Motor vehicle noise

Vehicle noise includes noise from exhaust systems, engines, horns, brakes and sound systems. The EPA works in partnership with police officers, local councils and other organisations to reduce people’s exposure to noise pollution from motor vehicles.

Operators and owners are responsible for ensuring that noise from their vehicles is kept within reasonable levels. Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017, the EPA aims to prevent high noise levels from vehicles caused by

  • lack of maintenance
  • deliberate tampering
  • inappropriate use

Under Part 5.5 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, it is an offence to sell a vehicle that has been modified to emit excessive noise.

Offences and penalties

Offence Penalty - individual/ corporation Enforcing authority

Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017

Selling a vehicle that, for example, has noise control equipment that is inappropriately modified, defective or missing.

$300/$600

EPA

Using a vehicle on a road or road-related area that exceeds the prescribed noise limit by:

 

 

  • less than 5 decibels
  • 5 to 14 decibels
  • 15 decibels or more 

$150/$300 
$250/$500
$600/$1200 

EPA
EPA
EPA

Using a vehicle that emits offensive noise (e.g. trail bike) in a place that is not a road or road-related area.

$200/$400

Council/EPA/Police

Using a vehicle on residential premises (other than for entering or leaving) that can be heard inside a neighbour's residence, between 8 pm and 8 am on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday or between 8 pm and 7 am on any other day.            

$200/$400 after a warning by an authorised officer or enforcement officer

Council/EPA/Police

Using a refrigeration unit on a vehicle that can be heard inside a neighbour's residence between 8 pm and 8 am on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, or between 8 pm and 7 am on any other day.

$200/$400 after a warning by an authorised officer or enforcement officer

Council/EPA/Police

Causing or permitting offensive noise to be emitted from a motor vehicle sound system.

$150/$300

Council/EPA/Police

Emitting offensive noise from a vehicle sound system while driving, or while using a vehicle on a road or road-related area.

$150/NA and 2 licence demerit points

EPA/Police

Causing or permitting a vehicle to be used when its noise control equipment is defective, not securely in place, is missing, or has temporary noise reduction devices or packing fitted.

$200/$400

EPA/Police

Modifying or repairing a vehicle so its noise control equipment is made defective, is not securely in place, is missing, or has temporary noise reduction devices or packing fitted.

$200/$400

EPA

Attaching a horn to a motor vehicle or permitting a motor vehicle to be used if it is fitted with a horn that is capable of emitting noise at a level greater than 120 dB(A) for noise at a single non-varying loudness and pitch, or 85 dB(A) in any other case.

$200/$400

EPA

Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997

Selling a vehicle that emits noise in excess of the level prescribed for that type of vehicle in the Regulation (section 136 of the Act):

 

 

  • less than 5 decibels 
  • 5 decibels or more

$200/$400
$400/$800

EPA
EPA

Selling a motor vehicle horn or intruder alarm that emits noise in excess of the level prescribed in clauses 7 and 9 respectively or having the characteristics prescribed in  clause 11 (section 136 of the Act)

 $300/$600

EPA

Defect notices

For most of the above offences, a defect notice can also be issued. If the defect is not remedied, registration can be suspended by the EPA. A vehicle whose registration has been suspended is considered an unregistered vehicle under the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Act 1997).

NSW Police, the Roads and Maritime Service and local councils also regulate noise pollution from vehicles. See Regulating noise for more information.

  • Ensure your exhaust system is in good order and maintained regularly.
  • Use exhaust systems that are the same as those originally designed for the vehicle. 
  • Seek advice from reputable suppliers before purchasing aftermarket components.
  • Do not fit non-standard belt drives or gears, pod-type air cleaners, or vented-to-atmosphere waste gates or blow-off valves to your engine. 
  • Be aware of the noise sensitivity of the areas you are passing through.
  • Limit exhaust and compression braking, and the use of truck refrigeration units, in residential and sensitive areas, for example, near schools and hospitals
  • Use horns for collision avoidance only. 
  • Avoid excessive acceleration and unnecessary sudden braking. 
  • Use car sound systems responsibly. 
  • Avoid making offensive noise when operating off-road motor vehicles.

The EPA encourages members of the community to report vehicles with noisy exhaust. If the EPA finds a vehicle contravenes the noise pollution laws, they may require the owner to present it at an approved inspection station for noise testing and inspection. Find out more.

The following engine components can produce significant noise when modified or replaced with aftermarket components.

  • Pod-type air filters are acceptable if they are effectively encased or boxed-in and do not cause an increase in noise from the air intake system.
  • Blow-off valves that vent back into the induction system may be acceptable. Those that vent or can be adjusted to vent directly into the atmosphere must not be fitted.
  • Turbo wastegates that vent gases or can be adjusted to vent gases directly into the atmosphere must not be fitted. Wastegates must vent gases into the exhaust system upstream of the mufflers or catalytic converter. On late model vehicles, waste exhaust gases that vent to the atmosphere upstream of the catalytic converter may also be an offence under the Protection of the Environment (Clean Air) Regulation 2010

Non-standard gear and belt drives that result in increased noise levels must not be fitted.

Off-road motorcycles and other vehicles often have mufflers that are not as effective as those on road vehicles. The noise from off-road vehicles can annoy pedestrians and residents where trails pass near residential areas. Trail bikes and four-wheel drive vehicles must therefore operate quietly when near properties.

Schedule 1 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation specifies a noise limit of 100 decibels for motorcycles operating off-road.  

Unregistered trail bikes should never be used on

  • roads
  • footpaths
  • nature strips
  • areas open to the public and designated for use by cyclists or animals
  • road shoulders
  • areas that are not roads that are open to the public for driving, riding and parking of vehicles

Owners of offending vehicles who receive a penalty notice in the mail will need to nominate the driver in control of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence.

Noise from engine or compression brakes can be intrusive, especially at night. Heavy vehicle drivers should avoid using exhaust brakes, engine compression or 'jake' brakes near residential areas and noise-sensitive areas such as hospitals and schools, unless they are necessary for safety reasons.

The Roads and Maritime Service website has more information on reducing heavy vehicle noise.

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