Most cars come with an internal combustion engine. Miniature explosions take place inside the cylinders, pushing down the pistons. This in turn rotates the crankshaft and getting the car on the move.

However, the little problem with internal combustion engines is that they produced a lot of exhaust gases. For managing them, a car needs a good exhaust system. The vehicle’s exhaust system leads the burnt gases away from the IC engine. They are then released to the atmosphere.

So what happens when there is something wrong with the vehicle’s exhaust system? It doesn’t happen often. However, when it does happen it is a good idea to know how to spot it. But to get the whole picture, we need to look at how the exhaust system works.

How does a vehicle’s exhaust system work?

Exhaust Manifold
Exhaust Manifold

Exhaust gases are produced inside the chambers of the car engine. These are then, directed to the exhaust system with the help of a manifold. Then, the oxygen sensors in the system measure the amount of oxygen present in the exhaust gases. They figure out if the mixture is too rich or too lean.

Catalytic Convertor
Catalytic Converter

Afterwards, these gases pass through something called a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter transforms almost 90% of the toxic exhaust gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide into carbon dioxide and water vapour. These residual gases then pass through a resonator and afterwards through the vehicle’s silencer (also known as a muffler). Both the resonator and the muffler turn the racket from the car engine into sounds that are bearable to the human ear.

Useless car accessories
Exhaust Muffler

The tailpipe is the only part of a car’s exhaust system we can spot from the outside. After passing through the muffler the exhaust gases are (well, more or less) safely released to the environment through the tailpipe.
To know more read How Does The Car Exhaust System Work? Explained!

Things might go wrong

When any of the exhaust system parts are damaged, the car engine would have to pay the price. The vehicle’s exhaust system can be hit by a series of bad days due to a lot of reasons. You might even have to deal with problems like a broken catalytic converter or an oxygen sensor. Besides these, problems like corrosion in the exhaust system are more common than you think.

Spot a bad exhaust system

When things go wrong, and they will, how will you know? Here are the symptoms of exhaust problems you may encounter.

  1. Hissing sounds
    Common Car Noises

    Most of the exhaust problems occur because of a faulty exhaust manifold gasket. The exhaust manifold has a gasket which acts a seal. The gasket ensures that no gases leak. Problems with the gasket can be detected by listening for hissing sounds or suspicious noises from the engine. You should not drive around with a bad exhaust manifold gasket. This can damage the other parts of the system like the catalytic converter.

  2. Loud engine noises

    Common Car Noises
    Exhaust Muffler Peeling

    Problems like the corrosion of your vehicle’s silencer or a fractured exhaust pipe can make themselves noticeable through loud engine noises. So always keep a good ear out for those noises.

  3. Obnoxious odour

    Exhaust pipes
    Exhaust pipes

    If the catalytic converter malfunctions, harmful gases like carbon monoxide would be released to the atmosphere. Other issues like a leaky exhaust pipe or a damaged catalytic converter can also cause this.

    But the good news is, these exhaust gases have a very bad smell. If you get a whiff of this stench, this could mean that something is amiss in the exhaust system.

  4. Lower Mileage

    Fuel efficiency degrading
    Fuel efficiency degrading

    Issues in the exhaust system can put a damper on your car’s fuel economy. A partly blocked exhaust system causes back pressure reducing the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. There is also a chance that the exhaust system might have sprouted a leak near the car’s engine.

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  5. Lower Performance

    Spoiler Alert - Does Your Car Really Needs a Spoiler

    An exhaust leak can also hamper the engine’s power and its ability to accelerate. If you need to put a lot of energy to get your car to start accelerating it could mean something is wrong. This might be a symptom of some exhaust system problem.

    Small leaks in the exhaust system might not make any telltale noise. But it can still reduce the vehicle’s capacity to accelerate.

  6. Visible cues like suspended exhaust pipes

    If you hear any metallic rattling sounds underneath your car it might indicate that some part of the exhaust system has come off. It would be a good idea to look for broken pipes or hanging exhaust system parts under the car frame.

  7. Corrosion

    Rust is often the cause and the symptom of exhaust system problems. The exhaust system is subject to a lot of heating and cooling. Aside from this, the vehicle’s exhaust releases a lot of water vapour. All this can eventually get the system rusted. Get your car to a service centre if you see too much corrosion.

You should also look out for other obvious signs of exhaust system damage. The smell of burning, a check engine light that remains on or an engine misfire also calls out for your attention.

Car Exhaust System Work
Car Exhaust System Work

The exhaust is a tough system with parts that complement each other and works fairly well. However, when it fails, it fails hard. But with some proper upkeep, your car’s exhaust system will serve you and your machine well. Just make sure you put in the time to get your vehicle exhaust system checked out by a professional as needed.

Do you need to get your car serviced? We are here to help! Download the GoMechanic App now.

Also, read 8 Symptoms Of A Failing Steering System | Is Your Car Steering Bad?

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