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How to Fix Exhaust Leak (And Other Things You Need To Know About Exhaust System)

driving with an exhaust leak

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Your car won’t correctly function if there is an exhaust leak. Over the years that I have been learning the ins and outs of modern vehicles, I have realized that the exhaust system is quite crucial. Its role is to carry all the residual gases and other combustion waste from the engine of your automobile.

Of course, if these elements are circulating in the engine, the vehicle’s performance would be hampered. You will hear unwanted noises inside. Moreover, it will make your car a pollutant, as it is susceptible to releasing harmful smokes and chemicals into the air.

A functioning exhaust system can prevent these things from happening. The efficiency and cleanliness of your car can be guaranteed if the exhaust is free of any damages and flaws. Unfortunately, errors could occur in this system. One of the biggest headaches that you would probably encounter is exhaust leaks. Once this happens, you will need to get your vehicle patched. Otherwise, you will be a nuisance on the road.

What is An Exhaust Leak?

what is an exhaust leak

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Always remember that your vehicle has two types of manifolds: the exhaust manifold and intake manifold. Both of these components are essential. But in the long run, the one that will suffer massive problems is the exhaust manifold. Technically, the function of the manifold is to sip out the gases from the cylinders of your engine and transfer them to the main exhaust pipe.

An exhaust leak means that the exhaust manifold has been cracked, broken, or damaged. That usually happens when your car starts to age. The exhaust manifold continually gets exposed to high temperatures or heat. Furthermore, they are also subjected continuously to contraction and expansion due to the heating and cooling process.

These effects can quickly strain the exhaust manifold. Regardless of the material and build of the manifolds, they will eventually suffer fatigue. Even a metal or cast iron exhaust manifolds cannot resist this kind of predicament. When the strain reaches the breaking point, the exhaust manifold will eventually crack, leaving the entire system exposed to more contaminations.

There is another problem that is related to the exhaust manifold. Specifically, it usually takes place under its gasket. The gasket typically gets installed on the engine block and the exhaust manifold. Its chief role is to ensure that the small seam that is within these two parts are sealed. If it is not sealed, combustion and leakages can ensue.

Just like the exhaust manifold, the gasket also suffers from the continuous contraction and expansion process. It is also exposed to extreme heat, especially when your vehicle is running. Once this part begins to fail, leakages will eventually follow.

4 Known Exhaust Leak Symptoms

Fortunately, your exhaust system will never you clueless and blindsided. It will always tell you that there is something wrong its parts and that it requires immediate attention. Although it is true that driving with exhaust leaks is not that deleterious, it is still annoying for you and fellow car owners. Just imagine being stuck in a massive traffic while your manifold system is acting up. People would undoubtedly yell at you.

Once these following issues are present in your vehicle, you need to contact your local mechanic immediately. Your car should be diagnosed as soon as possible before the cracks will get worse.

The MPG of Your Car is Decreasing

One of the most significant repercussions of exhaust leaks is the lowering of fuel efficiency. If the manifold exhaust directly sustains the damage, the mileage per gas can decrease to a maximum of 5 MPG. That is already a significant loss on your part, as it will require you to stop at gas stations for fuel refills frequently. The longer you let the damage run rampant, the more you are losing money over fuel.

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The mileage per gas will eventually decrease if there are leakages in the exhaust manifold because of sensor malfunction. Your car has a sensor that measures the oxygen intakes and outtakes nearby. If there is an exhaust leak, the accuracy of the sensor will be disoriented. As a result, the sensor would compensate the damages by signaling the engine to burn as much fuel as it can.

Vibration in the Pedal

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It is also notable that exhaust leaks cause the pedal to vibrate. That usually happens you throttle the gears into acceleration. Usually, brakes will operate smoothly when the exhaust system is functioning correctly. But once the vibration kicks in, it means that there are cracks and damages in the exhaust manifold.

Always remember that even the tiniest hole or leakages will cause noticeable vibrations to the gas pedal. The reason for this is simple. The crack on the manifold is an opening in where the fumes would jailbreak during high-speed runs. Of course, the bigger the leak, the harsher the vibration becomes. Eventually, the fluctuations would affect the entire car, especially on the floorboards and steering wheel. Driving a car like this is super frustrating.

Engine Noise

The engine of your car produces noise, even if it is in its top condition. However, if the sound is not tolerable anymore, there is a huge possibility that your vehicle has exhaust leaks. The escaping fumes that are exiting on a cracked exhaust manifold will cause the engine to generate unwanted and cacophonous noises.

Moreover, this symptom becomes more noticeable, especially if you accelerate your vehicle. You can hear the sound when starting your car in cold weathers and conditions.

