Troubleshooting a Leaking Exhaust System

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The exhaust system is one of the most important parts of any vehicle. Making sure your exhaust is not cracked and leaking is integral to your own safety as well as the performance of the car. It does not take long to troubleshoot a leaking exhaust, to find the problem and fix it.


The first thing to do when troubleshooting a leaking exhaust system is to visually look at the exhaust. Use a car jack to raise the car into the air, support with jack stands, giving you enough space to slide beneath the car. From here, you should be able to give the exhaust a thorough visual inspection. Look for any obvious signs of rust damage or any areas where part of the exhaust may be broken or cracked. Do this for every section of the exhaust pipe and use a hand to check that each component of the exhaust system is not loose.

Run the Car

Turn the car on and give the gas pedal one or two heavy pushes. If you have a leaking exhaust system, smoke will flow out of the leaky part or crack. This will allow you to identify where the problem is and whether you can fix it yourself or need to take the car to a garage. Remember to put on a safety mask if you want a closer look at where the smoke is coming from, otherwise you will end up breathing in exhaust fumes.


While the car is running, pay particular attention to the noise. If there is a leak in the exhaust system, this often causes the exhaust on a vehicle to make much more noise than normal. This is because there is extra strain on the exhaust pipe and a small hole would have been created where air is escaping. If this has happened, the noise will be louder and higher pitched. This sound will be different from chugging, which means the exhaust is blocked. Noise is a huge giveaway of leaking exhausts.


Foil is a great material to use when you are trying to find the problem in a leaking exhaust system. You can wrap large amounts of foil around different parts of the exhaust while the car is running because the foil will not ignite. The foil will muffle the sound of the exhaust. When you have wrapped foil over a part of the exhaust where the exhaust noise is quieter, you will know where the problem is.


In most cars the part of the exhaust which connects to the engine will be beneath or close to your feet when you sit in the passenger side. Leaks cause greater strain on exhaust systems, which can make them vibrate violently. When you sit in the car, pay attention to whether you can feel large vibrations beneath your feet more than normal. If you can, there will be a leak where the exhaust and the engine meet. This is a big leak in your exhaust system which will require that you take the car to a garage to repair.