The cost to repair the exhaust systems or its components can vary widely by vehicle type, make and model, as well as which component needs repair and the extent of the damage. Replacing a catalytic converter, for example, can be significantly expensive, while re-hanging a loose exhaust pipe can be relatively inexpensive.
Whatever the repair, continuing to drive a car with a damaged exhaust will almost always cost more in the end than repairing the problem at the first sign of trouble. And it's important to remember that the muffler and exhaust system do more than just quiet the car, they also prevent carbon monoxide fumes from building up in the cabin, reduce polluting emissions and ensure the vehicle runs at peak efficiency.
Here are some indicators that your car may need muffler repairs or exhaust system maintenance:
1. Increased volume when the engine is running
When your car's exhaust note suddenly sounds more like a lawn mower or motorcycle, it's a good sign that your car needs muffler repairs. For other drivers, the sound of needed exhaust system repairs may sound like buzzing, a low rumbling or a slightly louder exhaust note.
Because mufflers and tailpipes are constantly exposed to the elements, they may wear more quickly than other parts. (Photo by Fred Patton)
Don't just turn up the radio to drown out the noise - get the car to a muffler repair shop. Delaying needed repairs can eventually cost more in the form of more extensive damage, such as having to replace an otherwise usable component such as exhaust pipe, catalytic converter or muffler because it fell from your car.
2. Rattling at stop lights or stop signs
You might notice you get drowsy when driving, you might see a dashboard warning light, or you might notice your car occasionally hesitates or chugs when you try to start it. If you notice any of these issues, or if your car rattles when not moving, schedule an appointment for the muffler shop right away.
The catalytic converter is one of the highest priced exhaust system parts. As far as safety goes, it's one of the most important parts to keep up. If a catalytic converter has a tiny hole, you might not notice it right away. The signs start out small.
Because catalytic converters contain precious metals, they have become a popular target of scrap metal thieves.
3. Engine vibrations
If you notice a new vibration or loss of power when operating your car, have the exhaust system checked at a muffler repair shop. 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. An exhaust leak makes your car's engine work harder, and that extra effort sometimes causes vibrations so intense that the driver feels them before hearing the leak.
4. Decreased fuel efficiency
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.