Making The Case For Legalising Engine Swaps In Singapore

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Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1658455708652 Euro R FeaturedThe LTA would very much rather you not even contemplate swapping your engine in the first place. This holds true even if you're swapping like-for-like. But why is that so?

We are not suggesting that engine swaps are illegal in Singapore - they aren’t. But you can only do so if you swap your motor for an identical replacement, and even so, there are many other regulatory hurdles in your way.Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1658455756769 1658455756769To be clear, we aren't suggesting that our regulatory bodies should throw caution to the wind, approving car modifications just because overly vocal groups of netizens are talking about it. Rather, this article aims to take a deep and unbiased look at the hows and whys of engine swaps.

In fact, in the increasingly eco-conscious world we find ourselves living in, could there actually be an argument for legalising engine swaps?

Saving The Polar Bears

Indirectly anyways. It is incredibly resource and energy-intensive to build a new car from scratch. The more efficient vehicles do eventually offset the carbon emissions, as they are less polluting than keeping an older car on the road for the same time period. However, it will still take up to half a decade to create a carbon deficit.Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1658455786541 1658455786541If your existing vehicle is structurally sound, but has an inefficient, out-of-date, or failing engine, it could make more environmental sense to replace it with a cleaner burning unit, possibly salvaged from a more modern vehicle that has prematurely met its maker - isn't recycling the 'in' thing now?

Think about it - the re-engineered car will produce less carbon emissions, but you do not expend all the extra energy and materials in the fabrication of a brand new bodyshell. So if we're really an eco-conscious nation, shouldn't we actually actively pursue an outlet to refresh cars without creating a demand for brand new ones?

But What About The Regulatory Hurdles?

One of the biggest arguments against performing engine swaps is the difficulty in patrolling these non-OEM approved modifications. From the factory, vehicles have integrated safety and electronic systems, which are designed to work with its original engine.Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1658455894919 1658455894919Swapping out the very heart that powers the vehicle will inevitably render the ancillary systems inoperable. But it doesn't have to be that way, as a growing number of independant workshops overseas have gained deep expertise in the retrofitment of OEM+ equipment on heavily customised cars. Reinstated, these altered vehicles are no more dangerous than their stock counterparts.

Again, we would like to stress that we are not suggesting for one that our regulatory bodies compromise our rigourous safety standards to satiate a car enthusiast's deep desire to make dodgy and potentially irreversible alterations. Instead, we believe a certain compromise and leeway should be given, allowing kits from more established tuning companies, with proven track records, to be homologated for use here.

The Pitfalls

Engine swaps are actually fairly common overseas. But these countries have far less complex automotive taxation structures as compared to what we have here. Which is probably why despite the benefits of changing out aged motors for fresh units, unless we have drastic overhauls to our policies, this is something that is unlikely to be legalised.

These 'remanufactured' vehicles will cause issues as our COE, ARF and even Road Tax system is tiered, and heavily reliant on engine capacity and output. If you are allowed to update your powertrain, swapping it with a newer, more powerful and efficient engine, how should the vehicle be taxed? In this hypothetical scenario, will the rebuilt car be taxed as per its original powertrain?Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1658455897726 1658455897726Or perhaps the rebuilt car should be reclassified based on its specifications of its new engine, with rebates/surcharges being pro-rated from the date of completion.

To also partially preserve part of the revenue that would have been raised from the purchase of a new vehicle, perhaps a separate taxation structure could also be created specially for these vehicles. All the existing metrics used to determine a vehicle's value can then be pro-rated to reflect the updated mechnicals. 

This way, the government still gets to raise some funds, albeit less than if a new car was put on the road. Doing so will reduce environmental waste, and the die-hard car enthusiast is also kept happy - what's not to like?

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