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California Vehicle Code Equipment of Vehicles

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California’s Vehicle Code, Division 12 — Equipment of Vehicles

“California’s Vehicle Code requires that you do not sell or offer for sale, a vehicle unless all of its safety equipment is in proper working condition.

It does not matter if you tell the Buyer about the defects – this requirement cannot be waived by a Dealer or Buyer.

The Code does not apply when the Vehicle:

  • Is sold to another Dealer
  • Is being legally wrecked, dismantled
  • Used exclusively off-highway
  • Is a leased, registered in California, and sold to the Lessee, if they were in possession of the vehicle immediately prior to the sale

Air Bags

  • air bags and seat beltsYou may not sell a vehicle manufactured with a supplemental restraint system (air bags) unless the system is working properly and conform to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • It is illegal to modify the vehicle’s computer system or supplemental restraint system so that it falsely indicates the system is in proper working order

Safety belts

You may not sell or offer for sale any vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, unless it is equipped with seat belts for each seating position. Vehicles between January 1, 1962, and January 1, 1968, must have two front seat belts.


brakesBrakes must stop vehicles within a maximum allowable stopping distance, at 20 MPH

  • Passenger vehicles — within 25 feet
  • Single vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs — within 30 feet
  • Single vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs — within 40 feet
  • All other combinations of vehicles — within 50 feet

Parking Brakes

  • Must be in good working condition and able to hold the vehicle or combination of vehicles stationary on any grade on which it is normally operated under


Every registered passenger vehicle must be equipped with a front and rear bumper.

A “bumper” means any device designed and intended by a manufacturer to prevent the front or rear of the body of the vehicle from coming into contact with any other motor vehicle.

This does not apply to any passenger vehicle equipped with an energy absorption device or any passenger vehicle which was not equipped with a front or rear bumper, or both, at the time that it was first sold.

Headlights, Tail Lights, Stop Lights & Turn Signals

All factory-installed lighting must be in good working condition.

  • Vehicles (other than motorcycles) must be equipped with at least two headlamps, with at least one on each side
  • Light sources and headlamps must be at a height of 22–54 inches


  • All vehicles must have a working horn capable of emitting sound audible from a distance of not less than 200 feet.
  • No horn shall emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound (except an authorized emergency vehicle).


  • Every vehicle (including motorcycle) must have a mirror located so the driver can see the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear
  • Every vehicle must have at least two mirrors including one affixed to the left-hand side
  • Vehicles loaded or towing with an obstructed view to the rear must have left and right-hand mirrors

Muffler and Exhaust System

  • No muffler or exhaust system may be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device
  • Every motor vehicle must be equipped with an adequate muffler to prevent any excessive or unusual noise
  • All factory-installed emission control equipment must be installed and work properly

Smog Inspection & Certification

  • A smog certification is required for a transfer of a vehicle 1976 model year and newer
  • You must meet smog inspection requirements before delivering a vehicle to a purchaser


You may not sell, offer for sale, or install on a vehicle a tire with less tread than:

  • 1/32 of an inch in any two adjacent grooves at any location of the tire
  • 2/32 of an inch at all points in all major grooves on the drive axles
  • 4/32 of an inch at all points in all major grooves on a tire on the steering axle
  • 6/32 of an inch at all points in all major grooves on snow tires


  • Every vehicle must be equipped with an adequate windshield unless it was not required or equipped with a windshield when it was first sold or registered.
  • The windshield’s condition must not impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear

Windshield Wipers

  • Every vehicle (except motorcycles) with a windshield must two self-operating windshield wipers. A single wiper is acceptable so long as it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
  • Windshield wipers must be in good operating condition and be capable of effectively clearing the windshield under all ordinary storm conditions

Windshield Defroster

  • Every passenger vehicle must have a windshield defrosting device in good working condition and adequate to remove snow, ice, frost, fog, or internal moisture.

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