When your engine is running, thousands of explosions occur inside cylinders each and every minute. That’s why it is not surprising that your engine is very loud. If its sound is not managed, driving the vehicle will be like piloting a plane. Now, you can imagine that extreme sound produced by millions of vehicles on our roads. Fortunately, this is not the case thanks to a major exhaust system component that’s called a muffler. It handles the loud sound produced by the engine, so you can enjoy your driving.
The only job of your muffler is to lower the sound passing through it while you’re driving, which can be done in several ways. The first one is called a reactive method, and is based on the effect caused by sound waves that react to one another, destroying themselves. Reactive mufflers feature perforated tubes, resonators, baffles and different chambers inside the housing, which cause sound waves to lose energy when they come though these structures. As a result, you hear a nice and barely audible exhaust sound coming from the tailpipe.
Another way of reducing the engine noise is absorbing sound waves that pass through the muffler. Such mufflers feature different types of sound-absorbing materials, which perfectly absorb exhaust noises without sacrificing exhaust flow. This type of muffler provides a deeper and slightly more aggressive sound you can’t help but enjoy.
For those who are looking for the best of both worlds, such as a pleasing sound and good performance, automakers offer the third type of mufflers which, actually, is a combination of the previous ones described above. These mufflers usually come as aftermarket or custom replacements.
Depending on the design of your vehicle, it can have one or more mufflers, which perform the same function. Each muffler is located between the resonator and the tailpipe and stands alone from the rest of the exhaust system, which is why most problems caused by its failure are easy to diagnose and fix. Since your muffler is exposed to high temperatures and pressure as well as flying rocks and different weather conditions, such problems will eventually appear, so you should be aware of the most common symptoms of a bad muffler.
Loud sound from the muffler area
Since the primary job of your muffler is to keep your vehicle sounding quiet, a sudden increase in its loudness can be a sign of a bad muffler. A leaking muffler will allow exhaust gases to escape from the system, resulting in a loud noise, which should increase at higher speeds.
Your engine is designed to operate with the specific backup pressure created by its exhaust system. A leaking or worn-out muffler with an internal damage will reduce the backup pressure, causing engine misfires and other related problems.
Increased fuel consumption
Internal muffler damage or an exhaust gas leak can lead to improper engine operation. As a result, you may spend more money at the pump.
Abnormal noises coming from the muffler area
A loose muffler as well as a loose bracket or clamp can become a source of a rattling noise. You should visually inspect the muffler and related components as soon as you notice the noise.
Your muffler or other exhaust parts look different
If you have an ability to lift your vehicle and to visually inspect its underneath, you should pay attention to the condition of your muffler and other exhaust system components. If they are rusted or damaged, or feature any holes or a lot of dents, such parts should be replaced as they may eventually fail.
You smell exhaust gases inside the cabin
The main purpose of your exhaust system is to route exhaust gases away from the driver and passengers. That’s why if you notice a bad odor inside the vehicle, this problem should be addressed immediately. There is a chance you have a leaking or loose muffler.
Muffler troubleshooting and replacement
Your muffler is a standing alone part, which is why it is relatively easy to replace and check for damage. However, since even a simple inspection requires lifting your vehicle, this should be left to a mechanic.
The most common muffler failures are a loose clamp, hanger or bracket. Most of them can be fixed in less than no time without any specific tools or equipment required. If your muffler has minor damage, including small cracks and even holes, they can be fixed by means of a patch kit. It contains adhesive materials which become extremely durable when exposed to high temperatures. They won’t noticeably prolong the service life of your muffler, but they can come in handy before replacing the muffler.
If your muffler features serious internal or external damage, it must be replaced with a brand-new part as soon as possible. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can go with a factory replacement or install an aftermarket muffler that sounds a little more aggressively than your factory one.