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Looking after your car exhaust

It may be hidden underneath your car, but don’t forget about your exhaust. This important part needs care and attention. Here’s why and how.

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In terms of safety, a car’s exhaust system is right up there at the top of the list. Drawing noxious and potentially dangerous fumes away from the car’s cabin, it emits them safely out at the rear of the vehicle.

But because exhaust pipes are largely hidden out of sight they are often ‘out of mind’ too. That doesn’t mean they should be forgotten though. Maintaining your car’s exhaust system is a vital and important job and should be part of any regular safety check you make on your car.

Exhausts can become worn, rusty, leaky or loose quite quickly. Positioned as they are, under the car and at the mercy of the elements, it’s no wonder. Corrosion is a big enemy, attacking the inside and outside of the pipework. But they can also become loose with vibration or be struck by an object while out on the road.

Maintaining the pipework

It’s easy enough to maintain your exhaust system to get longer life from it. And while new exhaust costs vary greatly depending on the car they are fitted to, a bill of £150-£250 would not be unusual. So, looking after your pipes and keeping them in good order as long as possible is a sensible move to make.

Keeping a well-maintained exhaust is not just a money-saving exercise through – faulty exhausts that produce too much smoke or the wrong level of emissions will result in a potentially costly MOT test failure. Added to that, the police take a dim view of noisy, smoky tailpipes too: they can have your car removed from the road if they feel it is producing excessive gases or pollutants.

Are you a town driver? Vehicles that are used for short drives are more likely to suffer with exhaust problems than those that do long motorway slogs. Constant heating up and cooling down will create more condensation, which speeds up corrosion. And regular starting and stopping of the engine can gradually slacken and shake the pipework loose from its retaining brackets, increasing the likelihood of a leak or breakage.

Ways to look after your exhaust

Check for leaks

A leaking exhaust is a common car ailment. Creating more smoke, they can be dangerous for you and your car’s occupants so keep an eye and ear out for potential leakages. Have a listen to the engine while it’s ticking over. If it is not running as smoothly as you’d expect, a leak could well be the reason. Look too, for excess soot or black residue at the tip of the tailpipes.

Listen out for tailpipe noises

If your exhaust is noisier than you’re used to, something is probably failing. A loud or roaring noise can signify a hole; a hissing might mean a leak. And if you hear a grating metallic sound, a part of the pipework could be touching the road. Do a visual inspection yourself or if that’s not possible, book the car into a specialist fitter for their assessment.

Idling for long periods

Side step exhaust problems before they even happen by avoiding running your engine when it’s not needed. A motor that’s ticking over isn’t operating at optimal temperature and this can lead to excessive condensation in the pipes. That promotes rust and corrosion, and other problems such as mould and bacteria in the system.

Clean the catalytic converter

An important and valuable part of any exhaust system (which is why so many are stolen), the ‘cat’ is there to reduce harmful emissions from your car. They can become clogged over time which reduces their effectiveness. There are products available that you add to your petrol to clean through the entire fuel system, including the catalytic converter. That can help prolong the life of your exhaust.

Avoid harsh acceleration

Driving around like a motor racer puts a lot more strain on your car’s parts including the exhaust system. It has to work harder to eliminate fumes and gases if you are racing away from the lights or powering through corners, speeding up wear and tear and bringing forward potential repair work.

Regular inspections

You can keep an eye on the state of your car’s exhaust, whether it is becoming loose (or hanging down under the car) or if it is starting to make unfamiliar noises. But you probably can’t have a really look inside its inner workings. And that’s where things can become clogged and blocked, restricting flow and encouraging a build-up of debris and soot. Employing a qualified technician to inspect the pipework and clean it out if necessary, can prove money well spent.

Never ignore warning lights

It doesn’t take much for a modern car’s engine warning light to illuminate. The exhaust system is a prime suspect if ever you see this lamp come on in your instrument panel. It could mean a leak has been detected, the catalytic converter has become faulty or anything in between. Have it checked out without delay – ignoring a light won’t make it go away and could end up being more costly later on.

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.