Q&A - What to do About Noisy Vehicles?

Q&A ImageI live in Burnaby in a high-rise condo apartment near MetroTown and am very upset by the excessive noise from both motorcycles and cars that have obviously altered the vehicle from the manufacturer's specifications resulting in noise that can be heard for a kilometer or more away from my place. Motorcycles are the worst offenders. Operators seem to take delight in starting the machine up at anywhere from 5:30 AM to 7:30 AM and reving the engine so the noise is very loud. Then, driving off making an unbearable noise. Several of these operators also seem to delight in gunning the engine, then letting the machine coast for a short distance, then gunning the engine again in order to rev the engine to create more noise. This goes on continuously.

There are also many small cars that have modified mufflers and every day, and all night long, you can hear the roar of the mufflers from a long distance away after taking off close to where I live. As a former race car driver myself, I know what excessive exhaust noise is and this is what we are bombarded with day in and day out. In fact, it is so bad that my wife and I have to wear ear plugs at night in order to enjoy our home. Without ear plugs we would get no sleep. Can the Police not begin a campaign to curb this racket?  Every day, and night, it sounds like we are at a stock car race as the very inconsiderate drivers in this area shatter the quietness of the night with their racket.

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.

This particular complaint is probably #2, behind blinding lights, submitted to me to comment on. As a victim of other driver's lack of consideration and a former enforcer of the rules about all that I can say is that we will likely continue to be frustrated by it. No doubt, that is not what you wanted to hear.

A quick look at the rules:

Motor Vehicle Act Regulations


7.03 (1) A motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine shall be equipped with an exhaust muffler consisting of a series of pipes or chambers which ensures that the exhaust gases from the engine are cooled and expelled without excessive noise. Cut-outs prohibited

(2) No person shall drive or operate a motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine when the muffler with which the vehicle is equipped is cut out or disconnected from the engine. Part removal prohibited

(3) No person shall drive or operate a motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine equipped with a muffler from which has been removed any baffle plate or other part. Alteration prohibited

(4) No person shall drive or operate a motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine equipped with a muffler the exhaust outlet of which has been opened or widened. Noise increase or flames prohibited

(5) No person shall drive or operate a motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine equipped with a muffler or exhaust system to which is attached any device which increases the noise of the expulsion of the gases from the engine or allows a flame to be emitted from the exhaust system.

Vehicle noise

27 A motor vehicle shall be equipped with an exhaust muffler which complies with section 7.03 of the regulations.

The opinion of an inspector as to whether the engine and exhaust noise is greater than that made by other vehicles in good condition of comparable size, horsepower, piston displacement or compression ratio shall determine whether exhaust gases are expelled with excessive noise.

When tested in an inspection station, the vehicle engine, any auxiliary engine and exhaust level shall not exceed Table 3 standards.

Class of Vehicle  Maximum Allowable Sound Pressure Level DBA
Light duty 83
Gasoline-driven heavy duty 88
Motorcycles 91
Diesel-driven heavy duty 93

City of Burnaby Noise or Sound Abatement Bylaw 1979

11. No person shall operate on a highway a motorcycle alone or with or near another motorcycle or motorcycles,

(a) which makes or causes noise or sound the noise or sound level of which exceeds 80 dBA's in a fifty (50) kilometres per hour zone and 85 dBA's in an over fifty (50) kilometres per hour zone;

(b) which after the 1st day of December, 1981 makes or causes noise or sound the noise or sound level of which exceeds 75 dBA's in fifty (50) kilometres per hour zone and 80 dBA's in an over fifty (50) kilometres per hour zone.

12. The noise or sound emanating from a motor vehicle or a motorcycle shall be measured at a distance of not less than six (6) metres from the motor vehicle exhaust pipe opening or from the motorcycle.

17. The Inspector and a Peace Officer are hereby authorized to measure noise or sound levels.

18. The Inspector or a Peace Office shall measure noise and sound levels with a Sound Level Meter. Noise and sound levels shall be measured on the A-weighting network and the slow meter response. The Sound Level Meter shall be complete with calibrator and wind screen and shall be operated in the manner as set out in Schedule “A”.


(1) All sound levels shall be determined with a sound level meter on the “A” scale and “slow” meter reading.

(2) Sound level meters shall be used and operated in accordance with manufacturers' instructions. The sound level meter shall be calibrated before and after readings have been taken.

(3) When determining the sound level from a source the ambient or background noise or sound level shall be established at the appropriate position and during the relevant period of time wherever possible before taking sound measurements from the source. No measurement should be attempted if the difference is 3 db or less.