Foul Smell on the Engine

If the crack is within the exhaust manifold gasket, you would undoubtedly smell a burning scent somewhere in the engine bay. That usually happens when the gasket gets surrounded by other nearby plastic parts or and wiring. The heat generated from the escaping gases will eventually burn these components. The result would be the pungent smell that is hurting your nose. Sometimes, the burning would also cause light smokes.

Obliviously, such symptom should alarm you. You need to take your vehicle to your trusted mechanic and have it checked. You need to prevent your car from being a fire hazard. Combustion and gas fires are always in the spectrum of possibilities. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher for vehicles, then you are doubling the jeopardy.

Exhaust Leak Repair Cost

Owning a car is like using a double-edged sword. It comes with perks and responsibilities at the same time. Of course, these liabilities are in the form of part replacements and repairs. Once there is something wrong in your car, you need to have it checked and diagnosed. Heck, even if you know some DIY car repair skills, there is still some expenditures that you have to incur.

exhaust leak repair cost

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Now, how much does exhaust leak repair cost? Well, there is no exact answer for this. The price varies year per year. This 2017, the average cost of exhaust leak repairs is around $100 to $400. Different factors are playing here. For example, you can expect that an outdated model is quite harder to repair than modern ones since the latter have readily available parts.

Moreover, the cost of the repair also includes the labor fees of your mechanic. It might even take the price of replacement parts (if in case there are some other components in the system that got damaged, too). But if we are talking exhaust manifold components strictly, the price per parts should only be around $10 to $60. Meanwhile, the service fee should be within $120 to $300.

However, take note that this quotation is just an estimate. As you can see, service providers might place some other charges as well. It is your responsibility to assess if these additional fees are rightfully set or not. Otherwise, you should file complaints about them.

In short, not all automotive shops are to be trusted. At least, learn to scrutinize the background of the company, including their past services and testimonials. If they can provide you with a price quotation before the repair happens, you should consider taking them in. These mechanics will never try to surprise you with sudden charges!

How to Fix Exhaust Leak

If you don’t have the time or resources to get a professional service provider to repair the exhaust leak, it is better that you can patch the error by yourself. I will show you a temporary method to seal off the holes in the exhaust manifold of your car.

Step 1. Parking the Vehicle

The first thing that you need to do is to park your vehicle is an open, flat, and solid surface. In this way, you can jack up your car correctly and evenly. Concretes or blacktop pavements are suitable for this application. On the other hand, you should never jack up your vehicle to gravel, dirt, or grassy substrates. Otherwise, the jack can’t hold up the weight of the car.

Step 2. Cooling Down the Exhaust System

Next, you need to shut down the engine of your vehicle. You have to cool the system before doing anything else. As I mentioned earlier, the exhaust system of your car gets continuously exposed to high temperatures. It is easier for you to work with a cold system rather than a hot one, right?

You can determine if the exhaust system is still hot by touching the hood of your car. If it is hot, then the exhaust system is still oozing with heat.

Step 3. Inspecting the System

Jack up your vehicle so that you can work underneath it. You should check first the exhaust pipe, starting from the front down to the back of the car. Check if there holes, cracks, and other damages.

If you can’t locate the flaw, start your vehicle. Have someone do it for you. You can easily spot the areas in where the leaks are happening because they will puff fumes and smoke.

Step 4. Sealing Process

Once you can find the area of interest, you need to scrub with the use of a toothbrush with steel tooth. You have to remove the dirt and grime that are sticking to its surface. If you can scrape off the majority of the dust, you should sand the surface with a fine grit sandpaper. A smooth surface would allow epoxy or tape to stick firmly.

After sanding, wipe the damaged part with acetone. That would allow the metal to bond with the patching material that you are going to use. If the hole is small, you can just apply epoxy or compatible tape to seal it off. But if it is significant, you need to purchase an exhaust patch.

Final Words

Exhaust leaks are quite annoying, even if they do not put your vehicle at a significant risk from the get-go. You should have them repaired or replaced so that you can have a peaceful time on the road.

Even if you know the basics of sealing the holes in the exhaust manifold area, professional repair services are still necessary. They are the ones that can give you the proper recommendations on how you should deal with the unwanted leakages.

The surefire method to discern the state of your exhaust manifold is by being aware of the signs. The symptoms that I listed a while ago are your most significant indicators that there is something wrong with the system. They might be because of other dysfunctions in the engine. However, the most probable culprit here are those cracks and holes that are beginning appear on the exhaust manifold and pipe.

If you can notice any of them, you should do a quick checkup first. Once you found out that the damage is too much for you to handle, contact any trusted auto mechanics that you know. They will provide a quick service that would solve your inconvenience. However, if they recommend that you should replace the broken part, just comply with them. It is for the betterment of your vehicle, anyway.

Did you learn from this article? If you have any questions or suggestions, just feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

Steven K. Galloway