What Are the Different Parts of an Exhaust System?

Internal combustion engines get the power that a vehicle feeds on from a mixture of oxygen and fuel that is burned by the spark plug within the combustion chamber. When this mixture is burned, a few dangerous (and potentially fatal) gases are created: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and nitrogen monoxide. In order to keep drivers out of danger’s way, vehicles rely on the exhaust system to eliminate these hazardous gases. Typically, exhaust systems are comprised of three main components.

Exhaust Manifold

The exhaust manifold is the piece of the exhaust system that attaches directly to the vehicle’s engine block. The engine block contains the cylinders and cylinder head, which create the combustion chamber where the fuel and oxygen are burned.
exhaust kitThe exhausts system of a vehicle has 3 major components: the exhaust manifold, the catalytic converter, and the muffler.
The exhaust manifold filters these toxic gases through its pipes, which are usually comprised of aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel. The exhaust manifold is also responsible for burning any leftover fuel if it wasn’t already burned properly by the engine.

Usually, inside or near the exhaust manifold there is the oxygen sensor. The oxygen sensor takes a reading of the oxygen levels of the exiting gases and reports them to the car’s computer system. This computer helps regulate how much fuel is needed for the engine to run at its top capacity.

Catalytic Converter

After the excess gases depart the exhaust manifold, they make their way into the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter is a large canteen shaped device that reduces toxic byproducts that come from the vehicle’s exhaust by filtering them through certain precious metals and chemicals that are packed inside of the converter. Most vehicles feature a 3 way converter to convert a vehicle’s 3 main pollutants. The first wide spread usage of these converters came about in 1975 because of tightening regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


mufflerThe muffler is responsible for releasing deadly gases and reducing noise.
The muffler is the final component of the exhaust system. It can usually be seen from behind, and its primary function is to silence (or muffle) the extremely loud combustion noises that come from an engine. This sound reduction is achieved because of the unique design of a muffler. Inside of the muffler, there is the perforator and resonator chamber, which use a specific volume of air and a specific length to evaporate the sound waves that are produced in the engine.  In addition to sound reduction, the muffler is also responsible for releasing the toxic gases, which have now become less toxic through the entire exhaust system process.

Take Care of Your Exhaust System!

Taking care of an exhaust system is extremely important. Oftentimes, exhaust systems can rust and/or crack; this can be extremely dangerous for the driver and the vehicle itself. The chances of this occurring increase if you live in areas that have salt and snow on the road because both of these are facilitators of corrosion. If you do live in an area like this, it’s always a good idea to take a hose and rinse the underside of your vehicle every few months, but don’t overdo this either because excess water could also lead to rust.

There are a few things that drivers can be aware of in order to make sure the exhaust system is fully functioning.

  • If you smell any strange gases, this may be a sign that your exhaust system is malfunctioning.
  • If your engine is overheating quickly, this could be a sign of a cracked cylinder head.
  • Hissing or cracking sounds may be an indicator that there is a leak or a muffler needs to be replaced.
  • If you notice your vehicle has been less fuel efficient, this may be a sign of a malfunctioning oxygen sensor.
Remember, the exhaust system is responsible for carrying deadly gases away from a vehicle and keeping a vehicle working efficiently, so it’s very important that drivers pay attention and stay up on repairs.

By: Tim Snyder
Posted on October 21st, 2013
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