Muffler Buyer's Guide
- The muffler is a flask-shaped metal device installed along the exhaust pipe underneath your car.
- You can locate the muffler in between the tailpipe and the resonator or catalytic converter.
- The muffler reduces the airborne noise coming from your car’s engine. It suppresses and controls the engine noise by breaking the soundwaves down inside the assembly.
- The muffler directs the pressure waves in the exhaust gas and bounces them against the walls of each chamber. This creates opposite waves that clash with the oncoming pressure waves from the inlet pipe.
- The exterior walls of the muffler are more prone to rusting when exposed to road salt during the winter.
- Excessively loud engine or exhaust noise, excessive condensation from the exhaust pipe, and engine misfiring are the common symptoms of a bad muffler.
- Choosing a muffler is a matter of preference. But, before you do any actions in replacing your muffler, review your state laws and see which ones are legal or not.
- OE muffler replacements on CarParts.com would cost you from $5 to $1,600 depending on the brand you’ll be looking at.
Engines are naturally loud. The sound that they create is relative to the number of explosions that happen in the combustion chambers. The more explosions that happen per second, the louder the engine is. The reason why these explosions don’t usually sound the way they naturally would is that the banging noises are being suppressed by the car’s exhaust system. The exhaust system consists of multiple components, and one of them is the muffler.
What is a muffler?
The muffler is a flask-shaped metal device installed along the exhaust pipe underneath your car. It comes in different designs and sizes but the function remains all the same. You can locate the muffler in between the tailpipe and the resonator or catalytic converter. Some cars have their mufflers near the exhaust tips while some have their mufflers midway of the exhaust pipe.
What does a muffler do?
Basically, the muffler reduces the airborne noise coming from your car’s engine. It suppresses and controls the engine noise by breaking the soundwaves down inside the assembly. Mufflers are highly regulated in different states and modifications are often strictly prohibited. Some modern mufflers are also known to improve a vehicle’s performance but remember to study your state law before fitting an aftermarket bumper. Aside from muffling and improving your vehicle’s performance, mufflers also protect your lungs from toxic fumes by keeping them away from the cabin.
How does a muffler work?
If you try to cross-section your muffler, you’ll see multiple chambers and perforated pipes. To understand how mufflers work, you must know that sound is a pressure wave that’s formed by vibrations. Pressure waves are created when high-pressure gases collide with low-pressure molecules. For the muffler to cancel these loud sound waves, it needs to introduce an opposing pressure wave with the same wavelength as the initial sound wave. This method of canceling out of sound waves is known as destructive interference.
In simple terms, the muffler directs the pressure waves in the exhaust gas and bounces them against the walls of each chamber. This creates opposite waves that clash with the oncoming pressure waves from the inlet pipe. The clash annuls the waves and the noise gets muffled. This process gets repeated in the remaining chambers until the desired sound level is achieved.
What causes the muffler to fail?
The muffler’s number one enemy is rust since it’s made of metal parts inside and out. External and internal components of the muffler wear over time and it is important that you replace your muffler when rust starts to appear. The exterior walls of the muffler are more prone to rusting when exposed to road salt during the winter. The internal components, on the other hand, develop rust when the water vapor from condensation fails to drain out completely.
Symptoms of a failing muffler
The muffler is essential in reducing and controlling engine noise, which is why you need to ensure that it’s in good shape. You may also face violations as mufflers are regulated by different states. To help you avoid further inconvenience, here are the common symptoms of a bad muffler.
Excessively loud engine or exhaust noise
The most obvious symptom of a failing muffler is excessive exhaust noise. This could be due to a cracked or rusted muffler, which has lost its ability to contain the soundwaves. Apart from an excessively loud exhaust noise, your car may also experience decreased performance and fuel economy.
Excessive condensation from the exhaust pipe
Normally, when the muffler cools down along with the exhaust system, water vapor condenses inside the assembly. This build-up slowly eats away the shell of the muffler as time progresses. When the condition worsens, you may begin to notice excessive condensation coming from the exhaust tip. This usually happens during warmer periods of the day.
