Air horns are known for their extremely loud sound, which is pretty menacing if you count their depiction in movies and TV series. The reason they’re so loud is quite intuitive as a train can’t stop easily and can crush almost any vehicle or human in its way. The legal limit for car horns on regular vehicles is between 100 and 110 decibels. A train horn is between 130 and 150 decibels, which makes it very loud, but it’s allowed because it’s only used in dire and critical situations where such a loud noise can prevent a catastrophe. The legality of installing an air horn on your car depends on the state or location, and some other factors that we’ll discuss.


It’s illegal to use a train horn in your car, yet it’s okay to mount it in California. Semi-trucks and trucks are allowed to use an air horn if it complies with FMVSS standards in addition to the right specifications. Violating such terms can result in a fine of $108 if you have no prior citations. It’s also worth knowing that using the horn excessively comes with its penalties as well.


Using a train horn on any vehicle as a regular warning method is considered illegal and would cause the vehicle to fail its annual inspection once it’s found hooked to the car. The only legal leeway that allows the use of a train horns is if it’s hooked to the alarm system of a truck. Very loud sounds are considered noise pollution and can easily get you penalized.

Georgia and Virginia

Georgia is laxer when it comes to the installation of air horns on a car, provided that they are installed as a part of an alarm system. Virginia shares the same view as long as the warning device, the train horn, in this case, is approved by the superintendent to be used as part of an anti-theft or alarm system.

States Where It’s Completely Illegal

Most states other than the ones mentioned above have strict laws that restrict installing any type of air horn in general, excluding emergency vehicles. It’s quite important to check the laws of your state to know whether you’re allowed to use a train horn for specific purposes or not.

How Do They Work?

The reason train horns are so legally restricted is because of the resulting loud noise. The steam whistle was the earliest version of warning horns, and as trains relied on different technology to operate, steam whistles became obsolete. An air horn proved to be a better alternative, as it simply sounds through the process of compressed air through a power chamber, which later channels it to a diaphragm.

Installing an air horn on a car requires research, as you might get into a lot of legal trouble if you use it for the wrong purposes according to the laws of the state. Nevertheless, a train horn can provide you with numerous benefits—and an obvious ‘cool’ factor—if you know what you’re doing.

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