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The car modifying scene includes a variety of trends, and one in particular has caught the attention of the Road Transport Department (JPJ). In Malaysia, the “stance and fitment” or “hellaflush” trend has quite a number of steady followers among locals, but are such modifications allowed?

For the uninitiated, hellaflush involves installing oversized and offset rims (greater than that of the stock rims) and installing tyres that are too narrow for the rim, with the latter resulting in the tyre having to be stretched in order to fit the rims.

From there, the car’s suspension and ride height are significantly lowered to create a “snug” look with the tyre wells. This look is further accentuated by changing the car’s camber angle to a more negative one, giving it a “squatted” look, and further lowering the car’s ride height.

The issue, which JPJ views seriously, stems from a few vehicles owners who excessively modify their cars according to the trend, like using rims that are too wide until they extend beyond the wheel wells, as well as extremely negative camber, making it “squat” a little too much.

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Around three years ago, a viral Facebook posting stated that JPJ officials were actively “hunting” individuals who modified their cars that adopted the hellaflush trend. The post revealed that the department will apprehend any vehicle that used ROTA rims (referring to replicas made with large measurements, popular among modders) with a width beyond 8jj.

This posed a problem for those whose vehicles that are factory-fitted with rims of that size, like sports cars and other luxury cars. Many accused the department of making vague rules that resulted in more questions than answers.

To clear the air, we posed the issue to the director of the JPJ’s automotive engineering department, Datuk Mohamad Dalib, to find out the department’s standpoint on those involved in the modifying trend.

According to Mohamad Dalib, all cars sold in Malaysia must first obtain the department’s approval under the United Nation Regulation 0 (UN R0), equivalent to the Road Transport Act 66(1)(PP) Vehicle Type Approval (VTA). Once a vehicle is approved under the law, it can then be marketed and purchased by consumers. However, if any vehicle is modified after it is purchased, indirectly it is already counted as an “unauthorised modification,” and therefore, illegal.

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“If any vehicle owner is apprehended for offences such an unauthorised modification, a PG 1 notice will be issued, whereby the vehicle in question is banned from the road for a period of ten days, in which time the owner must return their car back to stock condition before sending it to JPJ for inspection.

“Once the department is satisfied that the illegal modifications have been removed, the ban is lifted. If the owner fails to revert their vehicle back to its stock configuration within the allocated time, then the department will issue a RM300 summon,” said Mohamad Dalib.

However, if the owner fails to do the necessary within the allotted time, with good reason, the department is willing to provide an additional ten days. Should removing the modifications require an additional ten days, it will provide a further ten days, but by the fourth appeal for an extension, it will request that the owner hand over the vehicle’s road tax, and will only return it once the unauthorised modifications have been removed.

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Mohamad Dalib adds that the department will not issue summons hastily in such situations because JPJ’s director-general Datuk Nadzri Siron prefers the act of educating the public, rather than punishing them, which helps to “humanise” the department’s service.

When asked why JPJ bans the hellaflush modifying trend, Mohamad Dalib explained that the look upsets the car’s centre of gravity, wheel track and wheel circumference. This not only results in extra fuel being used, it can also cause a loss of traction when driving on wet surfaces, increasing the risk of an accident.

“It’s not a problem if vehicle owners want to change their original rims, but the modification should not conflict with the car’s original engineering specifications, and not affect its centre of gravity, wheel track and wheel circumference. Changing rims should not only provide a car with a better look, but should not deter its handling as well,” he said.

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He added that lowered cars may be more advantageous on the track, but it is not comfortable for use on regular roads. They also cause an inconvenience to other drivers when dealing with speed bumps, with some even getting their cars stuck if the bumps are too high.

Furthermore, heavily “squatted” cars cause unnecessary burden on the shock absorbers, as well as changing the car’s steering angle and wheel track. These negative points are not only costly (uneven and quicker tyre wear), but also cause certain suspension components to break while driving, posing a danger to other motorists.

When asked to comment on those who accuse the department as restrictive of people’s creativity, Mohamad Dalib answered: “JPJ is involved in organising several car shows around the country. Creativity should be displayed at these shows or on track, not on public roads, which can be troublesome to other road users.”