Exhaust System Buyer’s Guide
- A car exhaust system is responsible for collecting the exhaust gas, converting harmful gases into water vapor and carbon dioxide, and reducing engine noise.
- Exhaust systems differ in types, which are influenced by the layout of components used. Regardless of type, the parts that make up the system are pretty much the same.
- Cat-back, axle-back, and header-back are the three common configurations of an exhaust system.
- Your exhaust system is at risk if you observe a loose exhaust pipe, noisier engine sound, and a drop in fuel efficiency.
- OE replacement exhaust systems on the CarParts.com cost from $120 to $5,900, and are sold as an assembly, as part of a kit, or in sets of two.
Every vehicle with an internal combustion engine ignites an air-fuel mixture to convert heat into mechanical energy. One combustion cycle creates gases that need to be released in able for the cycle to continue. This is why gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles are fitted with an exhaust system. This system provides a passageway for the exhaust gases toward the tailpipe. The process might sound simple but the system also needs to convert toxic gases into less harmful emissions, while also suppressing engine noise.
If you’re in the market for an exhaust system replacement, you’re in the right place. Our store offers a wide range of OE replacement exhaust systems to cater to your repair needs. But before you scan the catalog, allow us to give you a brief, yet concise, introduction to car exhaust systems.
What is an exhaust system?
A car exhaust system consists of tubes that run underneath the chassis. It is responsible for collecting exhaust gases, converting thees harmful gases into water vapor and carbon dioxide, and reducing engine noise. It is made up of multiple components that are necessary to perform each task. To better understand how your exhaust system works, you must know the different parts that make it up.
Parts of an exhaust system
Exhaust systems differ in types, which are somehow influenced by the layout of components used. However, the parts that make up an exhaust system are often shared by different exhaust types. Here are the different parts of an exhaust system.
The exhaust manifold connects each cylinder to the main exhaust pipe. The tubular exhaust manifold is colloquially known as a header and has multiple exhaust head pipes for each cylinder.
Slip-fit tubes that comprise your exhaust system are secured by exhaust joints. These seals also secure the hangers holding the pipe in place. There are different types of exhaust joints, which are the U-bolt, ball and socket, V-band, and flat band clamps. Most exhaust joints are not welded, meaning replacing them would be easy.
Hangers are what hold or suspend the exhaust pipe underneath your car, from front to rear. These fasteners vary in design; some are made of rubber, while some are made of steel. However, there are exhaust hangers that are made of both steel and rubber.
Oxygen sensors are devices that measure the amount of oxygen in the exhaust system. They are either mounted in front or behind the catalytic converter, which is known as upstream and downstream respectively. The upstream sensors measure the amount of oxygen in the gases from the chamber, while downstream sensors measure the oxygen content of the gases exiting the catalytic converter.
Exhaust gases carry harmful chemical compounds, such as unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. To prevent this from being released in the atmosphere, car manufacturers install a catalytic converter along the exhaust pipe. A catalytic converter features two ceramic blocks that break the molecules of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons to convert them into water vapor and carbon dioxide, which are less harmful to the environment.
The muffler is responsible for breaking the sound waves coming from the engine as a result of combustion. It does this by routing the sound waves through tubes or multiple chambers inside a metal housing. Puncturing the muffler or taking it out will result in a very loud engine roar, which might be illegal in some states.
Types of exhaust systems
Knowing the parts is not enough to understand how an exhaust system functions. Your vehicle’s exhaust system might be different than the type you have on top of your head, as there are different types according to design or layout.
Cat-Back Exhaust System
Cat-Back refers to all components of your exhaust system that come after the factory catalytic converter. A cat-back upgrade replaces your exhaust system’s intermediate pipe, muffler, and tailpipe.
Axle-Back Exhaust System
As the name implies, axle-back exhaust systems include components past the axle to the exhaust tip. Upgrading with an axle-back exhaust system replaces your muffler and tailpipe. Axle-back exhaust systems are relatively cheaper and easier to install than cat-back types.
Header-Back Exhaust System
Header-back exhaust systems replace all components from the exhaust manifold. This means you’ll be installing a new catalytic converter, intermediate pipe, muffler, and exhaust tips, which is more difficult compared to replacing with a cat-back or axle-back exhaust system.
