Vehicle Exhaust Systems

In this lovely state of ours with it’s rather contrasted seasonal changes of hot, cold, wet, dry, then toss in some salt from the roads and you have the perfect makings of what it takes to destroy galvanized steel.  It is then hard for me to understand why someone hasn’t done something to solve this problem of excessively rotting exhaust systems in the midwest.

I did a cursory glance at how long exhaust systems last on vehicles and it appears that there is a very large range of answers to this question based on driving habits and climate.  For me personally and over the last 3 years my habits were that I only drove about 5-7 miles a day to work and in my leisure, hardly drove at all.  Combine this with the fact that my car sat in my driveway for almost six months without being driven and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

It was almost three years ago that my exhaust system fell off my vehicle.  It broke off at the connection that bolted to the catalytic converter.  From the catalytic to the engine was just fine.  Not having any way to lift it off the ground, I drove it the rest of the way home on a Sunday morning in the cold and damp of winter.  The next day I took it to Tuffy muffler and forked out a fat load of cash to have the system replaced.  Thus replaced, I then made the silly assumption that I wouldn’t have to worry about a new system for about 5 years.  Unfortunately, that was quite far from what actually happened.

When my CV joint went out, it laid up my car for six months as I waited for winter to pass on so I could work on it in the relative warmth of the spring.  It was early 2006 that this happened.  Big thanks to my mom for letting me steal her truck for that time.  After I got the car back on the road again, the muffler broke.  The intake tube sheered off at the muffler casing itself.  The muffler has a lifetime warrantee.  This wasn’t such a huge deal for me as it didn’t seemingly affect the car too much, so I left it that way.

Just a couple days ago my car got a little louder and I could hear ominous rattling undernearth the car as I was driving.  I didn’t bother to look because I already had an idea of what was going on because, duh, it already happened to me once.  Sure enough, just yesterday as I was leaving Meijers, the exhaust system fell off, exactly as it had done before.  At the catalytic back to the muffler, which I had already known about.  The only thing holding it on was the hooks that ran into the bushings on the muffler side.

Of course, this happens just as it starts to get yucky, weather-wise.  Ahh, but thankfully I was reminded of my emergency car kit that was sitting in my backseat as well as the towel that I had put in there due to other problems.  I was in my “sunday” clothes because I had been out to eat.  I laid the towel out on the snow covered parking lot of the abandoned shell gas station that I had pulled into.  I then searched inside the kit for anything that might be handy and I found a bungie cord.  I crawled underneath and stretched the cord from one side to the other just enough to keep the pipe about 4 inches off the ground and then drove home.  Since then, I have been pondering why the hell is going on with my exhaust. 

Why did it rot out after not even three years?  My first thought was negligence on the side of Tuffy, who had been the guys that replaced the system not even 3 years ago.  Then, in order to save some face on my side, I did the responsible thing and began to ask the question of, “How long do exhaust systems last?”  I found the answer to be wide ranging but in my case discovered that 3 years is no big surprise, even when using the best parts.  The reasons are pretty simple to understand:  a car, driven like mine has been, doesn’t have enough time to evaporate all of the moisture from the exhaust.  Then, when the muffler rotted out, additional moisture was allowed to gather inside the piping, thus, rotting away the inside at every vital point rather quickly.

This is a problem.  I see it as a problem that has a solution.  My simple driving habits shouldn’t put that much stress on my car, yet, it does.  There are many techniques used to weather proof the steel, one of those is galvanization.  That is where a light coating of zinc is mixed with the steel to thwart rust.  However, it doesn’t last long.  Stainless steel is rust-proof but it’s also brittle and expensive.  My thought is, why not coat the inside of each end of the tubing with a high temp paint or coating.  I did a quick look on the internet and found that there are plenty of epoxy and paints that have been made to withstand temperatures up to 1100 degree’s farenheight.  That’s pretty damn hot.  Such a simple treatment should proof the steel for well over the three years I currently am getting out of my exhaust.

Just as a side note to all of this, in case the reader hasn’t caught this yet, exhaust systems rot from the inside out.  My exhaust system looks brand new as it’s dragging on the ground, you can’t see any rust at all on it, just at the places it’s broken off.

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~ by aeroslin on January 22, 2007.

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