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Exhaust System Replacement: What Is the Cost? 

  • Cars Explained
  • Celine Jerly
  • 6 minutes

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If your car’s running on fumes, the nearest gas station can fix it. But if you can smell the fumes while driving, head straight to the auto shop – it’s time to check the exhaust. So, best be ready when that happens; here’s all you need to know about car exhaust system replacement costs.  

A car’s exhaust system plays a major role in its performance and appearance. No one wants a sputtering smoke machine on a busy street. But more importantly, the leaks can be lethal once it seeps inside the car. Before we go on about worn-out parts and strange smells, a malfunctioning exhaust system isn’t the only reason to look for replacement costs. You can do away with the factory-installed system and get a customized fit to improve your car.  

Keeping all that in mind, here’s how to check if your car’s safe to drive. You’ll also need this car maintenance checklist to make sure everything’s a-okay. And, if you are worried about gas prices, check out these tips for fuel-efficient driving. 

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Now, we’ll get straight to the exhaust system, starting with: 

What is it, and how does it work? 

A car’s exhaust system collects gases from the engine’s combustion chamber, filters them to remove harmful elements, and disposes of the fumes. The muffler in the system is effective in reducing engine noises. Multiple parts of the system have specific functions: 

  • Exhaust Manifold: Collects and removes harmful combustion fumes 
  • Flange gasket: Seals the exhaust pipe to the manifold 
  • Catalytic converter: Controls harmful emissions 
  • Resonator (pre-muffler): Controls the sounds coming from the exhaust system 
  • Muffler: Quiets rest of the noise and creates back pressure for improved performance 
Exhaust system of the car seen from beneath
Image by João Paulo from Pixabay

What are the symptoms of exhaust system failure? 

  • When the check engine light turns on, defects in the exhaust system could be a reason 
  • It gets louder when you step on the gas; the muffler is usually the culprit in this case 
  • Strange smells inside the car indicate various issues. For example, you’ll notice a strong exhaust smell if leaks occur. Get it checked immediately to avoid dangers like carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • You may notice a drop in fuel efficiency and loss of power; the car may get sluggish 
  • Damage to the catalytic converter can cause rattling and vibrations while driving. It could be a symptom of defects in the suspension system or transmission.  
Why Does My Car Smell Like Rotten Eggs? How Do I Fix It? – Click Here to Find Out

Why should you replace it? 

Worn-out parts or damage to the exhaust system may release harmful fumes. Apart from being a pollutant, these waste gases may leak into the car’s interiors without passing safely to the rear. Breathing exhaust fumes is dangerous – it can cause drowsiness and other health issues. In addition, if the leaks reach you while driving, it could cause an accident or worse. 

A faulty exhaust system also increases the vehicle’s noise levels. So over time, the chuffing noise from the leaks gets louder as the damage worsens.  

Also See: What to do if you see White Smoke from your Exhaust?

smoke from car exhaust
Image by Alexei from Pixabay

Note: It is illegal to drive a car with a defective exhaust system, especially when it makes loud noises.  

How much does it cost to replace an exhaust system? 

Exhaust system replacement costs for a car range between $150 – $2500. The estimate is based on how much the replaced part or the whole system costs and additional labor costs. DIY-ing it won’t make much of a difference as a complete exhaust system replacement is pretty straightforward, and labor costs go only up to $200. However, if it’s a minor repair and you have a fair amount of technical experience, replacing some parts won’t cost much.  

Factors that affect the cost 

The cost of the full exhaust system or its parts varies according to the system type, the material used, the car’s make and model, etc.  

Styles and Material 

Cat-back and Axle-back are the two common styles. In addition, you’ll find high-performance variants with higher price tags. As for materials, steel or aluminum are common. Mild steel is an affordable choice, but it rusts easily. Galvanized aluminum has better corrosion resistance and reduces noise. However, stainless steel is sturdier and costs the most.   

Cost of Parts 

Affordable options are easier to find for older models, but luxury cars will need expensive parts. For example, high-performance mufflers cost at least $75. It can go up to $300 or more, depending on the thickness and quality of the material. Similarly, exhaust tip costs range from $25 – $150 on average. Most car exhaust systems come with pre-installed tips.  

Aftermarket products – generic copies of car parts – are cheaper than OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) products. You can save money by opting for the former, but it’s best to seek expert opinion.  

Read: What is a Cherry Bomb Muffler? Are Cherry Bomb Mufflers Legal?

Mercedes AMG exhaust tail pipes

Labor costs 

Changing the whole exhaust system of your car isn’t a lot of work. With the right tools, instructions, and a bit of experience, you can replace it yourself. Having said that, if you aren’t sure about your technical skills, don’t risk it. The better option is to leave your car for a couple of hours at the shop.  

On average, labor will cost you $50 – $60 per hour, and replacing a car’s exhaust system won’t take more than half a day. However, it also depends on whether you are replacing the whole system or a few parts. If it’s the latter, the type and number of parts replaced will determine the total time taken.  

The dealership you purchase the equipment from may offer the replacement at no extra cost. However, custom pieces may increase the costs. 

Do you need a custom exhaust system? 

Factory-installed exhaust systems meet safety standards but are designed to keep the manufacturer’s costs low. So, it may not bring out your car’s full potential. But on the other hand, customized options for the specific model will get your car to perform, look, and sound better. Here are some of the benefits: 

  • Better engine efficiency as it breathes and burns fuel better to produce more power. Torque and horsepower improve with a part that suits your car.  
  • Exhaust gases are released quicker as the right system frees up more power in the engine 
  • Fuel economy improves with a fuel-efficient system 
  • Minimizes wear and tear and extends your car’s life 
  • Improves the noise levels and appearance of the car 

When you replace the entire exhaust system, you can choose a complete package that boosts power. While this may be expensive, most car owners find it worth the expense. You can also choose to replace only the catalytic converter to get more power – but that isn’t too cheap either.  

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