The exhaust system of your car has two important functions; one is to keep your vehicle quiet and the second is to transport all the toxic fumes being formed in the engine out of the car through the back end.
Now, how long you will be able to drive with an exhaust leak will solely depend on the location and the extent of the leak.
If it is in the manifold, you shouldn’t be driving it at all. But if your car has a leaky muffler, you will be able to run it for however long you want.
Let’s get more details in the following sections.
Is it Serious to Have an Exhaust Leak?
An exhaust leak would mean that that component of your system is not functioning properly. If that’s the case, harmful and dangerous fumes and gases such as carbon monoxide will likely get inside the passenger cabin.
Not only that, it will reduce fuel efficiency, will result in damage to your engine, destroy your oxygen sensors slowly, and could lead to the failure of the catalytic converter.
Besides all of that, a leak would cause your car to be very noisy. In cases such as this, you will be more than likely to be pulled over by the police.
Other than that, if the leak is serious toxic byproducts formed in the engine might get out and harm the passengers of the car.
The Result of A Leaky Exhaust
As talked about in the previous section, there are multiple risks that one can have if they do not repair a leaky exhaust.
Let’s break down all the points so that you can get well acquainted with the repercussions of driving with an exhaust leak without getting it repaired.
Toxic Fumes Getting Inside the Passenger Cabin
The exhaust system mainly has three segments; the muffler or the silencer, the exhaust manifold, and the downpipe. A leak in any of these components could lead to the expulsion of poisonous gases into the cabin of the car.
Since the passenger cabin of vehicles is not properly sealed airtight for obvious reasons, it is quite easy for such fumes to get introduced there.
Mainly, if there is a leak in the manifold segment of the exhaust instead of exiting the car carbon monoxide along with the other gases gets inside the vehicle.
It is very hard to tell whether or not carbon monoxide has gotten inside of your car as it is also known as the silent killer.
This gas displaces oxygen and your red blood cells have more affinity towards it than it has to oxygen. Therefore, your supply gets depleted.
You are likely to incur breathing problems and have your vital organs such as your heart and brain damaged. Constant exposure to this gas would cause mutations in your body which, in severe cases, will result in various forms of cancer.
Reduction of Fuel Efficiency
It is imperative to have a proper air-to-fuel ratio to ensure the efficiency of the fuel being injected into your vehicle.
Because of a leaky exhaust, this ratio will become imbalanced. The oxygen sensors will assume that the combustion mixture is sparse and therefore more fuel will be sucked into the combustion chamber in order to make up for the low mixture.
So, more fuel will be used like this and you will be finding yourself in a fueling station more than you usually do.
Hence, it is best to get it fixed as soon as possible because fuel prices are ever increasing and it is just not economically smart to have a leaky exhaust.
Damage to the Engine
One of the most severe risks of a leak in your exhaust is to have your internal engine damaged. If there is a leak in the manifold, the repair cost of the damage it will do to the engine will be very expensive.
Combustion reaction produces a lot of heat and when the leak is in the manifold, the exhaust will become inadequate at removing that heat from the engine.
As a result, the valves of the engine will get damaged, and fixing this can become extremely expensive.
This is the reason why, instead of ignoring the problem in your exhaust you should immediately get it fixed when you start noticing the signs.
Damage to the Oxygen Sensors
Since there is improper combustion, fuel will remain and not get burnt. This will cause the destruction of oxygen sensors that reside in your car’s engine.
They will not be able to take proper readings of the amount of oxygen in the chambers because the tips of these sensors are being coated.
Your car will idle roughly as power will be drained from your engine because of the damaged oxygen sensors.
If you let your vehicle be like this for too long, a check engine light will be illuminated indicating that you are required to replace your oxygen sensors.
Failure of Catalytic Converter
Excess fuel gets inside the combustion chamber because of a leaky exhaust. But in reality, there will not be enough oxygen in that chamber for the complete combustion of all the fuel there.
The remaining fuel will then get inside the exhaust stream and then ultimately to the catalytic converter.
Here, a combustion reaction will take place and that would result in damage to the interior substrate. The catalytic converter will get clogged and will not be able to function as it should.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
What are the signs of a leak in the car’s exhaust?
You will notice weird noises coming from the engine, loud sounds when you accelerate, your gas pedal will vibrate, and a decrease in fuel efficiency.
Are strange smells a sign of a leaky exhaust?
If you can smell strange burning smell from the passenger cabin this could be due to a leak in the exhaust manifold of your vehicle.
Is it okay to drive with an exhaust leak?
In some cases it is. However, it is not recommended as it is illegal and unsafe to drive around with that defect.
What are the long-term effects of an exhaust leak?
Apart from the components of your car getting damaged, this could also lead to a fire if left unchecked for too long.
While it is okay to drive with an exhaust leak in some cases, it is best to get it fixed as soon as you can. It is risky for you and your car if you ignore the problem for way too long not to mention it being illegal for the right reasons.
The damage and the overall expense of you driving your car in that condition are not worth it in our opinion and we would recommend you get it checked by a professional mechanic when you start seeing the signs.