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Automobile Nuisances


This page addresses automobile repair in streets and yards in residential areas, parking of vehicles in front yards other then driveways, and automobile noise nuisances. In Washington State there are specific statutory provisions which govern junk vehicles (See RCW 46.55.240 and MRSC's Junk Vehicles page). See Related MRSC Pages for other automobile issues.


In a situation where an individual continuously parks one or more vehicles in a front yard or on the street for the purpose of working on the vehicles, there are several methods of addressing the problem. Most of the city and county ordinance provisions address automobile repair as a nuisance. Another approach is to regulate automobile repair through the zoning code, as in Everett. Some local governments regulate automobile repair through parking provisions, such as the Burlington example. If an individual's auto repair "hobby" takes on characteristics of an automobile repair shop operating from his property, the use may meet the local zoning code definition of an "auto repair facility," which is generally not a permitted use in a residential zone. Automobile repair on public streets is prohibited by WAC 308-330-436, part of the Model Traffic Ordinance.

  • Bellingham Municipal Code Sec. 10.28.020(O) - Nuisances Declared... The repairing of automobiles or vehicles of any kind upon the public streets or in the alleys of the city...
  • Burlington Municipal Code Sec. 10.12.200 - Repair on Public Property Prohibited - includes exception for emergency repairs
  • Elma Municipal Code Sec. 8.16.020 - Public Nuisances Declared....18. Repair upon the public streets, alleys or other public property of the city, of any automobile, truck or other motor vehicle or any other device required to possess a license issued by the Department of Motor Vehicle/Licenses of this state or the state of its registration except for emergency repairs not to exceed forty-eight hours in any seven-day period and only so long as it is so located as to not constitute a hazard or unreasonable interference to pedestrian or motor vehicle travel or the placement or storage upon these sights of vehicles, materials, or other objects contrary to the provision of any applicable section of this code; (Ord. 942 §2, 1995)
  • Everett Zoning Code Sec. 19.39.160 - Vehicle and Equipment Repair on Residential Premises.


Some cities adopt restrictions in their zoning codes and parking regulations that prohibit the parking of vehicles outside of "driveways" or within required front- and side-yard areas. The key to enforcement of these types of regulations appears to be an adequate definition of "driveway" or "parking area" applicable to the residential zone; specification of required minimum front-, side-, and rear-yards, including landscaping; and prohibitions against parking vehicles outside of driveways or other allowable parking areas. Restrictive parking regulations can be accompanied by provisions allowing parking or storage of vehicles on residential lots if there is appropriate fencing or other screening.

Storage of recreational vehicles on residential lots is often addressed through separate regulations. Some jurisdictions enact companion regulations regulating the parking of vehicles on public streets and rights-of-way to avoid the situation where vehicles removed from private property subsequently are parked on public streets.

Finally, some cities appear to regulate parking of excessive numbers of inoperable vehicles by declaring such accumulations to be nuisances. Again, these regulations are in addition to regulations regarding storage of abandoned, inoperable vehicles on private property which are subject to the provisions of Ch. 46.55 RCW.

  • Auburn Municipal Code Sec. 18.52.120 - Parking in front or side yards - Prohibited Generally.
  • Bellingham Municipal Code Sec. 11.33.185 - Parking Within Residential Yards Prohibited. No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle within the area designated as a minimum front yard, or side yard on a flanking street....
  • Everett Zoning Code Sec. 19.34.060 - Location of Off-street Parking.... J. Automobiles shall not be parked in required front yard setback areas in single-family and duplex zones....
  • Lynnwood Municipal Code Sec. 10.08.200 (B)(16) - Public Nuisance Defined.... regulates the number of vehicles that can be stored or parked
  • Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code Sec. 8.15.050 - Recreational, utility and motor vehicles
  • Normandy Park Zoning Code Sec. 18.32.080 - Bulk regulations for primary uses - No part of any required front yard setback shall be used for the storage or parking of any vehicles....
  • Redmond Municipal Code Sec. 21.40.010(F)(3) - Parking in Building Setback Areas - In all residential zones, parking other than bicycle parking and parking in driveways is not permitted in front setback areas.


When adopting noise control ordinances relating to the operation of motor vehicles, cities and counties should be aware of state laws regulating commercial and private motor vehicles, and state administrative regulations on these subjects. The Department of Ecology has established motor vehicle noise performance standards and maximum permissible noise levels on public highways in Ch. 173-62 WAC.

Compression Brakes

Compression brakes are regulated in RCW 46.37.395. Noise resulting from certain emergency uses may not be a violation of local noise ordinances.Most of the sample ordinances contain an exception for use of compression brakes in emergency situations. Information about compression brake noise and a "heads-up" on the use of signs that use the words "Jake Brakes" appears on the Jacobs Vehicle Systems website, Noise Concerns.

  • Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Ch. 10.28 - Compression Brakes
  • Clark County Code Sec. 10.02.025 - Unmuffled compression brakes prohibited

Motorcycles, Scooters, Off-Road Vehicles

  • Off Road Vehicles (ORV) - RCW 46.09.470 (1)(e) requires mufflers and sets decibel limits. See also RCW 46.09.360 - Regulation by local political subdivisions or state agencies.
  • Chelan Municipal Code Ch. 8.30 - Noise Levels for Motor Vehicles - See provisions related to motorcycles, ORV
  • Covington Municipal Code Sec. 8.20.020 (2)(j.) - The creation of sounds from gas-powered motorized foot scooters between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or during any “hours of darkness,” as that phrase is defined in RCW 46.04.200. For purposes of this section, the times of sunset and sunrise shall be those times designated in a newspaper of local circulation including the King County Journal, the Seattle Times or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Ordinance 21-04)
  • San Juan County Code Sec. 9.06.040 - Noise disturbances. C 3. The creation of frequent, repetitive, or continuous noise in connection with the starting, operation, repair, rebuilding, or testing of any motor vehicle, motorcycle, or off-highway vehicle so as to unreasonably disturb or interfere with the peace, comfort, and repose of owners or possessors of real property;
  • Vroom for Improvement: New Ordinances Seek to Reduce Motorcycle Noise, Governing, 11/2007

Squealing, Screeching Tires

  • Leavenworth Municipal Code Sec. 9.34.030 - Loud or unusual noise prohibited when. (7.) The squealing, screeching or other such sounds from motor vehicle tires in contact with the ground or other roadway surface because of rapid acceleration, braking or excessive speed around corners or because of such other reason; provided, that sounds which result from actions which are necessary to avoid danger shall be exempt from this section
  • Toppenish Municipal Code Sec. 9.98.030 - Public disturbance noises prohibited - A. The operation of a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause or allow to be emitted squealing, screeching or other such noise from the tires in contact with the road surface because of rapid acceleration or excessive speed around corners or other such reason, except that such noise emanating from emergency braking to avoid imminent danger shall be exempt from this provision.

Related MRSC Pages

Last Modified: July 23, 2019