Is nitrous legal in cars in the United States?

It is completely normal to want to modify your vehicle other than to make it more attractive or more efficient. A popular upgrade is to add nitrous oxide injection, but this brings people to an important question. Is it legal in the USA to install nitrous in your car?

The use of nitrous in automobiles is not federally illegal in the United States. However, NOS laws vary from state to state. It is also not illegal to store or transport the gas, but it is illegal to use it as an inhalant. If you drive on a track or on private property, nitrous oxide is completely legal.

In this guide, we look at some state laws you should know. We also discuss other changes that could be considered illegal.

Always check local, state, and federal laws before making a decision, as laws may change. This is not legal advice.

State Nitrous Laws


At first glance, one might think that nitrous modifications are legal in California, since Penal Code 381b only addresses possession of nitrous oxide “with the intent to breathe, inhale, or ingest” as a crime. Many enthusiasts took this to mean that it was completely legal to plug into the car.

However, all nitrous systems, whether plugged in or not, are completely illegal in California. You will find drivers across the state complaining about getting tickets just because the equipment is in the vehicle when they are at the track, but it is completely disconnected. All entries must be labeled with a CARB number or the setup is illegal in California.

2. Texas

Texas also has laws regarding nitrous snorting, making it a misdemeanor. However, there are no laws regarding car use. For the most part, it is considered legal to own, but not to use for street racing.

Additionally, using nitrous can affect emissions standards, which could be a problem if you live in a county where testing is performed. That said, Texas only has three “aftermarket modification” rules listed on the TxDPS website. The issues revolve around vehicle lighting, vehicle height adjustment, and air intake modifications.

3. Florida

As in other states, it is illegal to use nitrous as an inhalant. Beyond that, the laws get a little more confusing.

Most law enforcement officers agree that it is legal to have nitrous oxide but not to use it on the street. Whether that means the bottle can be plugged in or not, answers are mixed. Obviously, if you are using nitrous kits for street racing, you can expect problems.

4. New York

This state is one with some pretty obscure laws, making it difficult for the average person to decipher. However, 10-163 states that nitrous ownership is limited to two bottles, with no indication of size.

Beyond that, it is completely illegal to do street racing, whether you use nitrous or not. This law specifically stipulates “the presence of a cartridge that appears to contain nitrous oxide attached to a vehicle.” It is also considered illegal.

5. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania laws are much more transparent regarding the use of nitrous oxide. Obviously, the gas cannot be used as an illegal inhalant.

Beyond that, it is also illegal to have an N2O cylinder in the vehicle unless it is disconnected. It can be found inside the vehicle for transport to or from a track only.

RELATED: Why do police touch the back of your car when they pull you over?

Other Possible Illegal Car Modifications

1. Suspension lifted

One of the most common truck modifications is to add a lift kit. However, adding a lift kit can change the driving dynamics of the truck and sometimes create a dangerous situation. For this reason, some states have laws regarding lifting equipment.

For example, Connecticut only allows lifting equipment that raises the vehicle four inches or less. What’s even more restrictive is the law in Georgia, which only allows two more inches of ground clearance.

2. Rolling the coal

MONO has a lot to say about controlling vehicle emissions. That’s why there is nothing legal about rolling coal. When diesel engines are modified to burn more fuel, dark black clouds of exhaust gases, known as rolling carbon, rise.

Not only has the EPA ruled this illegal, but several states have also taken action. If you live in Maryland, Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, and several other areas, you could be fined if you dump black smoke on the roads.

3. Darkened Window Tint

Dark window tint serves your purposes, whether you’re trying to get some privacy or don’t want the scorching sun to burn you while driving. However, dark tint also carries some safety risks, especially if it makes it harder to see when visibility is reduced. Of course, some tints also prevent others from seeing you, which the police don’t like.

Each state has its own limitations regarding how dark your car tint should be. Most regulations apply to the side and rear windows, as front window tinting is generally not legal. For example, if you are a driver in Alaska, the side tint should let in 70% of light, while the rear tint can let in 40%.

4. Cold air inlet

For those looking to get more power out of the engine, a cold air intake seems like a reasonable modification. It can increase power and improve fuel efficiency, especially if you’re splurging on a well-known brand. However, cold air intakes are not always legal.

In California, to install a cold air intake, you must ensure that it receives the proper certifications. This state prohibits any modification that affects the vehicle’s emissions. Here’s how the state reduces pollution and strives to be more carbon neutral. Before installing a new cold air intake, make sure it has the CARB EO exemption number. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a pretty hefty fine if you get caught.


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