How to Check for Holes in a Vehicle's Exhaust System

If you detect and repair a hole or leak in your exhaust system at an early stage, you can fix it relatively cheaply and easily. But if you allow a rusty hole to go unaddressed for a while, it can quickly spread, robbing you of performance and gas mileage while eating away at your exhaust system. You may even need to replace the system entirely if this happens, which is certainly not a cheap fix. If you suspect that you might have a hole in your exhaust system, just follow these quick, easy steps to check for yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Car
  • Old rag


    • 1

      Allow your car to cool completely if it has been driven recently.

    • 2

      Open the garage door if your car is stored in an enclosed garage. Turn the car on and let the engine idle for several seconds.

    • 3

      Wad up an old rag and attempt to stuff it into the tailpipe. As you do this, carefully observe two things: the force of the air blowing out of the tailpipe and the sound of the engine.

    • 4

      If and when the engine begins slowing down or struggling, pull the rag out. If you do not hear any change in engine speed within 30 seconds of stuffing the tailpipe, remove the rag then.

    • 5

      Turn the car off.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you feel lots of air coming out of the tailpipe and it’s hard to get the rag in, that’s a good sign. If you feel no air resistance, that’s a bad sign.
  • If the engine slows down and struggles when you stuff the tailpipe, that is also good. But if the engine stays at the same speed, that’s bad.
  • Poor performance on this test suggests that air is escaping from other holes throughout the exhaust system, and you should take the car to an exhaust specialist as soon as possible.
  • Never touch the tailpipe of a car that has been driven for several minutes or more. It’s very hot.
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