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What are Whistle Tips?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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Whistle tips, also referred to as whistler tips or whistlers, are modified exhaust pipes that make a screeching, whistling sound when a vehicle is operating. The sound reportedly can be heard for a distance of as much as 1 mile (1.6 km). Many municipalities have made this type of exhaust pipe illegal because of the noise they create.

Installation

To install whistle tips, a small metal plate with a central hole is welded into the inner tip of the exhaust pipe. As air leaves the exhaust system under pressure, it passes through the metal hole, causing a whistle. Some people have compared the sound to the noise of train wheels screeching against rails. Others call it a high-pitched shriek. Modifying a vehicle's exhaust system might not be legal in some jurisdictions, and it might void the manufacturer’s warranties.

Speculation about Their Purpose

It is believed by many people that whistle tips were designed for use in rural areas. Cars or trucks that were fitted with them could potentially scare animals, especially deer, off the road to avoid accidents. In populated areas, they have proven to be disruptive and arguably a potential danger to motorists. Some people claim that the whistling sound can even drown out the sound of an emergency vehicle's siren.

Complaints and Legislation

Whistle tips gained notoriety during the early 21st century in California, where they were a growing local fad. Many citizens, however, complained about the noise that was caused by vehicles that had them installed. The online video of one television report about the controversy went viral and drew several million viewers.

Continued complaints and pressure on local governments to do something about the noise eventually brought about legal changes. By 2003, for example, police in Oakland, California, were handing out citations to cars that had them. Later that year, passage of California Assembly Bill 377 made operating a vehicle with these modified exhaust pipes illegal in the state, and the law went into effect on 1 January 2004. In most locations where whistle tips have become popular, legislation has been passed to make them illegal.

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