Muffler and Exhaust System

If you drive a gas-powered vehicle, one of the most important components of it is the exhaust system, which includes the muffler. Your gas-powered engine is loud and produces a lot of fumes – your muffler is responsible for dampening the noise and safely removing these bad fumes. The rest of your exhaust system works to support these primary functions. Let’s explore the components of your exhaust system, how they work, and how to maintain them.

How does an exhaust system work?

Your exhaust system’s main goal is to safely filter out toxic fumes produced by your engine and keep them out of the passenger cabin. The fumes exit the engine through a piece called the cylinder head. When the first car models were made, there would be a pipe attached at this point that lead through the bottom of the vehicle towards the tailpipe, where the fumes were evacuated out the rear of the vehicle. Today, that basic idea remains the same – only that mufflers and resonators are added to block out engine noise and catalytic converters are added to help reduce emissions.

How does a muffler work?

The muffler is a rather large metal component that sits at the rear of your vehicle, where it is fed by an exhaust pipe. Internally, mufflers can be made up of several different kinds of parts, including tubing, metal baffles, and fiberglass insulation. The design serves a duel purpose: to direct the flow of exhaust fumes and to cancel out as much engine noise as possible. Note that every engine will produce slightly different sound waves, therefore every muffler needs to be specifically designed for that particular engine.

How does a resonator work?

Resonators are small echo chambers that are situated before the muffler. By using its perforated wall design, the resonator allows sound waves to bounce around until they lose energy and become quieter. Modern cars will typically use a combination of a resonator and muffler to make them very quiet while driving.

How does a catalytic converter work?

The catalytic converter controls your engine’s harmful emissions and reduces the amount of toxic fumes. It is installed near the engine and is made of several different kinds of special metals that allow a series of chemical reactions to occur when it recieves raw exhaust fumes. These chemical reactions help remove the harmful parts of the exhaust fumes, such as nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons, before the “cleaned” exhaust is disposed of through the rest of the exhaust system. Catalytic converters will also have oxygen sensors installed around it to monitor engine performance.

What is active exhaust?

Many sports cars and performance vehicles will feature something called an active exhaust. Active exhaust systems use electronic or vacuum-operated valves placed before the muffler to actually enhance the sound of the engine. This allows the vehicle to sound more like a sports car. When you accelerate hard or travel at high speeds, these valves will open up, allowing some of the exhaust to bypass the muffler and creating the signature aggressive sports car noise that we are all familiar with. These bypassed fumes will still go through the catalytic converter, so the harmful emissions are still reduced.

What else does an exhaust system have?

Internal combustion engines will also contain exhaust manifolds, which are tubes that are bolted directly onto the cylinder head. They route the exhaust from the engine to the exhaust system.

The exhaust system also contains a series of flanges to connect the pipes together. The exhaust system may also have flexible joints that allow for some movement in the exhaust components. These are attached to the lower body of the car and help support the exhaust system during periods of high performance.

Lastly, every exhaust system will contain at least one tailpipe. Some vehicles may have two tailpipes laying side-by-side, but the function is the same – to direct exhaust fumes as far away from the vehicle as possible.

Muffler and exhaust system maintenance

Your car muffler and exhaust system should be inspected periodically to ensure there are no issues. Consult your vehicle’s owner manual for specifics on how often these inspections should occur. Your muffler and exhaust system are still susceptible to damage and issues outside of these inspections, namely due to rust or components coming loose. The muffler and exhaust system are not easy to work on yourself since they are located underneath the vehicle, so be sure to have a mechanic complete any repairs or maintenance.

The best way to get maintenance done on your muffler or exhaust system is to book your appointment through CarAdvise. CarAdvise makes car care simple and guarantees that you will pay less than the retail shop price on all maintenance services!