Exhaust system configurations
Aside from the types, exhaust systems are also categorized based on the structure. Here are the most common exhaust system configurations in the market.
Single Exit Pipe
A single exit pipe has a structure with one exhaust tip. This configuration is commonly seen as the default setup on regular passenger vehicles and trucks, as it is cheaper compared to other configurations. The exhaust tip of a single exit pipe is usually found on the passenger side.
Dual Rear Exit Pipe
A dual rear exit pipe, as the name implies, has two exhaust tips on the driver and passenger side. This exhaust configuration is often used in high-performance cars and trucks. Dual rear exit pipes are more efficient in expelling exhaust gas and gives the vehicle a distinct sound with a deeper note.
Signs your exhaust system is in bad condition
Your vehicle’s exhaust system is crucial for keeping your vehicle’s emissions within the legal limit. If it begins to fail, harmful chemicals will be released into the air, damaging the environment. In addition to that, bad exhaust can cause poor fuel efficiency. If you want to avoid these, you need to be aware of the symptoms of a failing exhaust system.
Loose exhaust pipe
If you notice a loose exhaust tip, meaning it moves around when the car drives over a bump, chances are the exhaust hangers need a fix. Loose exhaust pipes can easily break after bouncing off a large bump or after getting hit by road debris. Make sure to bring your car to the mechanic if you find yourself with a hanging exhaust pipe.
Louder engine noise than usual
A louder engine sound may indicate a tear along the exhaust pipe, or a possible damaged muffler. A muffler tones down the engine noise by breaking the sound waves in a series of chambers. If the divisions separating the chambers are damaged, the muffler won’t be able to do its job properly. You may also experience more intense vibrations if your car has an exhaust problem.
Poor fuel economy
A damaged exhaust can cause an exhaust leak, which can cause your engine to run with hotter temperatures. An uncooled engine won’t perform as efficiently as it was designed to be, resulting in reduced fuel efficiency.
How much is an exhaust system?
Our store has thousands of OE replacement exhaust systems in its catalog. These include different types and configurations from reputable brands that offer high-quality parts. OE replacement exhaust systems on the website cost from $120 to $5,900, and are sold as an assembly, as part of a kit, or in sets of two. Browse more efficiently by indicating your vehicle’s year, make, and model on the filter tab.
What to look for in an exhaust system
There are a lot of things that you have to consider when choosing your new exhaust system.
First off, make sure you get an exhaust system that contains all the necessary parts. As we said earlier, the system has a lot of components. A complete set should make installation quicker and simpler.
Consider the material that the pipes are made of. We recommend that you go for stainless steel pipes. Corrosion is a major problem when it comes to metallic exhaust pipes. Stainless steel pipes should be able to hold off rust for quite some time.
Make sure that your old and new manifolds match. Your new manifold should fit right in your engine block.
As always, we recommend that you get only those products that are made by trusted and reputable brands. The exhaust system is very crucial to your car, so getting one with high quality and excellent durability is of utmost importance.
How to Deal with a Busted Exhaust System
Your car's exhaust system moves harmful noxious gases away from you and your car. Over time, the system's many components are going to wear out. This would necessitate a replacement.
Here are the tools you will need and steps you can follow to replace your busted exhaust system.
Difficulty Level: Easy
Tools that you will need:
- Jack stands
- Flash light
- Socket wrench set
Before you begin, make sure your car is held securely by jack stands. You can't rely on a jack to hold your car while you work underneath it.
Take note of the order in which you will remove the components of the exhaust system.
Step 1: Inspect your exhaust system from the exhaust tip all the way back to the inner parts. Check the components that are most heavily damaged.
Step 2: Use a jack to support the exhaust system. Starting from the rear, carefully remove all of the exhaust system's components. Use the screwdriver or the socket wrench to loosen any bolts that hold the parts in their respective places.
Step 3: Locate the oxygen sensors. Slowly remove them from the exhaust system. Cover the tips of the oxygen sensors and put the sensors in a safe place to avoid contamination.
Step 4: Disconnect the components from the hangers that support them. Remove and discard all old gaskets.
Step 5: Install new gaskets as you install your new exhaust system components. Start from the area near the engine and go outward toward the exhaust tip.
Step 6: Set your car down from the jack stands. Start your engine and do a test drive to verify the repair that you've done.
Your car's exhaust system will be as good as new right after you finish this project.