The 49.95 Muffler Special

Remember those advertisements from a local muffler shop offering a $49.95 muffler? Where have they gone?

For starters, your muffler is not what it used to be. Today, you have to look at the whole exhaust system. Starting at the engine, the spent exhaust enters the manifold, catalytic convertor, piping, a resonator, a muffler, then the tailpipe, before you ultimately enters the earth’s atmosphere. Each component has a specific job to do. With that being said, car makers have made exhaust systems much more durable and can last several years before issues develop. But when things go wrong, the cost can be rather expensive.

Catalytic converters have been mandated by Federal law to last 100,000 miles out of the factory and cars have much tighter emission standards to comply with than in previous years. So the car makers are forced to make catalytic convertors larger and have higher levels of precious metals the internal catalyst is coated with. Replacing a convertor with an OE convertor (not aftermarket) can cost several hundreds of dollars and we’ve seen some priced at almost 2000.00 for some cars. And many vehicles, especially V-type engines, have multiple catalytic convertors present. Aftermarket convertors are typically half the cost of OE. Unfortunately, many applications are not available and they have lighter restrictions for replacement as they are only required to last by Federal Law for 25,000 miles.

Now for the other parts of the exhaust system. Many cars today have a mini muffler installed inline called a resonator on top of the main muffler. Cars with these systems are typically more costly to replace. Then there’s the infamous flex pipe present towards the front of the exhaust system. It’s a small section of approximately 10” that is corrugated and is made to “flex” or stretch a little as the engine moves due to torque. These are usually the first thing to rust out and leak at a seam because of the ongoing flexing.

As far as the muffler goes, the main job is still to eliminate the noise exiting from the exhaust. But one overlooked job the complete exhaust system has to perform is to provide the engine a certain amount of back pressure to allow the electronic to monitor and adjust fuel delivery for optimal fuel economy. And exhaust system are still evolving as the cars of the future are using turbo chargers to help achieve the new stringent fuel economy requirements.

What does all of this mean to the average consumer? Nothing, unless their car becomes loud or they have to pass the state emissions requirements and have a check engine light on that is on due to a defective catalytic converter. Replacement choices also vary. Most mufflers sold through the aftermarket typically offer a higher quality muffler (usually carries a lifetime warranty) and a budget muffler. The best muffler can be almost double the cost of the budget one. Then choices for catalytic converters also vary. And it’s important to realize not all mufflers or other parts of the exhaust system are the same. Most aftermarket mufflers don’t last but 2-4 years in cars driven in the snow belt zone. So, the days of $49.95 mufflers are gone. The good news though is you can trust Wise Auto Clinic to give you a free estimate, with options, and repair any exhaust system issue you have.