How to Detect an Exhaust Leak

by Tim Petruccio
double exhaust pipe image by green308 from

Detecting a leak in your exhaust is a good way to save yourself from getting sold parts and services you do not need at a shop. By diagnosing the exhaust leak yourself, you will know exactly which parts need replaced or repaired. Performing an exhaust leak check takes about 20 minutes if you have never performed this type of work before.

Step 1

Raise the front of the vehicle as high as possible. Place two jack stands underneath the front control arms or suspension arms to support the front end in the air.

Step 2

Start the vehicle.

Step 3

Position yourself underneath the vehicle at the front. Have a friend plug the tailpipe of the vehicle with a balled up towel or rag. Listen for a hiss or sputtering noise. Pinpoint where the noise is coming from exactly, and you have located your exhaust leak.

Mark the location of the leak down so that you know exactly what part or parts will need to be replaced or repaired.


  • Raise the vehicle only on a flat, level surface. Raising and supporting a vehicle on a hill or uneven surface can cause jacks and jack stands to fail. Failure to adhere to this warning could cause property damage, personal injury, or even death if the car collapses on top of you.

Items you will need

  • Medium sized towel or rag
  • Extra person for assistance
  • 2 ton jack
  • 2 jack stands
  • 2 vehicle ramps (to replace jack stands if available)

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