Your car is louder than usual — especially under the driver’s seat — so you take it to the muffler shop and ask about a new muffler or maybe even a whole new exhaust system. Both options sound expensive.
The good news is it might not be either of these things. Instead, the issue could just be a small component of the exhaust system that can easily be replaced by the right shop. The term “muffler” is often used to describe anything that quiets a car or truck’s exhaust, but a vehicle’s exhaust system is actually much more complicated than that and contains a lot of different parts.
When it comes to unexpected car repairs, budget is always a concern. By understanding how the exhaust system works and finding a shop that has the capability to repair individual parts rather than a full system replacement, you can save lots of time and money. Here’s what you should know before you walk into the muffler shop.
How the Exhaust System Works
First, it’s important to understand the basics of how your vehicle’s exhaust system works. The exhaust system is critical to reducing the harmful emissions and noise created by the combustion process.
The generic term “muffler” is frequently used to describe the part of a vehicle that keeps your engine running quietly, but it’s actually part of a complex system made up of many finely tuned parts. The total exhaust system includes the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter, resonator and a muffler connected to a tailpipe.
When the engine cylinder fires, hot exhaust gas and sound waves are pushed to the exhaust manifold through the exhaust valve. From there, the sound and gas move through a pipe to the catalytic converter. When they enter the catalytic converter, these gases are toxic to the environment. The catalytic converter converts these harmful gases into a less toxic mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor.
Everything is then forced through the muffler, which has multiple chambers that cancel out and dampen exhaust gases and sound waves.
The gases and sound waves enter the chambers in the muffler, the first of which has a lot of tiny perforations — little holes drilled in the pipe — that help to cancel out the noise. The exhaust and sound waves then move through two additional chambers within the muffler, where they bounce around and eventually cancel each other out. Lower sound waves and less toxic gases are then left to exit out the tailpipe.
Replacement vs. Repair
A vehicle that is louder than usual, is making a rattling sound or has its engine light on could be exhibiting symptoms of an exhaust system problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for a new muffler.
Typically, when a customer comes into a shop thinking that they need a new muffler, the problem isn’t with the muffler itself, but with another component of the exhaust system. And many times, a full replacement isn’t necessary.
Exhaust system pipes and tubing are all welded together and as carbon depletes the metal, they are susceptible to rust and break at their weakest points. A custom muffler shop with the ability to fabricate new exhaust pipes or replace segments of your existing exhaust system can cut a piece of replacement pipe, bend it and weld it all back together to look and function as if it were new off the factory floor.
Replacing pipes or segments rather than the full exhaust system can save you thousands of dollars and significantly extend the life of your entire system.
Custom Repairs Extend Warranty and Lifetime
In a new car or truck, the exhaust system is typically made of stainless steel, but regardless, the condensation of cooling gasses will eventually cause segments of the pipe to rust.
Unfortunately, replacement mufflers are generally made of carbon steel rather than stainless steel because carbon steel is less expensive. As a result, the replacements don’t last quite as long as the original stainless steel components.
A custom auto shop with fabrication capabilities can replace pieces of pipe or components rather than the entire exhaust system itself, which effectively extends the lifetime of your original system while still remaining under the original manufacturer’s warranty.
Rather than replace your entire exhaust system for a bad catalytic converter or muffler, for example, these custom shops can remove just the bad part and seamlessly splice in a new one, leaving the rest of the system in tact. The result can mean big savings to you — sometimes anywhere from $150 to $1,000.
Before investing in the total replacement of your entire exhaust system, ask your mechanic the right questions to identify what, exactly, is wrong. When possible, consider replacing just the part of your system that needs replacing rather than the whole thing. Many times, it’s the best choice for your vehicle — and your wallet.
To learn more about custom exhaust work, pipe bending and our made-in-the-USA exhaust inventory, contact one of our mechanic shops in Cleveland today or stop in for a free estimate.