How Do Exhaust Problems Affect Vehicle Performance?

Is your car making a horrific droning noise as it rumbles down the street? Exhaust problems tend to be costly, embarrassing, and even dangerous. Not only do they lead to your car announcing its presence at every stop but they can also allow hazardous fumes to enter into the cabin.

Although most drivers are familiar with these obvious exhaust problem symptoms, not everyone realizes that faulty exhaust components can also impact a car’s performance. When your vehicle is suffering from an exhaust leak, you may experience a variety of symptoms that are more than just annoying. Below you will find three ways that exhaust issues can impact drivability.

1. Rich Running Conditions

Your engine achieves maximum efficiency by burning air and fuel in a precise ratio. Many of the sensors and computer systems on your car work in concert to ensure that these two inputs remain perfectly matched. An engine that burns too little fuel is running in a lean condition, while one that consumes too much fuel is running in a rich condition.

Your O2 sensors play a crucial part in maintaining this ratio by reading the level of oxygen in your exhaust gases. A leak upstream from an O2 sensor can allow a higher proportion of oxygen into the stream, leading to an inaccurate lean reading. This faulty reading ultimately causes the car to add more fuel, resulting in a rich running condition.

A rich running condition ultimately results in reduced fuel economy, increased emissions, rough idle, and even damage to components such as your spark plugs. Depending on the severity of the problem, the O2 sensor may trigger a trouble code and illuminate your check engine light.

2. Reduced Power

There’s a general rule of thumb for vehicle performance and exhaust systems: less back pressure means more power. The easier exhaust gases can escape into the outside atmosphere, the more power your car will have. Restrictions within the exhaust create back pressure, reducing the efficiency of the exhaust system as a whole.

While modern emissions equipment can lead to additional back pressure in the system, vehicle engineers work to minimize these effects. Anything that upsets this balance can reduce your car’s overall power, sometimes in significant and noticeable ways. One of the largest culprits for this effect in your exhaust system is the catalytic converter.

Although catalytic converters often last for the life of a vehicle, they can sometimes become clogged. This type of failure typically occurs as a result of the catalytic converter overheating, such as when unburnt fuel enters the exhaust stream. A clogged catalytic converter can impact drivability in several ways, including a severe loss of power.

3. Severe Vibrations

Exhaust leaks can sometimes produce severe vibrations that are easy to misinterpret as an idle issue. When your exhaust system causes vibrations, it typically does so in one of two ways: sound or physical movement. An exhaust leak that is noisy enough to vibrate your car is a reasonably noticeable problem, so there is rarely any doubt about the underlying issue.

Mechanical vibrations aren’t always so apparent, however. Problems of this nature are often caused by a rusted out exhaust hanger, which allows a portion of the system to vibrate freely. In these cases, it may feel as though your car is idling roughly. Depending on the exact nature of the problem, the vibration may increase or decrease when accelerating. You may also notice a distinctive rattling sound.

If your car’s exhaust shows signs of failure, you don’t need to continue to put up with reduced performance. Seeburg Mufflers can diagnose and repair the problem so that you can get back to a quiet, smooth ride. Give us a call today and we’ll help put you back on the road.

Leave a Comment