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Top 7 Symptoms of a Faulty Exhaust System

The picture shows an exhaust gas tailpipe covered in dust, implying that it is worn out. A worn car exhaust system can be detrimental to the health of the car's occupants.
A worn car exhaust system can be detrimental to our health.

A car moves when its engine combusts petrol to produce energy. Unfortunately, this process also comes with exhaust gas as the by-products. The exhaust gas are a mixture of different gases, some of which are toxic to the car occupants and the environment.

This is where the exhaust system comes into play.

The exhaust system works to filter out and purify the toxic substances, while channeling them away from the occupants of the car. If you’d like to know the nitty-gritty details of the exhaust system, feel free to check out What is Car Exhaust System and How it Works.

Most modern car’s exhaust systems are manufactured from stainless-steel or aluminized-steel exhaust system, which are built to lasts the lifetime of a vehicle. Well, it should.

That being said, it may still wear out prematurely due to rusts and harsh operating conditions. Here are some 7 signs and symptoms of an exhausted exhaust system.

#1 Hissing Noise

If the exhaust manifold gasket is faulty, exhaust gas will leak out through the tiny openings, causing a hissing sound. This sound is louder on a cold engine or when you speed your vehicle. This should be fix immediately because exhaust gas are toxic fumes. It’s definitely not on my to-do list to inhale toxic fumes that found its way into the cabin of our car.

#2 Rattling Noise

If you hear a rattling noise coming from under your car, you can suspect that the exhaust pipe may be loose or misaligned. This could be caused by a worn mounting that no longer holds the pipe firmly in place. Yes, it’s the ocean deep potholes that you just hit.

#3 Irregular / Dragging Noise

The exhaust pipes are found on the underside of the car, which are susceptible to harsh conditions and moisture level. Over time, it will start to rusts and possibly snap, causing the exhaust pipes to be hanging or dragging as you drive. No, you don’t want to drive with a hanging pipe.

#4 Roaring Noise

The purpose of a muffler is to reduce the noise level of the exhaust gas (which is why it is also befittingly called a silencer). When it’s worn, you will start to hear loud roaring noise because the worn muffler no longer cancel out the noise created from the engine.

This happens more often in the winter because muffler is the furthest away from the engine. Exhaust gases travels a longer distance, which means more time to cool down. When cooled, it may condense and form acids that can corrode the muffler.

#5 Loss of Power and Acceleration

This symptom is normally accompanied by an exhaust leak. You will start to experience a decrease in engine performance. For example, your car won’t accelerate as quickly as it normally would. This is because some exhaust gas are recirculated back into the engine to improve the performance. With a leak, the performance will suffer.

#6 Worsen Fuel Efficiency

After the decrease of the power and acceleration, next on the list would be decreased fuel efficiency. With worsen performance, your car has to work even harder to provide the same level of performance. How? It compensates the loss of power by burning even more fuel, decreasing your fuel efficiency. So if you notice a drop in your gas mileage, maybe have a look at the exhaust system.

#7 Funky Smells

You can smell all sorts of things, like a complicated collage of perfume, except it smells bad and is toxic for you.

It can smell like burned plastic if the exhaust gas leaks from the gasket onto a plastic part, causing it to melt. It can also smell like raw gasoline, because the exhaust gas did not go through the rest of the exhaust system.

There could be a smoke too. But, don’t wait to see the smoke before you address the issue.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, exhaust system don’t fail easily. But when it does, it makes a grand entrance. A problem with exhaust system will manifest itself in loud noises or distinct smell that are easy to detect. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more critical failure.

If you suspect an exhaust system failure, contact your local mechanic immediately and get it fixed.

Until then, drive safe and drive smart!

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