Editor’s Note: This blog has been updated as of December 2020.
The overall health and performance of your car is dependent on the integrity of your exhaust system. Made up of numerous parts, the system only functions properly when they all work together harmoniously. If one part isn’t up to par with the rest, the whole system fails. While we hope for our systems to work correctly, we know that things don’t always go as planned.
In this blog, our expert technicians at Christian Brothers Automotive discuss the most common exhaust system problems, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, exhaust leaks, exhaust smoke, rust, broken hangers, vibrations, and increased engine noise, as well as what you can do about them, and how you can prevent them from happening to your own vehicle.
Common Exhaust System Problems
Faulty Oxygen Sensor
Even though many of today’s vehicles having numerous oxygen sensors, a malfunction in just one can be enough to confuse your vehicle’s system. If one of your car’s oxygen sensor gives out, the engine’s computer can’t create the correctly balanced air-fuel mixture to run efficiently. This could lead to a mixture that’s low on air and high on gas, a blend that’s hotter than intended, or it may cause a clog in your catalytic converter leading to further damage of your system and car.
Rough road conditions are difficult for many vehicles to handle. If you regularly drive on rough roads, your exhaust system may not last as long as it normally would. The bumps, holes, and shaking that happens while you drive in these conditions can lead weak areas, like joints, to crack and leak poisonous fumes into the passenger cabin resulting in serious health and safety issues. If you notice any signs of a leak or crack in your system, turn to a professional mechanic for help. Also, it’s important to keep aware of smells when driving. If something does not smell right, seek a mechanics help.
Everyone knows a smoking car is never good, but few people know that different colors of smoke have different meanings. Regardless of the color, it’s important to take your car to a trusted auto shop as soon as possible.
Some of the most common colors of exhaust smoke include:
Blue Smoke – This is usually an indication of oil burning in the combustion chamber. This could be caused by valve seals, valve guides, piston rings, worn cylinder walls, or the PCV system.
Black Smoke – Usually nods to the excess burning of fuel, wasting gas, and costing you money. It could be caused by a clogged fuel injector or clogged air filter.
White/Gray Smoke – You may have coolant burning in the combustion chamber. Meaning that either your cylinder head, engine block, or head gasket are cracked or damaged.
No matter the color, an easily identifiable exhaust color is never a good sign. Whether it’s blue or gray, at the first sign: give a mechanic a call! Additionally, you can learn more about the different exhaust system colors by checking out our blog here.
There’s no enemy quite as dangerous for the exhaust system as rust. If you’re known to take shorter trips as opposed to longer ones, your system may be more susceptible to rust. Taking short trips frequently lets water vapor collect in the exhaust system, but it never gets hot enough to burn off. Gradually this condensation will turn to rust and corrode your exhaust from the inside out. Additionally, the salt from icy parts of the country can lead to rust if left untreated. Rust should commonly be checked for by professional mechanics through routine maintenance.
Hangers are the handy little parts that are meant to protect your exhaust system from banging around when you hit a bump. They help keep your exhaust secure on your car. Of course, they aren’t invincible. Once the hanger breaks and falls off, all the exhaust pipes become free to move around. Their movement may lead to dents, cracks and, in some cases, it may cause entire pieces of the exhaust system to break off. Your exhaust system hangers should be routinely inspected to ensure none are broken or missing altogether.
While driving, any strange vibrations coming from your steering wheel or gas pedal are pretty good signs that your exhaust system requires repair services. If the exhaust system is bad enough, your whole car may begin to shake as you drive. These vibrations pose a real threat to not only your car’s health, but the safety of you, passengers in your car, and the others on the road. At the first sign of vibrations caused by your exhaust system, take your car to your local auto shop.
Increased Engine Noise
The first noticeable sign of an exhaust leak is usually an increase in engine noise. An exhaust leak is most likely in your system’s manifold or in any of the joints along the exhaust system. If the leak is in the manifold, not only will your engine’s volume increase, but toxic fumes could enter the passenger cabin. That is a serious issue that you need to get repaired immediately. Fortunately, our local auto repair experts can help!
Preventing Exhaust System Problems
You can prevent these exhaust problems from happening to you. Have your exhaust system inspected every year or two, regardless of whether you’ve noticed an obvious problem. Schedule an exhaust system service today and let the ASE-certified technicians at Christian Brothers Automotive take care of you.
Whether you need your check engine light checked, exhaust leaks repaired, or just some general peace of mind checks, we can do it all. With our courtesy inspection, we’ll be able to identify any trouble areas of your car and provide you with a convenient, durable, and friendly solution.
Discover the difference your local Christian Brothers Automotive shop can make for your vehicle, click here to locate your nearest auto care shop!
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