A seasoned tuner could probably transform even a plain production model into a real eye-catcher. There’s no accounting for taste with such projects, yet they all have one thing in common: Tuning always means making changes to the vehicle. This is where things usually start to get tricky. Sure, there won’t be any objections against a set of wide tires. But what about spacers, flared fenders, or modifications to the chassis? Just because we like it, doesn’t mean it’s permitted. “A vehicle’s operating license expires if a modification potentially endangers road users or changes the exhaust or noise behavior,” explains Carsten Debler, Head of the DEKRA Essen branch. It’s an absolute no-go, for example, to upgrade the standard main headlamp with a darker paint coating or stronger bulbs. This also applies to a big exhaust trim on the original tailpipe that protrudes a hand’s width from beneath the car. Even vehicle wraps must be treated with caution – if applied over a large area, they could reflect sunlight and oncoming headlights, and therefore be classified as dangerous. Particularly risque: The car may no longer be covered by insurance once the operating license expires.
A Tuned Car Is the Ultimate Statement in Technology and Design
A tuner’s best friend are therefore components from the accessories shelf that are approved by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). As a rule, these are safety-relevant components for which the legislator requires a clearance certificate. The type approval stamped on the component, for example, indicates that the part has been tested in accordance with EU law and meets the prescribed conditions. The approval can be recognized by the test mark, which consists of a circle with a capital E (ECE test mark) or a lower case e (EEC test mark) and a respective country-specific test number. The general type approval (ABE) is similar. It confirms that a vehicle continues to comply with all regulations after the relevant part has been installed. To ensure verification at all times, the ABE must be carried in the vehicle.
Is the ABE a Free Pass for Creative Tuning?
Yet an ABE isn’t necessarily a free pass for creative tuning. Anyone who has a wheel-tire combination installed in one workshop today, and a sports suspension in another tomorrow, risks the expiration of their operating permit, even though both parts by themselves are approved. “An ABE is generally only valid for installation in a production vehicle. Once a part is installed, the installation of another would no longer relate to the stock condition. In this case it can happen that tuning measures affect each other so negatively that the ABE would expire,” explains DEKRA expert Carsten Debler. Anyone who wants to be on the safe side should therefore find out in advance from DEKRA whether the desired combination is really permissible. If necessary, the expert can then carry out an individual approval of the vehicle, which at best confirms the harmlessness of installations required for a clearance certificate.
Parts Appraisals Involve a Mandatory Appointment with the Expert
Components for which the manufacturer issues a parts certificate are another widespread variant of tuning. This parts certificate describes exactly how the component is installed in the vehicle and which of the manufacturer’s requirements must be observed. Unlike ECE approval and ABE, the installation of a component with a parts certificate inevitably entails an appointment for a modification inspection with an officially recognized test engineer from a monitoring organization. The expert checks the installation’s compliance with regulations and issues a test certificate. A frequent requirement of parts certificates is the recording of installations in the vehicle documents.