What Are Some of the Most Common Problems with the Exhaust System?

What Are Some of the Most Common Problems with the Exhaust System?

Without a doubt, rust is the main enemy of all exhaust systems, but unfortunately for all vehicle owners, is not the only one. For instance, bottoming out over bumps can lead to physical damage to various car parts, mufflers may get clogged by internal parts becoming loose, and a faulty oxygen sensor, which costs $100 on most vehicles, can be at fault for the destruction of a $1,000 catalytic converter

Although the use of stainless steel and aluminized steel for exhaust system components has increased significantly over the past 20 years, the rust remains atop, when we are talking about the most common problems related to exhaust systems.

Water vapor is being collected in the exhaust system, during frequent short trips, which does not get hot enough to burn it off, allowing rust and condensation to work their way from the inside out. Also, over time, the accumulation of salt, snow, rain, or another road crud can eat holes in mufflers, resonators, pipes, and catalytic converters from the outside and corrode heat shields, connectors, and flanges.

Given the bad condition of many US roads these days, a rock or pothole may finish off what the rust started, jarring exhaust system parts loose or poking holes in them. Although it is always shady under a vehicle, life is everything but easy down there.

So far, we’ve mentioned just a portion of the potential hazards for the exhaust system, more dangers need to be taken into account. For instance, when the oxygen sensor is damaged, the engine computer does not know how to properly balance the air/fuel mixture for optimum performance, emissions, and fuel economy. The computer may decide to call for a mixture that is too high on gas and too low on air, which in turn results in a hotter blend that might clog the catalytic converter.

The catalytic converters can also be damaged by wayward ignition timing, antifreeze or oil in the exhaust system, or misfiring spark plugs.

Before the 1990s, exhaust systems usually lasted as much as their car loan back in the days, approximately 3 to 4 years. Now, although they last longer, they should not be viewed as a lifetime part. Vehicles that are 5 years or more, should have their exhaust systems inspected by an exhaust system repair mechanic every 2 years, even if there’s no indication of a potential problem.


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