Muffler not muffling? Signs of problems with your car's exhaust system
Because mufflers and tailpipes are constantly exposed to the elements, they may wear more quickly than other parts. (Photo by Fred Patton)
Depending on your car and its exhaust system, the cost to make repairs to a damaged or broken exhaust component can range widely - but putting off exhaust repairs almost always costs more than addressing them promptly. Because your exhaust system does more than just keep your car quiet - it also routes exhaust fumes away from the cabin, helps your engine run properly and maintain optimum fuel efficiency, and reduces polluting emissions.
Here are some useful things to know if you suspect your vehicle may need muffler or exhaust system repairs:
Car exhaust repair
One of the most obvious signs for many drivers is a deep or loud rumbling sound coming from your car. When this happens, it's time to get it to a mechanic. Having the exhaust repaired before it gets too loud offers the most benefit to you. Delaying a needed car exhaust repair can make it cost more. That is because continuing to drive with an exhaust leak or bad catalytic converter can damage other things in your vehicle's operating system. Don't just turn up the radio to drown out the rumbling noise. Have the increased volume problem checked out and repaired by a professional. It will save you money in the long run.
The catalytic converter is one of the highest priced exhaust system parts and, in some vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, it may be prone to theft by scrap metal thieves. If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you'll immediately notice a loud sound and altered vehicle performance upon startup. An intact but failing catalytic converter may sound like someone shaking a box of rocks when your vehicle is idling when parked or stopped in traffic. If you notice any of these issues, schedule an appointment for the muffler shop right away.
If you notice a new vibration or loss of power when operating your car, have the exhaust system checked by a professional. You might notice the new vibration when you touch the steering wheel, foot pedals or car seat. You might or might not hear a rumbling sound, depending on the size of the damaged area. A hole, exhaust leak or disconnected exhaust system component don't just cause vibrations, they can also signal the engine is no longer running at optimum performance.
If you notice you have to fill up your gas tank more often than normal, have your exhaust system checked out by a muffler repair shop. Similar to the vibrations, increased fuel use is a sign something is wrong with your car. When the exhaust leaks, your engine works harder. When your engine works harder, it requires more fuel.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that originally posted Sept. 5, 2012.