5 Symptoms of an Exhaust Leak (How to Tell)

(Updated on August 11, 2022)

The exhaust system does two things for your vehicle. The first thing it does is converts all those toxic gases produced from the internal combustion process into less toxic gases. The second thing it does is it releases those gases through the tailpipe so that they can leave the engine and exhaust system.

These gases, which are carbon emissions, are typically odorless and colorless to the nose and eyes; respectively. If you don’t have a properly working exhaust system, then these gases could potentially leak and find their way to the cabin of your vehicle where everybody sits. These gases are poisonous and can be fatal if enough of them are inhaled.

Related: 7 Symptoms of a Hole in Your Muffler

Top 5 Signs of an Exhaust Leak

Obviously, you don’t want to wait until you’re unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning before you do something about your exhaust leak. There are plenty of less serious symptoms to watch out for which will indicate you have an exhaust leak.

It’s crucial that you don’t simply ignore these signs. Make an appointment with a local automotive service center as soon as possible before the exhaust leak creates a major health hazard.

Below are five common symptoms of an exhaust leak coming from your car:

1) Bad Fuel Efficiency

high gas prices

With a leaking exhaust system, the engine control unit cannot get an accurate reading from the O2 sensors about how much oxygen is coming and going from the valves.

Because of this, the engine will burn more fuel to compensate for this. This is where you’d notice a reduction in your miles per gallon and an increase in fuel costs.

Of course, you could just have a bad oxygen sensor that create this symptom. But you will never know for sure until you bring your vehicle to a repair shop and have an expert check to see which one is causing the problem.

2) Noisy Acceleration

car makes rattling noise

It is normal to hear a small roaring sound when you step on the gas pedal to accelerate the vehicle. This is the sound of the engine spinning its components and generating the necessary power to push the vehicle faster.

But if you are hearing any strange noises that you don’t normally hear, this could be an indication that you have exhaust fumes leaking from the system somewhere. You should be able to tell the difference between sounds coming from your exhaust and sounds coming from your engine.

See Also: How to Make Your Exhaust Loud

3) Noisy Engine

noise while driving

If the engine sounds much louder than usual after you start up the vehicle, it may be a sign that you have an exhaust leak. This leak could be the result of a damaged gasket that separates the engine block and exhaust manifold.

Since this gasket is constantly cooled and heated, a crack is likely to form over time. This will cause your engine to become noisier as the exhaust fumes escape through the gasket.

4) Burning Odor

burning smell

It is true that carbon monoxide is totally odorless and colorless. However, a damaged or leaky exhaust manifold could cause a strange burning smell to be noticed in the cabin.

Remember that the exhaust manifold is responsible for gathering all the gases which come from the cylinders after the combustion process. But if this manifold were to leak, the burning smell from these gases will still be there.

Read Also: 5 Signs Your Car Have Bad Fuel Inside the Gas Tank

5) Vibrations

steering wheel shakes

If you step on the gas pedal and feel vibrations going into your foot, then you may have an exhaust leak. The faster these gases escape, the more shaking that will be felt.

You may feel vibration from the floorboards and steering wheel. It will eventually get to the point where the vibration can be felt inside the entire cabin.

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