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Although they may not all be created equally, every vehicle has an exhaust system. In order to properly maintain your exhaust system so that it keeps doing its job, it can help to understand the basics of how it works.

What does the exhaust system do?

The exhaust system is designed to take the exhaust from your engine, convert the harmful chemicals into safe ones, and release them into the air and away from the engine.

How does the exhaust system work?

An exhaust system is composed of a few basic parts;

  • Exhaust Manifold – This combines all of the exhaust from the engine into one pipe.
  • Oxygen Sensor – This measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust. Oxygen levels can alter the fuel economy of the vehicle.
  • Catalytic Converter – This removes the harmful carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons from the exhaust and converts them into water vapor and carbon dioxide. Sometimes catalytic converters can convert other harmful chemicals into less harmful ones too.
  • Muffler – This quiets (or muffles) the sound of the exhaust so that the combustion process isn’t heard as much.
  • Exhaust Pipe – This connects all the parts mentioned above and emits the remaining exhaust into the air at the rear of the vehicle.

How do I know if there is something wrong with the exhaust system?

Rust – The most common issue with exhaust systems is rust. Although a little bit of rust is okay, and rust on the exhaust system is difficult to avoid, a little rust will lead to more rust, which ultimately shortens the life of your exhaust system. If you spot rust, especially a lot of rust, be aware that it will likely affect your exhaust system in the near future.

Noise – If your vehicle suddenly starts making a loud noise, especially when you step on the gas pedal, there is probably a hole in the exhaust system. Holes in the exhaust pipe and sometimes the muffler can be temporarily patched, but a malfunctioning catalytic converter is often illegal due to the dangerous chemicals that could potentially be released into your vehicle and the air around it.

Lower Mileage – If you notice a drop in your fuel mileage, it could be due to an issue with your exhaust.

Old Muffler – Mufflers need to be replaced periodically, and they tend to make a lot of noise when they’re no longer working.