When any of the components of the exhaust system gets damaged, including the muffler, it could impact the performance of the engine. The effects include engine misfiring, especially when there’s a hole inside the muffler. Engine misfire caused by a failing muffler usually happens during deceleration. Contact your certified mechanic as soon as you notice an engine misfire, as it could affect your car’s fuel efficiency in the long run.
Choosing the right muffler
Choosing a muffler is a matter of preference. But, before you do any actions in replacing your muffler, review your state laws and see which ones are legal or not. Here are some of the things you need to consider when getting a muffler replacement or upgrade.
Ensure the right fit
One important thing to remember when shopping for a muffler is fit. Are you after a single or dual system? Are you after a specific diameter for the exhaust pipe? You must understand that knowing these will determine the number of inlets, as well as match their size for fitting. You also need to take note of how much room is needed to fit your new muffler.
Choosing your preferred style
For starters, there are three main styles of mufflers in the market, which are known as chambered, turbo, and straight-through. Chambered mufflers are engineered to muffle exhaust noise while generating deep performance sound. This style uses a series of specifically configured inner chambers.
Turbo mufflers, on the other hand, use perforated tubes that guide the exhaust gas in an S-shaped path. Lastly, straight-through mufflers offer maximum flow, which results in higher horsepower outputs. These mufflers have straight, perforated pipes wrapped with sound-absorbing fiberglass packing. This style is the most compact of all three so it’s the muffler to go to when product-fitting is a concern.
Last but not least, you need to figure out the material of the muffler you prefer to install. Part manufacturers often use a three-layer layout for the body consisting of an outer shell, an insulating layer, and an inner casing. There are two common materials used in making mufflers: stainless steel and aluminum. Aluminum mufflers are relatively cheaper and lighter but stainless steel offers more resistance from rust and corrosion.
How much does a muffler cost?
OE muffler replacements on CarParts.com would cost you from $5 to $1,600 depending on the brand you’ll be looking at. Muffler sets are also available at around $2,000. You may input your vehicle’s year, make, and model to filter the results according to your specific model.
Sure Steps in Replacing a Center Muffler
Your muffler may no longer be up to snuff. It may be plugged with oil particles or rusted. It may be punctured with holes or may have collapsed when an object hit it badly. For sure, the damaged muffler will affect the sounds your vehicle makes and how it runs. If it’s time to replace the center muffler, here’s how:
Difficulty level: Moderate
Things you’ll need:
- Sockets with a ratchet wrench
- Hacksaw or electric reciprocating saw (or any similar cutoff tool)
- Ball peen hammer
- Jack and jack stands
- Wheel blocks
- Muffler sealant
- Exhaust clamps
- Penetrating oil
Step 1: Park the vehicle on a level surface. Set the transmission to park and activate the emergency brakes. Place wheel blocks under the rear wheels before raising the vehicle using a jack and supporting the frame with jack stands on each side.
Step 2: Apply penetrating oil on the nuts (and clamps for a clamped-on center muffler). Let this sit for a while before using deep wall sockets to loosen the muffler clamps.
Step 3: Free the muffler from the pipe on the rear and front. You may have to use a hack saw or electric cut-off tool for separating the pipe.
Step 4: Once the muffler is separated from the pipe, detach it from the hangers that secure it in place.
Step 5: Install the new center muffler. Check the instruction manual that came with the muffler. Installation is normally the reverse of muffler removal.
Step 6: Keep the ends of the pipe smooth. Its rear portion must be split to expand, and the new muffler’s rear end must slide into the pipe.
Step 7: Place the muffler onto the hangers and make sure it mounts properly.
Step 8: Coat the pipe at the front and rear with a muffler sealant.
Step 9: Place new muffler clamps on pipe ends. The muffler must slip onto the ends. Once in place, set the clamps over the connections between the muffler and pipe. Use deep wall sockets and a ratchet wrench for tightening the clamps. Then, tighten the nuts. They must run onto the clamps on both ends.
Step 10: Take out the jack stands before lowering the vehicle with the jack. Remove the wheel blocks.
Step 11: Test the new muffler. Drive the car to see if the exhaust is making unusual noise and if adjustments should be done on the connection.