4WDrive - - Contents -

There has been a dis­turb­ing

trend in the auto in­dus­try over the last sev­eral years. As reg­u­la­tions con­stantly tighten to make new ve­hi­cles safer and cleaner, car­mak­ers around the world are mak­ing new cars more and more com­pli­cated. Toss in the ever-grow­ing tech war to have the coolest gad­gets and dig­i­tal read­outs and new cars have more in com­mon with a su­per­com­puter than their own an­ces­tors.

All this tech makes it harder and harder for the back­yard me­chanic to tinker on their own ve­hi­cles. The dip­stick is al­ready an ar­chaic ar­ti­fact of motor­ing’s past, re­placed with elec­tri­cal sen­sors that count down an oil change ser­vice on the ser­vice screen of the gauge clus­ter.

My big­gest worry is that once older ve­hi­cles and the peo­ple who drive them be­come the un­known vari­able in high­way safety, could it be­come il­le­gal to work on our own ve­hi­cles or even drive them man­u­ally once com­puter driven au­tonomous ve­hi­cles be­come the norm? Re­al­ity check – sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers will be bring­ing au­tonomous ve­hi­cles to mar­ket in 2018!

Toss con­spir­acy the­o­rist slan­der at me all you want, but the govern­ment, at least the U.S. govern­ment (EPA specif­i­cally), is al­ready putting for­ward pro­pos­als to out­law some ve­hi­cle own­ers. The pro­posal takes aim at those who wish to mod­ify cer­ti­fied mo­tor ve­hi­cles, en­gines and their emis­sion con­trol de­vices, reg­u­lat­ing that all emis­sions equip­ment must re­main in their cer­ti­fied con­fig­u­ra­tion even if they are used solely for com­pe­ti­tion.

“The EPA is adding new lan­guage to the reg­u­la­tions (Green­house Gas Emis­sions and Fuel Ef­fi­ciency Stan­dards for Medium and Heavy-Duty En­gines and Ve­hi­cles). This new lan­guage states that a mo­tor ve­hi­cle can never be mod­i­fied, even if it is used solely for com­pe­ti­tion and never again used on public roads. The EPA is seek­ing to pro­hibit mod­i­fi­ca­tions af­fect­ing any emis­sions-re­lated com­po­nent, such as en­gines, en­gine con­trol mod­ules, in­takes, ex­haust sys­tems, etc.” ex­plains SEMA, the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion.

While this is dis­tinctly a U.S. po­lit­i­cal dis­pute, Cana­dian reg­u­la­tors of­ten fol­low suit with Amer­i­can motor­ing laws, par­tic­u­larly those put forth by the EPA.

SEMA, as well as sev­eral U.S. Con­gress­men were fight­ing the pro­posed reg­u­la­tion changes, which were set to go into ef­fect this July. Thank­fully, just be­fore we went to print, the EPA agreed to not im­ple­ment this added lan­guage into the act thanks to the pres­sure from SEMA, sup­port­ing politi­cians and over 170,000 signed pe­ti­tions.

So, what does this mean for our fu­ture? The U.S. govern­ment does not like that we can mod­ify our ve­hi­cles, and in sev­eral for­eign coun­tries, mod­i­fi­ca­tions are al­ready il­le­gal or re­quire cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. We’ve won this bat­tle, but I am con­cerned there may be sev­eral more to fight, and our en­tire life­style may hinge on the out­come.

Our life­style (that of be­ing able to drive off-road) de­pends on three very im­por­tant things - ac­cess to the back­coun­try, the abil­ity to change the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of our ve­hi­cles and the free­dom to drive our ve­hi­cles… with­out aid of com­puter if one so wishes. So far two of th­ese as­pects have come un­der fire and I pre­dict that in the next decade, the third will also.

So, be vig­i­lant fel­low wheel­ers, do not be ig­no­rant of the forces that could one day end this won­der­ful thing we call off- road­ing. We have side stepped a large dis­as­ter, but don’t let this close call go un­heeded.

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