Your internal combustion engine burns fuel to produce power and torque to propel your vehicle forward or backward. When an air/fuel mixture is burnt inside the cylinders, it’s turned into hot exhaust gases that need to be removed from the combustion chamber, so another portion of fuel and air can enter the engine. To make this happen, your vehicle is equipped with an exhaust system, which routes harmful exhaust gases out of your engine.
An exhaust system is a complex arrangement of parts and components, running the gamut from an exhaust manifold and catalytic converter to an exhaust muffler and tailpipe. The latter is the final part of the exhaust system, routing already cleaned exhaust gases out of the vehicle. You may see the end of the tailpipe if you look at the rear bumper area of your vehicle. Depending on the design of your vehicle and its engine size, it can be equipped with either a single tailpipe or several tailpipes.
A tailpipe is usually made of steel, which makes it very durable and low-maintenance. However, being subjected to the outside hazards like flying rocks, snow and rain, it is prone to rusting and corrosion. No less important is to remember about hot exhaust gases that can deteriorate the tailpipe from the inside. Whichever the root of the problem, a worn-out or damaged tailpipe is a serious issue that should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent the following problems:
Abnormal loud noise
Your tailpipe not only helps for removing exhaust gases from the engine, but also takes part in creating the exhaust sound. A damaged or leaking tailpipe will affect the exhaust sound, making it louder and more noticeable. The cause of the loud sound can be a hole in the tailpipe or a loose attachment.
Loud rattling noise
A loose or rusted clamp can allow the tailpipe to detach from the muffler. If so, you should notice a rattling noise when driving over road imperfections. Since the tailpipe itself can be in good condition, you must fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the tailpipe and the rest of the exhaust system, and the underneath of the vehicle.
A dragging noise coming from under the vehicle is a common sign of a loose attachment. Once you notice it, you should stop the vehicle and visually inspect the underneath of the car. If you manage to secure the tailpipe, your next stop should be a repair facility. If you fail to reattach the tailpipe, have your vehicle towed to a mechanic, so he or she can fix the problem. Anyway, you should avoid contacting the tailpipe with bare hands because the tailpipe can be extremely hot and cause an injury.
Illuminated check engine light
If the backup pressure in the exhaust system changes due to a faulty tailpipe or a loose attachment, your engine control unit can turn on the check engine light on your dashboard.
Your tailpipe is supported by your vehicle’s frame by means of rubber hangers. If one of them gets damaged or broken, your tailpipe can hit the road or underneath the vehicle when driving over bumps. As a result, you may experience knocks and excessive vibrations transferred to your steering wheel, seat or gas pedal through the vehicle’s body.
Bad performance and fuel economy
Your engine needs some backup pressure to keep running smoothly. A damaged or worn-out tailpipe can affect the balance and cause the engine to run improperly, resulting in poor acceleration or increased fuel consumption.
You should avoid driving a vehicle with a bad tailpipe for several reasons. The first one is the danger that carbon monoxide and other exhaust gases can cause to your health if they enter the cabin. In addition, there is a chance you can lose a bad tailpipe on the road and cause damage to vehicles behind your car or truck. In the worst-case scenario it can lead to a road accident.
A vehicle with a faulty tailpipe should be towed to a repair facility once the problem is detected. If you have to drive it to a repair shop, lower your vehicle’s window glasses to avoid intoxication. It is also a good idea to get in touch with your mechanic for a piece of advice.
Tailpipe replacement and troubleshooting
A tailpipe is a low-maintenance exhaust system part designed to survive the test of time. However, just like any other vehicle part or component, it is prone to wear and tear as well as damage caused by road irregularities, impacts with road debris, severe weather conditions, etc.
Since the tailpipe is located underneath the vehicle, it must be raised up to do a visual check and a replacement or repair if necessary. If the source of the problem is a loose attachment or a bad clamp, it can be fixed by replacing a bad accessory. In case the tailpipe is damaged or rusted, it should be replaced with a new one. If this is the case, you’ll have a couple of ways to go. You may replace it with a brand-new factory tailpipe that should fit the vehicle with no modifications required. This will allow you to maintain the original look and sound of your exhaust system. The other option is an aftermarket or custom replacement unit, which can enhance the look and sound of your vehicle to make it stand out from the crowd. Besides, if your tailpipe features a local damage, your mechanic may offer you to cut out a damaged section and weld in a new piece.
We do not recommend you to replace a bad tailpipe yourself if you do not have basic mechanical skills and experience. At the same time, if your tailpipe is a bolt-on unit and you can safely reach the underneath of the vehicle, you could replace the tailpipe or a bad clamp yourself. If you’re not sure you can handle the job, leave it to a mechanic.