Sitting in traffic gives you a chance to notice potential problems with the cars around you.
The car in front of you might have smoke pouring out of the tailpipe, with an odor that has you reaching to control the inside cabin’s airflow.
Another car might have water leaking from the tailpipe, a trail forming as it drives along.
A car drives by with sounds louder than usual. Maybe you hear a loud roaring sound when someone starts up a car nearby.
Still another seems to operate perfectly. It quietly buzzes along the road, appearing to operate efficiently.
Exhaust issues can quickly turn into problems. Priority in fixing them means you’ll stop potentially costly repair bills before they escalate, as well as reduce the risk of health problems if the gas enters your cabin.
Before we talk about ways of fixing car exhaust problems, let’s learn a little more about the basics.
How the exhaust system works
The purpose of a car’s exhaust system is to limit emissions, noise, and vibrations, and be a release system for combustion gases. It also improves performance of the engine, and fuel consumption. It’s made up of a series of components that stretch the length of your car, starting with the engine and running to the rear exhaust pipe.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the design of the exhaust system may vary. However, they all work in a similar manner, to pull the harmful exhaust gases from the engine, which are produced as the engine operates. The gases produced include three toxic gases: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and nitrogen monoxide.
The system starts with the manifold, which has the job of collecting exhaust fumes from the engine. It acts as a funnel to divert gases from cylinders in the engine through a single opening referred to as the front pipe.
The gases then travel through a catalytic converter which removes the harmful elements and converts them to inert gases. They pass through a silencer or muffler, which reduces the sound waves and produces a quieter car. This is one of the biggest warning signs – if you hear a loud car, there’s a chance it has a problem with the exhaust system.
The tailpipe is the exit point for exhaust fumes. This is what takes toxic fumes away from the vehicle, and keeps the passengers inside safe from harm.
Common problems with an exhaust system
One of the most common problems within the exhaust system is corrosion of various components, including the front pipe. The silencer is also prone to corrosion damage, which is one of the biggest reasons you might experience more engine noise.
Because the exhaust system stretches the length of the vehicle on the undercarriage, it can also be impacted if you hit something because of low clearance. There are many joints that can loosen, break, or cause vibrations over time, and can affect performance. If you hear a hissing noise, it might be a leak.
Signs you have problems with the exhaust system
Like other parts of your vehicle, when something goes wrong in the exhaust system, it creates specific problems to alert you early, to give you time to fix the problem before it escalates.
Decreased power and acceleration – one of the first issues you’ll notice with a compromised exhaust system is a decrease in performance of your engine. You won’t be able to accelerate well, and you won’t get the same power you’ve grown accustomed to while owning your car.
Decreased fuel efficiency – when your vehicle isn’t performing well, you’ll also start to notice a decrease in fuel efficiency. Your car will have to work harder to achieve the same functions, which will take more fuel to accomplish the same goals. Watch your mileage numbers every time you fill up. Significant decreases in efficiency are your car’s way of telling you there’s a problem.
A noisy engine – if any part of the exhaust system breaks down, it will impact the noise level of the engine. A faulty manifold gasket, for example, will cause an exhaust leak that sounds like a hissing or tapping sound. It will increase in decibel levels from a cold start, or as you accelerate.
A burning smell – if the manifold gasket fails and begins to leak, the heat produced could impact the wiring or any of the many plastic pieces located underneath the hood. As the heat takes hold, they start to burn and it releases a distinct burning smell.
A gas smell – if one of the exhaust pipes or tubes is damaged and starts to leak, it can allow a gas smell to circulate inside your vehicle while you drive.
A loose or dragging exhaust pipe – if one or more of the brackets holding up the tailpipe are damaged or loosened, it can allow the exhaust pipe to hang or drag on the ground. When this happens, it’s important to fix it immediately, as it can quickly damage other parts of your vehicle through vibrations. If it falls off completely, it’s a danger to you and the other drivers around you.
Keep your vehicle in good working condition through regular inspections
Although the exhaust system is vulnerable to both damage and corrosion, a well cared for vehicle will rarely have problems with the exhaust system with regular driving alone. Modern vehicles are designed for an exhaust system to last for 100,000 miles or longer with regular maintenance. Unless your car is damaged or you take your vehicle four-wheel driving, it should stay trouble-free for years.
When you bring your car in for regular maintenance, we can use diagnostic tests to determine where minor problems exist. If we find a problem with the exhaust system, we can complete the required maintenance to bring the system back to good working condition, and get you on the road again in no time.