Sometimes when we talk about exhaust service, we think about exhaust pipes and mufflers. And if you can see smoke, or if it’s too loud. But, exhaust service is really a lot more comprehensive these days.
For example, in the U.S., the federal government mandated catalytic converters in 1976 and on-board emission control computers in 1990. State and federal emissions requirements have forced manufacturers to come up with much more sophisticated ways to comply with environmental regulations. And the cars sold in Canada follow the same guidelines.
So, exhaust service has really become exhaust and emissions service. High-tech computer-controlled emissions devices are now a big part of that. And because it’s so sophisticated, your vehicle manufacturer recommends having your emission system checked out by a qualified technician regularly to make sure everything’s working right – which is usually every six months or 6,000 miles.
If your ‘check engine light’ comes on, especially if it’s flashing, then you need to get your car looked at right away. Chances are it’s an emission related problem. You might have exhaust or emissions trouble if your car is hard to start, runs rough, or if it’s noisy or smoking.
So let’s review the exhaust system. Everything starts with the exhaust manifold. That’s the part that attaches to the engine and collects the exhaust from the cylinders and directs it into the exhaust pipe.
The exhaust gaskets help seal the connection with the manifold and other joints along the way. Now, if the manifold is cracked or loose, or a gasket is leaking, then dangerous gases could escape into the passenger compartment, where you ride. Carbon monoxide can be deadly, so it’s important that your exhaust system doesn’t leak.
The exhaust pipes connect the various components. They can rust or be damaged by a rock, so they need to be inspected periodically.
Next comes the catalytic converter. This part actually looks like a muffler. It changes chemicals that are dangerous to your health, and to the environment, into harmless carbon dioxide and water. Now it doesn’t require any maintenance itself. But eventually they wear out. If it has, you’ll probably find out when your car fails an emissions inspection.
Now the muffler. Its main job is to quiet engine noises. Mufflers work by either absorbing or baffling sound. And you can actually customize your car’s sound with different mufflers – which is pretty cool because you can change the look of your car, and the way it sounds.
Rusted or road-damaged mufflers can actually leak and they need to be replaced right away. The exhaust system is attached to the car by a series of hangers and clamps that hold the system in place. And when these hangers come loose or break then hot exhaust components can touch and melt wires, hoses and lines. Just think of the damage a hot curling iron can do – but worse. It’s not good to have that waving around.
And finally, we end at the tailpipe. Appropriate name. This is the final outlet for the exhaust. And one other component is the oxygen sensor. It monitors the oxygen content of the exhaust so the engine-control computer can adjust the fuel-to-air mix to keep the car running right.
We hope this hasn’t been too ‘exhausting’ of a discussion, but these things impact everything from life and death safety due to exhaust leaks, to just fine-tuning the sound of your ride. And talk with your service advisor if you feel you need any of these items inspected on your vehicle, because a quick look can sure save a lot of pain down the road.