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Everything you never knew about vehicle equipment laws

Jan. 4, 2018

Photo of a GPS unit and hula doll in a car.
Photo: Minnesota’s vehicle equipment regulations require that there’s nothing on your dashboard – so your GPS unit can stay (as long as it’s low on your windshield), but that hula dancer will need to live elsewhere.

Ever look at your car and wonder what is and isn’t legal in terms of the equipment? What does the law say about your headlights and brake lights? And perhaps more importantly, can you keep the hula dancer on the dashboard and the fuzzy dice dangling from the rearview mirror?

Fortunately, the State Patrol is here to help us be sure we’re driving a law-abiding vehicle. Some of the regulations may be obvious (you already knew you’re required to have two headlights, right?), but some aren’t so much. For example, those headlights are limited to 300-watt candlepower so that you don’t blind oncoming drivers. And you’ll need to have them on in rain, snow, fog and the dark. It may help to remember that headlights are just as important for making you visible to other drivers as they are to helping you see.

And while we’re on the subject of lights, let’s talk about taillights. Anything besides a motorcycle needs two functional brake lights in the back, and they can’t be white (the only white lights you can have on the back of your vehicle are your backup lights). Plus, you need two sets of turn signals – one in the back and one in the front.

Your back license plate needs to be illuminated as well. License plates should be attached to the front and rear of your vehicle, and cannot be obstructed by anything. This means brushing the snow and ice off of it when necessary, and not using rear cargo carriers or bike racks that make it impossible to see your back license plate.

The state of Minnesota wants you to be able to see, too, which is why there are some specific regulations regarding windshields. For starters, your windshield must be intact – so get those cracks fixed! Windshield wipers are required.

Did you know there are regulations for bumper height? It’s 20 inches for passenger cars and 25 inches for pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs. And if you’re thinking about creating your own monster truck, keep in mind that no vehicle can be lifted more than six inches from the factory base.

And to answer that question about the hula dancer and the fuzzy dice, well…there must be nothing on your dashboard or hanging from your rearview mirror. So those will have to go. But they’re a small price to pay for safety and visibility, aren’t they?