What Is an Exhaust Leak and How Does It Affect My Vehicle's Performance?

What Is an Exhaust Leak and How Does It Affect My Vehicle's Performance?

22nd May 2019

If your vehicle has been diagnosed with an exhaust leak, you'll probably have some unanswered questions, such as how it will affect your vehicle's performance and whether it's safe to drive. While the severity of exhaust leaks varies, they'll almost always create one or more symptoms. And if you don't get it fixed, it could lead to other problems for your vehicle later down the road.

Overview of Exhaust Leaks

An exhaust leak occurs when some of the exhaust gases produced inside the engine's combustion chamber leak out your vehicle's exhaust system before reaching the tailpipe. In healthy vehicles, exhaust gases are released out the tailpipe. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for some of these gases to leak out before reaching the tailpipe. When exhaust gases leak between the engine's combustion chamber and the tailpipe, it's called an "exhaust leak."

Exhaust leaks are problematic for several reasons. First, they can throw off sensors, which may cause your engine to burn too much or not enough fuel. Second, exhaust leaks are bad for the environment because they often release exhaust gases before those gases are able to pass through the catalytic converter. Second, exhaust leaks can pose a risk to you and your passengers' health.

Signs of an Exhaust Leak

When an exhaust leak occurs, you may notice a few symptoms, some of which include the following:

  • Whistling noise coming from the engine bay
  • Excessive vibrations originating from the exhaust system
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Check Engine Light (CEL)
  • Rattling noise coming from the catalytic converter

How to Fix an Exhaust Leak

So, how do you fix an exhaust leak? First and foremost, you'll need to identify where exactly the exhaust leak is located. Exhaust gases can leak anywhere between the engine's combustion chamber and the tailpipe. Normally, though, leaks occur at the exhaust manifold.

The exhaust manifold is responsible for collecting exhaust gases from all the engine's cylinders and funneling them through a single pipe, which eventually leads to a catalytic converter -- as well as one or two oxygen sensors -- before reaching the tailpipe. If there's a crack in your vehicle's exhaust manifold, it will likely result in an exhaust leak. While some drivers have experienced success by welding their cracked exhaust manifold, you should consider replacing it instead. Assuming your vehicle's exhaust manifold is leaking, replacing it with a new one will ensure that no exhaust gases are able to leak from this component of your vehicle's exhaust system.