Your car’s exhaust system usually doesn’t get a lot of attention — until you start having problems with it. Even if you notice something isn’t quite right, you may be tempted to put off repairs. However, delaying exhaust system repairs can be dangerous and may even lead to bigger, costlier problems down the road.
Some of the warning signs that your exhaust system needs attention can include:
- Loud noises coming from beneath your car
- A noticeable change in your car’s fuel efficiency
- The check engine light comes on
- You smell fumes in the car
- You hear a hissing or popping sound
Any of these can be red flags that you need to get your car’s exhaust system repaired — and do it quickly.
More Than a Muffler
It’s important to understand that your car’s exhaust system is about more than just your muffler. While the muffler plays an important role in keeping your car quiet, it’s just one part of a much bigger picture. Your exhaust system is designed to keep exhaust fumes out of the passenger area of your car, reduce emissions and help your engine run at peak efficiency. In fact, there are even different types of exhaust systems that contribute to a vehicle's performance and efficiency.
Most exhaust systems corrode from the inside out when moisture combines with the engine gases to cause caustic corrosion. Breaks in the system normally happen at connections where the heat from welding has reduced the corrosion-resistant carbon in the metal.
That said, winters — especially the cold and wet winters that are common in Ohio — can be particularly hard on your exhaust system. Salt and chemicals used on the roads can collect on your car’s undercarriage, and then they can begin to corrode the metal and may even lead to rust.
Potholes created as the roads freeze, thaw and then refreeze are another hazard. As you probably already know, hitting even just one pothole can cause expensive damage to your tires, muffler and other parts of your car.
Whatever the cause of your car’s problem, once you realize your exhaust system needs repairs, it’s important to act on it quickly. Let's look at three reasons not to put it off.
#1: Exhaust gas puts you (and others) at risk
When your exhaust system leaks into the cabin of your car, it is releasing dangerous and potentially deadly fumes and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning for you and your passengers. Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include getting very sleepy, dizzy, nauseous or confused. It can cause headaches, and, in some cases, it can lead to unconsciousness. If you have the windows rolled up on your car, you’re at an even greater risk for trapping harmful fumes inside.
In addition to the possibly deadly fumes that are being sent directly into your vehicle, if you have a leak in your exhaust system, you’re also releasing these harmful fumes into the environment. That means that your car won’t pass required emissions testing, and you won’t be able to legally drive it until you’ve had it fixed.
#2: It affects how efficiently your engine runs
Your car depends on its exhaust system to keep the engine running at its peak level of efficiency. When you have a leak, your engine loses pressure, and that might lead to your car sputtering or not having as much power as it needs. In some cases, you might even stall out.
Another thing you might notice when you have an exhaust system problem is that your fuel efficiency can go downhill. Your car simply can’t get the kind of mileage with a compromised exhaust system that you’ll get with a system that’s in tip-top condition. Avoid wear and tear on the engine by taking care of repairs promptly.
#3: It can lead to more costly repairs
Left unrepaired, a damaged or failing exhaust system is only going to get worse and can decrease the lifespan of systems in your car. Ignoring the damage can create more wear and tear on your car and could lead to something much more extensive and expensive — like needing to replace your catalytic converter.
The sooner you notice the problem and get it fixed, the better chance you have of keeping your costs to a minimum and causing less strain on your car’s engine and exhaust system.
TLC For Your Exhaust System
Because winter weather plays a role in damaging to your exhaust system, it’s a good idea to have your car’s exhaust system inspected at least once every year — preferably in the early springtime — to see if it has suffered any damage. This is a good way to check for rust, corrosion or any other potential problems that you might be able to catch before they turn into major (and costly) headaches.
To help increase the longevity of your exhaust system, it’s also a good idea to have your car’s undercarriage washed every few weeks during the winter months to get rid of road salt and other chemicals.
There’s no way to avoid some of the hazards of winter, but learning how to protect your car’s exhaust system from some of the elements is a good way to catch problems early and keep them from growing into bigger issues. Have your mechanic check your exhaust system as part of your regular maintenance program, and if your car’s exhaust system needs repair or replacement, contact one of the six Rainbow Muffler & Brake auto repair shops in Cleveland today for a free estimate and to learn more about our custom exhaust work.