Exhaust Corrosion: How To Spot It & How It’s Caused

Your car will face the elements every time it hits the road, or even when it’s parked if you’re not fortunate enough to own a garage. Whether it’s being baked in the sun or withstanding freezing temperatures, pouring rain or even the spray from the sea after a coastal drive, your vehicle is often at the mercy of unpredictable external factors… which combine with the general wear and tear your vehicle suffers naturally to have, in some cases, disastrous effects. Your car’s exhaust is one highly susceptible part that can suffer damage, usually in the form of rust and corrosion, and it doesn’t always begin on the outside. Here’s how to identify this problem and what causes it.

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What Is Exhaust Corrosion?

Exhaust corrosion is the harmful process in which the metals that your exhaust system is made from begin to degrade and break down. The most common and recognisable form of this is rust, something which everybody will have seen at some point in their lives in one place or another. While modern cars are typically very good at fending off rust thanks to their special paint job coatings, certain parts are given less protection – including the exhaust.

The reason that exhaust systems are prone to corroding is not just because it’s exposed to the outside elements, but also because it can have a habit of collecting water on the inside too. As the metal heats and cools repeatedly, any condensation will remain trapped in exhaust pipework and we all know that water and metal don’t work together over extended periods of time.

How To Tell If Your Exhaust Is Corroded

Thankfully, it’s quite easy to spot corrosion on your exhaust simply by examining the area; you won’t even need an advanced understanding of vehicle mechanics either. Standard rust, like you’d find on any other metallic object, should be easy enough to identify. You’ll want to check around the outside of your exhaust pipe, but if you can, take a look inside too (you’ll most likely require a torch).

Keep an eye out for any cracks or holes that have developed, also checking the entire length of the exhaust system if you’re able to do so. This damage could have appeared after an impact from debris on the road, but if there are signs of significant corrosion, it’s quite possible that they may have developed after extreme rusting. A good way of testing the severity of any rusting is to give it a poke and see how it feels. Is the metal still solid or does it split the moment you prod it? If it’s the latter, some serious damage has been done.

Your ears can also prove as useful as your eyes. If you hear any unusual sounds coming from your exhaust, or if it’s become noticeably louder, you might have corrosion damage. This is particularly common when the silencer rusts and is no longer able to, well, silence.

Can You Drive With A Corroded Exhaust?

Driving with a corroded exhaust may not pose any immediate problems that will result in your car breaking down, but you might end up pulled over at the side of the road by order of your local police force. This is because they have every right to legally take your car off the road (and punish you accordingly) if your vehicle is producing an obscene level of emissions, whether that’s in the form of toxic fumes or noise.

However, there are other more dangerous consequences of driving with a damaged exhaust pipe. The fumes that are emitted through it are, as we said, toxic and incredibly harmful to humans. If your exhaust is damaged, those fumes may not be able to escape successfully and could end up collecting in and around you and your passengers while you’re driving, or more likely while you’re sitting around waiting in traffic.

How To Fix A Corroded Exhaust

The problem with corrosion is that once it’s occurred, it’s extremely difficult to undo the damage. In many cases, particularly if holes have developed, you will probably have to have the afflicted parts replaced. Take the car to your local mechanic and they’ll be able to do this job for you.

If you think the rust can be tackled and treated, sparing the part from the scrapheap, there are certain ways you can attempt this. It will involve using an angle grinder to remove the rust before patching it up with fibreglass gel, after which it should be sanded down to make it smooth. For a more detailed explanation of this process, you can check out our in-depth guide.

How To Prevent Your Exhaust From Becoming Corroded

There are a few methods you can use to prevent rust from taking over your exhaust. First and foremost, avoiding using the car exclusively for short journeys will help. Those short trips will prevent the water vapour that gathers inside the exhaust from dissipating, resulting in water pooling and remaining in place until it can damage the metal.

If your car is used for short journeys, there are alternative options. You could use powder coating (as long as your exhaust is almost pristinely clean) to protect the vehicle from rust and corrosion around the exhaust. Chrome plating is another choice that would help keep the vehicle safe from rust as the corrosion will struggle to take hold. Finally, you could turn to the tried and trusted WD-40, a great product you can utilise at home to keep water from damaging your car.

If your old car has suffered with rust for years and you feel it’s finally time for a new vehicle, get a quote today from scrap or salvage buyers who are eager to take your old, damaged or unwanted motor off your hands. Using just your postcode and vehicle registration, Scrap Car Comparison can present you with the best deals for buyers based in your local area who are even able to collect it from you – a service which won’t cost you a single penny! Give us a call on 03333 44 99 50 or use our scrap car price calculator to get a valuation for your car now!

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