Five modification exercises that can get your car seized

Modification makes your boring car look better, but there’s a major caveat. You see, alterations done to a vehicle that can compromise the vehicle’s rigidity, safety, or even deviate from the originality are potential threats. So while your modified ride may be getting all the eyeballs one moment and it can be seized by the RTO the next. We look at the possible modification exercises that can get your vehicle impounded. Avoid them!

Article 52 of the Motor Vehicle Act says: (1) No owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are no longer accurate, unless — (a) he has given notice to the registering authority within whose jurisdiction he has the residence or the place of business where the vehicle is normally kept, as the case may be of the alteration he proposes to make; and (b) he has obtained the approval of that registering authority to make such alteration: Provided that it shall not be necessary to obtain such approval, for making any change in the unladen weight of the motor vehicle consequent on the addition or removal of fittings or accessories, if such change does not exceed two per cent. of the weight entered in the certificate of registration.


Stretched more than it should have been, this illegally modified Scorpio was seized by the RTO

Easily the most common form of physical alteration done to a vehicle, before it gets seized, that is. The recent case in which two Scorpios extended to become limos were seized from Maharashtra. The reason behind that was simple: there was a physical alteration done to the vehicles, and that was not mentioned on the vehicle’s papers as checked by the RTO. Not only were the vehicles longer, they were also heavier, hence the performance and handling would have been compromised with respect to the original.

Chopping and Cutting

Renault Duster Pick-up
Tastefully done but this Duster pickup is an easy RTO target

Chopping can have an adverse effect on the vehicle’s rigidity, especially if it’s a monocoque chassis. Using the same logic as above, the said physical alteration is not advised by the RTO and can of course lead to your vehicle being seized. That’s a misery considering a nice example as the Duster here can be picked up by the RTO officials, if the modification hasn’t been approved by the RTO. Shortening the chassis (in case of a body on frame vehicle) is again detracting from the vehicle’s original, homologated structure.

Complete redesign

Modified Maruti 1000 3
Whoa! This was a Maruti 1000 back in the day

Every car model that’s sold in India through an official, legal channel has to be validated by ARAI (Automotive Research Authority of India). Every part has to be in accordance with a predefined set of rules, so it’s a pretty long process, the homologation. Now if you’re modifying your car in a way that it makes use of more custom parts than the ones made/certified by the manufacturer, you’re basically undermining the work done by the manufacturer and the research agency. And the original parts might not be the best suited to your job — and you can have a justification for that — but the new parts can end up being dangerous. That gives the RTO the right to seize the vehicle.

Bolero Lift Kit

Adding an external structure like the modified Bolero you see in the picture above will be extremely helpful but that makes the vehicle illegal for regular on-road usage. The lift kit again will help while off-roading but it’s unsafe for usage on public roads. The increased ride height means there are more blind spots, hence RTO has all the right to seize it. If you can get an approval from the authority, then that’s a different thing.

Colour change

Toyota Innova Modified
A Toyota Innova that wished to be a Mercedes R-Class, and had a crazy paint, too

The vehicle’s papers (or RC) has the vehicle’s colour very clearly mentioned on them. Now if you plan to get a repaint, the only way is to get it mentioned on the RC. Failing to do so will of course make your susceptible to being seized. According to the Article 52 of Motor Vehicle Act, any customisation that detracts from the details mentioned in the vehicle’s RC is not allowed.

It might not be a direct harm to fellow road users. But one has to understand that with the rise in car theft related crimes in the country, it’ll become extremely difficult for the police to find stolen cars if everyone is allowed to change their car’s colour/appearance without mentioning it on the RC.



Finally, the most common modification among enthusiasts! Engine swaps aren’t uncommon in India, but they are illegal if your vehicle’s papers don’t say so. Swapping your car’s puny engine for something that’s more powerful and helps utilise the chassis’ potential is a great idea, but losing insurance, warranty, etc., is not. Also, unless this is a track/off-road vehicle that’s not going to be back on the road, it’s not the best idea to experiment with the contraption, making other fellow road users the lab rats of an experiment that they aren’t even a part of.

Putting a more powerful VTEC B16 in a Honda City might make all the sense to us enthusiasts, but if it’s going to be a road car, then it’s better to look at other alternatives. One must also remember that the components used in a car are made to withstand only a specific amount of power, torque, and stress, beyond which they can give in.

What happens to the cars after they are seized

In case the owner fails to furnish the required documents, the registration of the modified vehicle will be cancelled. Eventually it can be sent to the scrapyard. And that’s certainly not where you’ll want your prized possession to be.

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5