With gas prices climbing higher each day, it’s only natural to pay more attention to your gas mileage. When you watch your budget being eaten by trips to the gas station, fuel efficiency is of top concern.
Will exhaust leaks impact gas mileage? Will exhaust leaks affect your vehicle’s performance?
While you may not have thought much about the process before, times are a-changing. Exhaust leaks can and will make you take more trips to the gas station. It impacts performance, and underscores your efficiency.
What do you need to know?
Understanding your car’s exhaust system
A car’s exhaust system is a variety of pipes, connectors, sensors, and mechanical devices designed to handle and dispose of exhaust fumes that are produced by the engine’s combustion process. The exhaust system is designed to:
- Funnel potentially dangerous exhaust fumes away from the occupants of the vehicle
- Reduce the noise levels of the internal combustion process
- Reduce the toxicity levels of outgoing fumes that can be harmful to humans
Why exhaust leaks can be dangerous
The combustion process is a powerful force used to create energy, and make your car go. Car exhaust fumes can contain a variety of poisonous chemicals, including:
- Carbon monoxide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Nitrogen oxides
Each can be harmful to your health.
A properly working exhaust system ensures your vehicle is operating safely for you and those around you. When an exhaust leak occurs, it can allow dangerous gases to enter the atmosphere around it. If that moves into your vehicle, it quickly creates a hazardous situation. Many of these harmful gases are odorless, which means you won’t even realize their impact as you ride in the passenger cabin. Prolonged impact can make you sick.
You may have an exhaust leak if you notice …
For many drivers, an annual emissions test may be the first sign you receive that something is wrong. If you pull into your state’s testing center, it records an abnormal reading, alerting you to a potential problem. To continue legally driving, you’ll have to fix your exhaust system before getting your certification.
But that’s not the only way your vehicle alerts you to a potential problem. Exhaust leaks can give you other warning signs that give you advanced warning.
Engine noise – listen for a loud rumble that often occurs while accelerating. Depending on where the leak is, you may hear a variety of noises: popping, hissing, ticking, or buzzing. It usually sounds louder when you’re outside the vehicle, and it will get louder as you rev the engine.
Loud exhaust – over time, you get to know the sounds of your vehicle well. If you have a leak in the exhaust, it will make driving and accelerating louder than normal. You will know if you have a leak.
Loss of acceleration – anytime the system doesn’t work the way it should, it can impact performance. When you press down on the accelerator, you may notice your vehicle no longer accelerates the way it once did. It no longer has pick-up-and-go. This won’t go away. You’ll continue to lose power as the leak becomes more pronounced.
Vibrations – don’t you just hate rattles and vibrations, and you can’t seem to find the cause? Exhaust leaks allow air to escape from cracks or holes in the system. Depending on where it is, it can cause a variety of vibrations.
Noxious smells – some of the exhaust fumes are odorless. But that doesn’t mean you can’t smell it. One of the exhaust system’s functions is to give it an odor to make sure you smell it in the event something goes wrong. If you start to smell exhaust fumes moving towards the front of the cabin, you have a problem. You may notice it as a gas smell as well.
Reduced fuel economy – with today’s gas prices soaring sky-high, this might be one of your first clues if you monitor your mileage. Are you returning to the gas station more frequently? An exhaust leak may be the culprit. Exhaust leaks cause an air-to-fuel ratio imbalance that makes the engine less efficient. That increases the amount of gas needed for processing.
What’s causing exhaust leaks?
Just like exhaust leaks can spring to life for a variety of reasons, what causes them varies depending on your vehicle. It may be from:
Corrosion – the exhaust system rides close to the ground. It’s impacted by heat and cold, ice, rain, and snow. When you drive on a dirt road, rocks and gravel can pound against it. When you drive in the winter, salt, mag-chloride, and other chemicals can affect the metal. Heat can cause melted road tar onto the system. Go on a road trip? You may bring part of the experience home with you. Through all the miles your car drives, it can impact the system over time.
Damage – the exhaust system resides underneath the car, close to the ground. Potholes, road hazards, unpaved roads, and even normal driving conditions can all cause damage to the low-lying equipment. If a rock bounces up, it can damage the metal.
Failing joints, gaskets, and welds – every piece on your vehicle degrades over time. If it was installed correctly, it might last the manufacturer’s suggested time limits. If it was poorly repaired, it might show up sooner than expected.
Time and age – everything wears down over time. The older your vehicle is, the more room for problem areas can arise.
Fixing exhaust leaks
Exhaust leaks are a job best left to the professionals. That’s because it contains a variety of issues to ensure it’s brought back to good working condition. It may include part replacement, dealing with metal corrosion, or ensuring the system is functioning well. Everything from new parts to sealants may be used.
The exhaust system isn’t something you want second-rate. Your life could hang in the balance if something isn’t right.
Your best line of defense against exhaust leaks is to have your vehicle inspected on a regular basis. If you notice significant changes, schedule an inspection right away.
It’s the best way to keep repair bills to a minimum, and ensure you’re vehicle is always running smoothly.