(4) Noise or sound measurement should, in general, be made at a height of approximately one (1) metre and a distance of three (3) metres from any wall, building, or other reflecting structure with the microphone appropriately oriented.

(5) Precautions shall be taken to ensure that the values recorded correspond to the noise or sound being investigated and are not due to wind, or extraneous sources.

(6) When the wind velocity is above eight (8) kilometres per hour, a wind screen must be used. No test should be attempted when the wind velocity is above forty (40) kilometres per hour.

As you can see, the City of Burnaby's bylaw places tighter restrictions on motorcycle noise than the provincial rules do. However, the investigation can only be conducted with a properly functioning decibel meter instead of the officer's "ear."

Sad to say, but I would be surprised if you could interest either the police or the Burnaby bylaw enforcement officers in working an operation in your neighbourhood to combat this issue. While you and I both know it is a significant aggravation, it isn't immediately life threatening.

The other problem is the difficulty obtaining a conviction in court. The officer's ear is rarely successful in my experience and not many officers have access to a decibel meter.

For what it is worth, I do have an article for you on making an effective driving complaint.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I live on the south end of Ladysmith by the tch and like other residents, our quality of life is poor, our realistate is devalued and hard to sell because of the use of engine brakes and motorcycles with inadequate mufflers. Your response to the individual who posted the same complaint in Burnaby that unfortunately , he would justl have to live with it. I'm curious as to why and how,sound levels and avoid the use of engine brakes in a residential were established,if there's no way to enforce them. I have readings of 105 to 119 DNA on my decimetre and yet no enforcement agency my tax dollar is paying for can do their job of enforcement. How and why was the motor vehicle act established if not to be enforced. Why should our quality of life, peace and quiet, safety,be jeopardize by dereliction of duty of the agencies trained and to enforce these regs. "Oh well, you'll just have to live it" seems to be a bit lame. Get on with it please!

I think the biggest problem here is generally the traffic court JJP's reluctance to convict. I used to try until it was clear that I was banging my head against a wall unless I could show that there was no muffler at all. I never had access to a decibel meter to use in my work so I just dealt with all the motorcycles with no muffler. I can't recall ever dealing with engine brake complaints, but I did write truck off truck route tickets. I suppose that helped to some extent.

Part of the lack of interest is that this is not seen as life threatening although I am aware that excessive noise can be a health issue. There is more than enough to do in traffic enforcement that is life threatening so priorities generally don't include noise.

I am aware that the Nanaimo Municipal Traffic people did a motorcycle campaign a couple of years ago that included an excessive noise component. There may have been others around the province that I have not hear of as well.

As I told the person that started the discussion here, you need to keep complaining and escalating your complaint if you do not receive satisfaction. You are correct to observe that you are paying for the service and deserve to receive some attention.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

It appears that no one with authorization cares about noisy vehicles and the health of residents. No form of Government has done anything with these complaints, although their mission statement is to ensure "Health & Safety" in any municipality.

As problems arise in society, political leaders need to respond and deal with issue's presented by taxpayers, otherwise they are clearly not representing the general public, a job they applied for.

 As far as the thousands of noise complaints go, year after year, they are not considered a priority, yet written laws clearly state that there are maximum sound levels for different types of vehicles, which are deemed acceptable. Many people don't consider these noise levels to be acceptable, nor do they accept the lack of enforcement in regards to the noise complaints.

Society has a problem, people want action in regards to their complaints, and they are not getting it, but only excuses for the lack of law enforcement. No resolution is offered, so the problem persists year after year.

So now, in 2018, when the focus is on Health and Safety in our communities, residents have to put up with noisy vehicles and un-necessary horn honking from dumb disrespectful people who have no consideration for others, and no form of Government wants to act on it.

It is clear that our Government doesn't really care about taxpayers, their health or concerns. The only thing they want is our financial support to do whatever they want.

Problems need to be resolved when they are presented, and when leaders no longer care to represent the needs of taxpayers, society will fall apart. In 2018 it is clear that our society is in need of serious repair before there is nothing left.


I agree that there has been some resistance to enforcement of the noise provisions of the MVA and local by-laws.  But excessively noisy vehicles and illegally modified exhaust systems remain a problem in our communities.  I am currently preparing a paper for presentation to the Licensing Inspectors and Bylaw Officers Association at their annual meeting in Victoria on June 7, 2018.  The paper concludes that not only is urban noise a nusance, it is a health hazard.  It can be addressed.