The exhaust on your car is an important piece of kit, and being situated underneath, it is exposed to a considerable amount of wear. For this reason, exhaust problems are one of the most common issues found with cars. While replacing parts of your exhaust is generally quite difficult, identifying problems is not. If you can learn to spot these problems before they get worse, then you can save yourself quite a bit of money.

Now before you learn how to check your exhaust, there are two safety warnings. Firstly, by its very nature, the exhaust is hot. If you’re going to be working on the exhaust while the engine is on, then wear heat resistant gloves if possible, and do not touch it. Some examinations can be carried out while the system is cold. Secondly, you’ll almost certainly need to jack the car up, and the one that comes with your spare wheel is not adequate. You should use a secure hydraulic jack that will safely hold the car above you. Go to SGS Engineering to see the full range of hydraulic bottle jacks.

Nearly all cars have a steel exhaust system, which has an expected life of several years, but it will rust, and will therefore develop weaknesses at some point. Aftermarket exhausts are often made from stainless steel, which will not rust, but can still be damaged by general wear. Rust is the main cause of exhaust problems, because it causes holes. A compromised exhaust system will be less effective at doing one or more of its three jobs, which are:

• Silencing or quietening the engine noise

• Channelling gases out of the engine

• Cleaning the engine emissions

Once you’re under the car, there are two ways of looking for problems in your exhaust system. Firstly, if the engine is cool, you can work your way from one end of the exhaust to the other, removing deposits and rust, looking for holes or weak spots. You can then turn the engine on and listen to exhaust gases blowing out. You can feel for them too, but remember not to touch the pipe while it’s hot. If you do find holes, then you should have a garage replace the compromised section.

Holes are not the only problem however. The exhaust mounts can deteriorate over time – rubber can harden or split, and metal sections can wear too. These can be easily identified by excessive movement, and are relatively easy to replace yourself. Remember however, that the mounts are designed to allow for some expansion of the metal when it gets hot.

It is generally easier for work to be carried out by a specialist, but if you’re mechanically confident, you can find for instance BMW parts online at They also stock a huge range of parts for most car manufacturers.

Now you know how and what to look for, you should regularly take a look at your exhaust so that you can identify problems before they become serious.

[Image credit: Peterson’s 4Wheel & Off-Road]