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Exhaust System Basics

The exhaust system of your vehicle is a vital component for removing harmful emissions to keep everyone in the vehicle safe. When a vehicle is running at least six different types of emissions are produced. These emissions include carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, and nitrogen oxide. The exhaust system removes these emissions from your vehicle, quiets the noise caused by combustion and ensures your vehicle is running efficiently.

Components of the Exhaust System

The exhaust system begins at the engine and ends at the tail pipe at the rear of your vehicle. It is composed of a series of pipes and chambers. While most vehicles only need one exhaust system, vehicles with engines that have eight cylinders have two exhaust systems, one on each side. In the event that you have a vehicle with two exhaust systems, it is extremely important that both systems are running efficiently.

There are five main parts in a normal exhaust system. The first part is the exhaust manifold. This component is attached to the engine. The exhaust manifold funnels the exhaust gasses from multiple cylinders into one single pipe. This part of the exhaust system will also burn any remaining fuel that was not burned in the engine.

The next part of your vehicle’s exhaust system is the oxygen sensor. This part is located either near or in the exhaust manifold. The sensor reads oxygen levels and sends the data to the car’s computer. Your vehicle’s computer will then calculate how much fuel is needed by the engine to get the best fuel efficiency possible.

Another important piece of the exhaust system is the catalytic converter. After the exhaust manifold, the catalytic converter will convert carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon gasses which are extremely harmful into carbon dioxide and water vapor. This not only ensures the safety of the occupants of the vehicle, but it also makes the exhaust gasses safer for the environment. It is possible to still operate your vehicle without this component; however it is illegal to do so in most states.

The exhaust pipes are a vital component of the exhaust system. These pipes carry the exhaust gasses through the entire system starting with the exhaust manifold and ending with the tailpipe where the emissions exit the vehicle.

The muffler is typically connected to the tailpipe of your vehicle. It is a metal box that contains a series of tubes which helps quiet the combustion sounds that occur throughout the exhaust system. The back of the muffler has a resonator which uses built up pressure to cancel out sound waves. Some mufflers use fiberglass to absorb the sound waves instead.

Exhaust System Problems

One of the biggest problems that can impair your exhaust system is rust. Rust can cause the various components of your exhaust system to crack or break which can result in an exhaust leak. Rust is a bigger issue in areas that regularly use salt in winter on icy roads because the salt can cause corrosion if not rinsed away every few weeks. You want to be careful that you aren’t hosing down the bottom of your car too often, however, because the excess water on your vehicle can also cause your exhaust system to rust.

If your regular commute is typically less than 15 miles or if you are regularly in stop and go traffic, the water vapor in your exhaust system can also contribute to rust. When the car is stopped, the water vapor cools to water and if the pipes are not hot enough to evaporate this water and it continues to sit in the pipes, then this can cause rust.

Signs of an Exhaust System Problem

There are a number of signs to look for that could indicate there is a problem with your exhaust system. One of the most noticeable signs of a problem is if you smell fumes. If you smell exhaust fumes while driving your car you may have an exhaust leak. It is best to pull over and call your mechanic, but if you are unable to pull over then you will want to roll down your window to reduce the amount of fumes you are breathing.

Another indication that you may have a problem with your exhaust system is if you hear hissing or popping noises. These noises could be an indication that there is a leak or that your muffler needs replaced. If you don’t notice any obvious signs of damage to your vehicle then you should still ask your mechanic to look it over during your next oil change.

A rattling or buzzing noise in your exhaust system could mean that the heat shield around your exhaust pipes or the catalytic converter is loose. If your vehicle is becoming less fuel efficient it could be due to a malfunctioning oxygen sensor or a problem with your catalytic converter.

It is always important to speak to your mechanic when you notice any changes in your vehicle, especially when it comes to your exhaust system. Carbon monoxide has no odor so there could be a leak that you may not be able to detect on your own. The exhaust system plays a vital part in the operation of your vehicle and regular checks are important in making sure that your vehicle is running properly.

If you have any questions about your vehicle’s exhaust system, please call Lorentz Automotive.

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Exhaust System