It’s hanging underneath your car at the back exposed to the elements. No matter what you drive through or over, your muffler tends to take the brunt of it. In the winter, salt, snow, and sand cause corrosion to your exhaust and the high heat and hydrocarbons from inside the exhaust system corrode your muffler from the inside out.
With many factors coming into play every day, it’s no wonder the muffler is one of the most commonly-replaced parts on cars. Even though it’s such a vulnerable component, you can avoid muffler repairs and replacement for a very long time with proper care. In some cases, it’s possible to keep your original muffler in good condition for the life of the car.
Part 1 of 3: Keeping your undercarriage clean
In many cases, your muffler needs to be replaced because of rust. The weather and environment cause corrosion on your muffler that can go unnoticed until it’s too late and your muffler has a hole. Cleaning prevents rot from the outside in.
Step 1: Park your vehicle in a dry location. Whenever possible, park your car in a dry place to allow your undercarriage to dry off.
Vehicles parked outdoors, particularly in wet or snowy climates, should expect the wet weather to cause rust on their muffler much sooner than when parked somewhere out of the elements.
If snow and ice accumulate in your undercarriage, park in a warm underground parking lot every two to four weeks to let the ice and snow melt out.
Step 2: Wash your undercarriage. When you wash your car, use a pressure washer to rinse corrosion-causing salt from your car’s floor and muffler.
Many automatic car washes have an undercarriage wash setting as well, cleaning those deposits without having to crawl around on the ground.
Part 2 of 3: Maintain your engine
An engine that’s running poorly can contribute to premature muffler failure. Keep your engine well-tuned to prevent muffler problems.
Step 1: Attend to issues that cause excessive smoke from the exhaust. If you have black, blue, or white smoke from your tailpipe, your engine isn’t running at its best.
A poorly-performing engine produces high levels of hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, and other harmful compounds. These chemicals are often corrosive, causing your muffler to deteriorate on the inside.
Black smoke indicates the engine is overfueling or not burning cleanly, while blue smoke is an issue with burning oil. White smoke indicates a coolant leak into the engine, typically a cylinder head gasket problem.
Deal with these repairs right away to prevent premature muffler failure as well as a host of other problems.
Step 2: Fix your Check Engine Light. When the Check Engine Light is on, there’s a good chance it’s related to your emissions systems.
It can be a simple issue like the fuel cap left loose when refueling or a serious issue that generates highly corrosive gases. Not only are these fumes corrosive, but they contribute to smog and can aggravate breathing conditions.
Step 3: Get an engine tune-up on time. Misfiring spark plugs can cause the same emissions-related issues that cause corrosive gases.
Replace your spark plugs when they are due for maintenance according to your manufacturer’s recommendations. If your engine is running rough, your spark plugs may be fouled and in need of replacement.
Part 3 of 3: Avoid rough terrain
Your muffler can also be physically damaged because it is one of the low spots on your car. It’s generally made of layers of thin metal and can be damaged quite easily due to impact.
Step 1: Avoid large speed bumps and objects on the road. These obstacles can hit your muffler as you pass over them, crushing your muffler up against the floor of your car.
This restricts exhaust flow, causes a leak, or both. This also creates running issues that cause engine damage if the exhaust flow is overly restricted.
Step 2: Park your car facing forward against concrete parking curbs. These curbs are often at the same height as your tailpipe.
If you back into a parking spot, you can inadvertently hit your tailpipe on the concrete curb. This squishes the whole exhaust system forward, not just the muffler, although muffler replacement is often required.
Step 3: Repair broken or torn exhaust mounts. Rubber exhaust mounts can tear from jostling and bouncing constantly on rough roads.
When rubber exhaust mounts or hangers tear, your muffler hangs lower to the road or can even drag. Replace damaged or cracked exhaust hangers to prevent your muffler from becoming collateral damage as you drive.
If your muffler needs to be replaced, it’s likely there’s an exhaust leak under your car. It can seep into your car from underneath, causing nausea and sickness. An ill-performing muffler also causes noise pollution that irritates others around you. If you think you are having exhaust issues, have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians complete an exhaust inspection.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Avoid Muffler Repair and was authored by Jason Unrau.