Do you understand your vehicle's exhaust system?  

August 5, 2016

Did you know that your car needs to breathe? Its engine must take in oxygen in order to burn fuel. This combustion process creates waste products that then need to be directed out through the exhaust system. Along the way, many of these toxins are changed into less harmful products by the exhaust system's catalytic convertor. It is vital that your car's exhaust system remains leak free to maximize both safety and performance.

What causes leaks?

Most leaks are caused by wear and tear during regular operation of your car's engine. Automobiles run on what is basically a constant stream of miniature explosions, and the resulting waste gases are pushed through the exhaust system at high speeds. Over time, this pummeling can cause cracks in its components and breaks in the sealant. Adding to this are rust and corrosion caused by the engine's exhaust — which includes water vapor and outside weather elements, thus weakening the exhaust system components and making them more prone to damage.

What problems do leaks create?

The most dangerous result of car exhaust leaks is carbon monoxide poisoning. Depending on where the leak occurs, the leak may allow exhaust to enter the cabin of the vehicle. In an enclosed space, the carbon monoxide in the exhaust can cause serious health problems and even death. If you smell exhaust while driving, this may be a sign that your exhaust system has a problem.

Exhaust system leaks can also cause improper computer operation. Your car's exhaust system is equipped with sensors that help regulate the engine. When there's a leak, these sensors are thrown off by the reduced air flow, negatively impacting performance.

When a car suddenly experiences a loss in power and just doesn't drive as well as it used to, the exhaust system may have a leak.

If a leak occurs between the engine and the catalytic converter, your car will release unpurified exhaust, resulting in poor emissions standards.

A different type of leak, coolant that has leaked into the combustion chamber and subsequently the exhaust system can damage the catalytic converter in a process known as "catalyst poisoning." When this happens, its catalyst is deactivated and the convertor can no longer effectively detoxify the car's exhaust. Because these pollutants remain in the car exhaust as it exits the vehicle, a decline in catalytic convertor operation will make your car's emission standards take another hit.

If you've noticed your car's exhaust getting louder lately, it may have a leak. Excessive noise is one of the most common signs of a leak. While that may not be as serious as other leak problems, sometimes exhaust systems get loud enough to be a ticketable offense.

Car exhaust leaks can also reduce fuel efficiency, meaning your vehicle gets less miles to the gallon. This is because the engine must work harder to keep your car running.

Who can repair car exhaust systems?

If you suspect your car's exhaust system has a leak, it's best to get it checked out by a professional as soon as possible. Small problems will turn into major ones if ignored. Consider us at Swift Automotive in Littleton, Colorado, for the job!

Matt Kuchera