3 Telltale Signs of a Failing Muffler
The muffler is an important piece of a car’s exhaust system. On the surface, it’s a fairly self-explanatory part—it muffles the sound produced by the engine by using perforated tubes to reduce sound waves.1 Beyond aiding in noise reduction, the muffler also funnels exhaust out of your car, protecting you and your passengers from these potentially dangerous fumes.2 A damaged or failing muffler can be a harmful nuisance to you and those around you. Here are the three most easily recognizable signs of a failing muffler.
1. Can You Hear a Difference?
There’s no question that the most noticeable sign of muffler problems is the sound; suddenly your car is a lot louder than normal. Unfortunately, this increase in engine sound usually means your muffler or exhaust system has a hole in it and requires immediate repair or replacement at a muffler shop.3 If you hear an excessive rattling sound, your muffler may have come loose. This could also be a sign of a cracked or broken muffler and you should get to a muffler shop soon.4 If left untreated, damage could spread to other parts of the exhaust system, creating a much larger problem. There’s even a chance you could get ticketed for excessive noise!2 A rise in engine sound is the last loud gasp of a muffler telling you to fix it.
2. Watch Out for Puddles and Rust.
Unlike a sudden increase in engine noise, checking for puddles of condensation and rust are simple ways to detect possible muffler or exhaust system problems before they turn into major issues. It’s normal to see a few drops of water coming out of your car’s exhaust pipe when you start it up; this water is a byproduct of the muffler heating and cooling.2 But when some of this accumulated water doesn’t drain out, rust can form. A steady stream of water coming from the exhaust can be a sign of rust buildup inside the muffler.2
Keep your car looking good and avoid potential rust damage. Here’s a guide on how to fix scratches.
Rust can also form on the exterior of your muffler if exposed to large amounts of salt during the winter.2 If you’re able to look underneath your car, a quick visual exam could clue you in to possible rust buildup. If water is dripping from the muffler, you should get it inspected at a muffler shop as soon as possible.4 A preventative undercarriage wash can greatly reduce the chances of rust forming—potentially avoiding a muffler repair.
3. Have You Noticed a Loss of Fuel Economy and Sluggish Performance?
Your car’s muffler doesn’t just dampen the sound of the engine; it’s an integral part of the exhaust system and is linked to the overall performance of your car. The faster exhaust moves through the exhaust system, the quicker the engine can burn more fuel, leading to better engine performance.1 If your car is running hot, your muffler may be the culprit. When rust builds up inside the muffler, it can damage the muffler’s internal chambers and exhaust won’t flow properly.2 Over time, this could decrease fuel economy, as your car’s engine is working harder to expel exhaust and burn fuel—not to mention a constantly overheating engine can damage other parts of your car over time.
Want to plan for a more fuel-efficient road trip? Check out our tips here.
Bad odors coming from inside the car are also a sign of muffler problems and could be harmful to you and passengers.3 Be sure to visit a muffler shop if any of these warning signs appear; you just might prevent further damage to your muffler along with the rest of the exhaust system.
Should I Get a Muffler Repair or Replacement?
The average life of a muffler is estimated to be between five and ten years. While preventative maintenance and the occasional patch job will keep your car’s muffler going, the simple truth is that when it wears out, replacement is the better option. You may have one hole in your muffler patched, only for another to open up six months later.5 If your muffler is in fairly good condition, but damaged by a curb or debris in the road, a repair would most likely be the better option.
The average muffler repair costs a little under $150, while the average cost of a new muffler is between $150 and $200 (before labor costs).5 It may cost a bit more to replace your muffler, but it’s worth it in the long run—one replacement is certainly better than multiple muffler repairs. Need help finding a muffler shop? Use our locator to find a shop near you that accepts the Synchrony Car Care™ credit card.
- What Exactly Does a Muffler Do? Veenstra’s
- What Does a Muffler Do? Explanation of the Function, Maintenance, and Repair Openbay
- 5 Major Signs to Prove that There are Problems in Your Car’s Muffler DrivingLife
- When Do I Need to Replace My Muffler? Meineke
- How Much Does a Muffler Cost? Angie’s List
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