MPCA reminder: tampering with pollution control systems is illegal

Contact: Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657

When Volkswagen designed their diesel cars to cheat on air pollution protections, one of the reasons they did it was so they could claim their cars got better mileage than competitors’ models.  And they did.  But the boost was only possible because the cars also polluted more than the law allowed.

Volkswagen got caught, of course.  Crime doesn’t pay.  But Volkswagen is far from the only example of vehicle tampering out there.

That’s why the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently sent letters to repair shops and car and truck dealers advising them of their obligation under the law to not modify vehicle pollution control systems nor sell vehicles with tampered systems.

“We’re getting more complaints about tampering with vehicle emission systems, and we’re taking a closer look at this issue,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine.  “Tampering with the emission control systems of any vehicle — including private and commercial vehicles — is illegal, and can result in penalties.  The same goes for selling a vehicle with tampered emission controls.” 

Today’s vehicles are designed for the best possible balance between performance, mileage, and low emissions.  But too many people still think they can do better by tampering with their emission control systems.  Some do it themselves, others ask a repair facility to do it.  But tampering throws off the engine’s optimal design performance while increasing harmful emissions — in some cases, by more than 800 percent.  And it voids warranties and reduces fuel economy.  Most of all, it’s illegal.

“Modern engines are much cleaner than older ones, but too many people are trying to get around the emission systems that help them run clean.  The result is bad for everyone.  For example, one illegally modified diesel can throw out as much air pollution as fifty clean-running trucks,” Stine said. 

Those “chips” you can buy that promise more performance?  Removing or altering the catalytic converter?  Skipping the Diesel Emissions Fluid (AKA “blue fluid”) or bypassing the diesel particulate filter?  “Rolling coal” (altering pickup trucks to blow black smoke)?  All illegal.

“Many of the trucker and dealer associations support us on this,” said MPCA Air Enforcement Manager Sarah Kilgriff, whose staff sent the letters.  “Emission control systems are critical front-line defenses against pollution, and we want everyone to be aware of how important it is to keep them operating the way they’re designed to.”