Updated: Jan 8
An exhaust leak can be a frustrating problem for any vehicle owner. Not only can it lead to decreased performance and fuel efficiency, but it can also be dangerous as it can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the cabin of the vehicle.
In this article, we will outline the symptoms of an exhaust leak, whether it is possible to repair an exhaust leak yourself, the potential dangers of driving with a leaking exhaust, and the various methods on how to fix an exhaust leak.
Table of Contents:
Exhaust Leak Symptoms
There are several symptoms of an exhaust leak you should look out for if you suspect your vehicle may have one.
Unusual sounds: A leaking exhaust can produce a range of unusual noises such as hissing, whistling, or tapping.
Smell of fuel: If you smell fuel of exhaust fumes inside your vehicle, it could be a sign of an exhaust leak.
Reduced engine performance: An exhaust leak can reduce the overall performance of your engine, leading to a decrease in power and acceleration.
Check engine light: In some cases, an exhaust leak can trigger the check engine light to come on.
Can You Repair an Exhaust Leak Yourself?
Whether you can repair an exhaust leak yourself will depend on your level of mechanical expertise and the tools you have available. Some smaller exhaust leaks may be fixable with an exhaust repair kit, which can be purchased from an auto parts store or online (such as here).
However, more significant leaks may require welding or other more advanced repairs that are best left to a professional mechanic.
Can You Drive With a Leaking Exhaust?
It is generally not recommended to drive with a leaking exhaust. Here are some reasons why.
Fails emissions testing: A leaking exhaust can lead to your vehicle failing an emissions test, which may be required in some areas.
May be illegal: In some areas and countries, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with a leaking exhaust as it can be considered a safety hazard and fails emissions testing.
Can cause issues with the vehicle: An exhaust leak can lead to decreased performance and fuel efficiency, as well as potentially damaging other components of the vehicle.
Can be dangerous (carbon monoxide): Perhaps most importantly, a leaking exhaust can allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin of the vehicle, which can be deadly.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix an Exhaust Leak?
The cost to fix an exhaust leak will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as the type of repair needed.
Some minor repairs, such as sealing a small hole with an exhaust repair kit, may cost as little as $10-20 (£8-15 / €9-18).
However, more significant repairs, such as welding a new section of exhaust pipe or replacing the section, can cost upwards of $100 or more (£80 / €90).
How to Find an Exhaust Leak (Soapy Water Method)
One simple way to locate an exhaust leak is to use the soapy water method. Here's how it works.
Mix up a solution of water and dish soap in a spray bottle.
Start the engine and let it idle.
Spray the solution onto various parts of the exhaust system, paying particular attention to any joints or seams.
If you see any bubbles forming, it indicates a leak in that area.
Can You Fix an Exhaust Leak Temporarily?
If you are unable to get your exhaust leak repaired immediately, there are a few temporary fix options you can try.
Use an exhaust leak repair kit: These exhaust repair kits contain a sealant that can be applied to small holes in the exhaust system to temporarily seal the leak.
Use exhaust putty/cement: Exhaust putty or cement can be used to temporarily seal small holes or cracks in the exhaust system.
Use exhaust tape: Exhaust tape is a strong, heat-resistant tape that can be used to seal small holes or cracks in the exhaust system.
However, it is important to note that these temporary fixes are only meant as a stopgap measure and should not be relied on long-term.
How to Fix an Exhaust Leak
If you have determined that your exhaust leak requires a more permanent repair, there are a few options you can try.
Use an exhaust clamp: If the leak is located at straight section or a joint in the exhaust system, an exhaust clamp can be used to clamp the joint together and seal the leak. An exhaust clamp can be used in combination with exhaust putty or tape to be more affective
Weld a new section of exhaust in: If the leak is located in a section of the exhaust pipe, it may be necessary to remove the damaged section and weld in a new one.
How to Fix an Exhaust Leak Without Welding
If you do not have access to welding equipment or do not feel comfortable attempting a welding repair, there are a few non-welding options you can try.
Use an exhaust clamp: As mentioned above, an exhaust clamp (better when combined with exhaust putty or tape) can be used to seal a leak at a joint in the exhaust system and it doesn't rely on welding.
Replace and bolt in a section of the exhaust: If the leak is located in a section of the exhaust pipe that can be removed, you may be able to replace the damaged section and bolt it back into place.
How to Fix Exhaust Leak at Flange
If the exhaust leak is located at the flange, which is the point where the exhaust pipe connects to another section of the exhaust system, there are a few options for repair.
Replace exhaust gasket: The gasket is a small, rubber seal that sits between the flange and the exhaust manifold. If the gasket is damaged and is causing the exhaust leak, it may be possible to simply replace it to fix the leak.
Weld the flange together: If the flange itself is damaged, it may be necessary to weld it back together to seal the leak.
Use exhaust putty/cement: As mentioned above, exhaust putty or cement can be used to temporarily seal a leak at the flange. However, this should only be considered a temporary fix and the flange should be properly repaired as soon as possible.
An exhaust leak can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous problem for any vehicle owner.
By understanding the symptoms and potential dangers of an exhaust leak, as well as the various methods for repair, you can take the necessary steps to fix the exhaust leak and get your vehicle back on the road safely.