Vehicle Noise Limits UK: Tyres and Exhausts
In the United Kingdom, there is a limit as to how loud your car can be when used on a public road – currently 74 decibels.
Even though noise pollution rules apply to all types of vehicles, generally the larger ones (e.g. with big engines) are allowed to make louder noises.
The council must investigate complaints of a noise considered as a ‘statutory nuisance’ (e.g. falling under the Environmental Protection Act 1990).
Note: Another section explains more about the roles of local authorities and how to report a noise nuisance to the council in England and Wales.
Noise Limits for Tyres
All tyres have a legal noise rating in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, grading and labelling them (e.g. showing the noisiness) has been a requirement since November 2012.
Modifying an Exhaust System
As a rule, making modifications to an exhaust system is illegal (e.g. to make it more noisy) – especially after it’s been checked to meet environmental and safety standards through the vehicle type approval process.
Failing to ensure the vehicle silencer works properly (e.g. as designed), or driving a vehicle in a way that creates too much noise, can result in police action for various types of motoring offences.
Note: The main section contains more information about effective environmental resource management and how it relates to human activities and animal habitats in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Road Noise Rules UK
In fact, there is no legal limit set in law for noises caused by road traffic. But, the authorities usually take noise levels into account when planning the construction of offices and houses near to new and existing highways.
Planning Assessments for New Roads
Highway authorities will assess how noise levels may change and affect nearby properties when making plans to construct a new local road.
In some cases, you can make a claim if noises emitting from a new road exceeds certain levels (e.g. have sound insulation installed). Contact your local council or highway authority for further details.
Note: You can read more about Highways England road proposals and rules they need to follow when delivering large road schemes (e.g. costing £10+ million).
Road Noises and Compulsory Purchases
Often, building new roads and motorways will involve a ‘compulsory purchase’ of land masses. Highways England produces further guidance about how to make a claim for compensation after they make compulsory purchases.
Compensation from New or Altered Roads
After opening to vehicular traffic, you may be able to apply for compensation when a road affects your property’s value (e.g. using part 1 claims).
Noise from Ice-cream Vans
The Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes contains a summary of the suggested guidelines for operating loudspeakers which mobile vendors often display and use in their vehicles.
Noise from Aircrafts and Airports
As a general rule, all airports regulate the noise levels (e.g. schedule flights over low populated areas and restrict night flights) across the United Kingdom.
You should contact the airport directly to check if they are operating a sound insulation scheme (e.g. if the flight paths are causing you a problem).
Military Aircraft Noise Complaints
Another section covers low flying military aircraft in greater detail and how the Armed Forces handle complaints about high noise levels.
Guidelines for Railway Noise
Existing railways in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have no legal limits set for noise levels. Even so, the local council may investigate the issue if it affects your general health and well-being.
In some cases, you can get sound insulation installed if noise from a new railway line is affecting your property. Contact the relevant rail authority for more details.
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) produces strategic noise maps for people living in England. Thus, the 2012 strategic noise mapping dataset provides further information on noises emitting from major:
- Airports (50,000+ aircraft movements per year – excludes training on light aircraft).
- Railways (60,000+ train passages per year).
- Roads (6+ million annual vehicle passages).
Related Help Guides
- How to report an environmental hazard or incident?
- Reporting nuisance smells in the United Kingdom.
- UK rules for smoke control areas (smokefree zones).
Note: This short video explains what you can do if your neighbour is making too much noise (e.g. playing loud music, carrying out late night DIY).