Consequences of a Broken Mufflerby Chris Weis
Automotive exhaust systems are fairly durable these days. Whether through concerns for quality or regulation compliance, the systems are far superior to those of yore. Even so, a muffler might suffer damage from road thawing chemicals or long drives on the beach. Impact with a speed bump or parking lot car-stop may be to blame. Whatever the cause, be assured that no good can come from driving with a broken muffler. Ramifications can range from highly personal results to effects of global proportion.
In Your Ear
The muffler on most stock exhaust systems lives up to its name quite capably -- hushing engine noises to almost imperceptible levels. The sounds escaping from a broken muffler may upset your neighbors, but a more serious outcome could be permanent. While neighbors may glare and stew, vehicle occupants are the ones subjected to conditions that are known to contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus. Close proximity and reverberations from road surfaces amplify the dangers for the driver and passengers encased above the racket. Extended periods of exposure increase the chances of irreparable hearing losses.
Up Your Nose
Carbon monoxide is only one component of exhaust fumes, but it may be the most toxic in concentration. When fumes exit the exhaust system prematurely, this odorless gas can enter the cabin of the vehicle. People hidden in a car trunk to sneak into a drive-in movie, or bundled under a blanket in a rumble seat, were often sickened and in some cases killed. The onset of carbon monoxide poisoning can seem like a trivial case of the flu. Headaches and dizzy spells can precede profound confusion, but impaired driving is an immediate result that can be just as deadly.
Out of Pocket
As any novice hot-rodder soon discovers, removing all exhaust restrictions is an ineffective method of improving engine performance. Engines need exhaust back pressure for everything from basic air flow to reducing air pollution. Computer sensors reliant on proper pressures can blindly increase fuel consumption to no avail. Solids from unburned fuel can combine with rain and adhere to body surfaces. Not only does the poor fuel economy burn a hole in your pocket, but caustic compounds eat through the vehicle body panels as well.
Losing the Race
While a new muffler might seem expensive, the cost is minimal in comparison to potential losses. Whether you subscribe to some scientific theory or not, it remains a fact that air pollution adversely affects our planet and our persons. The exhaust converter of an automobile with a leaky muffler never gets enough heat or time to convert and reduce the poisons entering our atmosphere. If preservation of the human race is not a convincing reason for responsible motoring, perhaps a trip to the police impound lot would be.
Chris Weis is a freelance writer with hands-on experience in accident investigation, emergency vehicle operation and maintenance. He began his writing career writing curriculum and lectures in automotive mechanics at New York Technical Institute. Weis has contributed to "Florida" magazine and written procedure and safety guidelines for transportation concerns.