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Automobile Nuisances

This page provides an overview of automobile nuisances for local governments in Washington State and examples of local regulations, including automobile repair on residential or public property, parking of vehicles in front yards, and automobile noise nuisances.

It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.

Vehicle Repair on Public or Residential Property

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.


Vehicle Storage

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. (See our page Parking and Storage of Oversized Vehicles.) 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.


Automobile Noise

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.

Motorcycles, Scooters, Off-Road Vehicles

For off-road vehicles (ORVs), RCW 46.09.470(1)(e) requires mufflers and sets decibel limits. See also RCW 46.09.360 on regulation by local political subdivisions or state agencies.

Squealing, Screeching Tires

Other Related Topics

For other related automobile topics, see the following MRSC webpages:

Last Modified: April 13, 2023