered legal. Some have a high tolerance for exhaust volume, while most don’t. So how loud is 99dB, really?

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To put things into perspective, a normal conversation between individuals goes up to about 60dB. A typical lawnmower, a blender, and even a hairdryer go up to 90dB. When an abnormally obnoxious car with a ridiculously noisy muffler drives past, chances are shouting to stay heard will ensue. Sure, you may have to start upping your volume at your local coffee shop when the frappe’ing starts, but again, that’s already at about 90dB plus all the other ambient noise. So this gives you an idea of the minimum noise level we’re using as a reference.

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Anything from 90dB upward is already medically considered as “Very Loud”. Again, more perspective: most earphones pumped at maximum volume can go up to 100dB. Concerts and sporting events’ volumes can go up to 110dB. But if you want something more relatable, a car’s standard horn can go up to that level, too. No wonder some people can start getting throbbing headaches when someone mashes on a car horn in traffic, but we digress.

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Again, the new LTO Motor Vehicle Inspection Center’s maximum is set at 99dB. Simply put, vehicle exhausts cannot be louder than what the human ear perceives to be music cranked up to 10 directly into their ears. Here’s the kicker: the test will be conducted with the engine revved up to 2000 – 2500rpm. The fact of the matter is that yes, there are some (or many) exhausts that start being uncomfortably audible between 1500 and 2000rpm. Economically speaking, shifting gears, if you have a manual car, below 3000rpm is most ideal anyway. So if you have an exhaust that screams too loud, then you may very well have a problem in your hands.

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A lot of owners, especially tuners who modify their cars are sure to react to this new ruling, and we get it. But see, there’s a lot more to consider than just the satisfaction of your “vroom-PAAANNNGGG” fix. Exposure to anything more than 85dB for extended periods may cause permanent hearing loss. That time frame is also affected depending on how close the source of the high-volume sound is to whoever may hear it, so you can imagine how this may affect people around you, and even your wellbeing if you drive your “noisy” car daily.

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There really are a lot of reasons why “performance” or “sports” or “racing” exhausts are called as such, and really, there is always a responsible way to apply such mods to a car. Authentic JASMA certified mufflers are built to go up to only 96dB. If you have one of those, you should technically be clear. 

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But if yours is an uncertified N1 or free-flow exhaust, that might pose a problem. Just remember that if your exhaust noise levels aren’t too loud up to 2500rpm, you’re good to go, anyway. Be smart, be considerate, and ultimately, let's all hope that those sound level meters are all calibrated properly just to be fair to everyone.

*sound level information from the American Academy of Audiology