How to Clean a Clogged Muffler?

The primary function of mufflers is to dissipate the loud sounds produced by your vehicle’s engine valves and pistons. The moment the exhaust valve opens, a big burst of the burnt gases your engine used in combustion is emitted into the car’s exhaust system. Gas emission generates powerful sound waves. You might be asking, why do I have to learn how to clean a clogged muffler? Because you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to clean the muffler.

A clogged muffler can result in excessive backpressure that might choke the engine. Severe obstruction in your muffler might stall your engine and refuse to start. So, before the clogging gets worst, start checking your vehicle’s exhaust system now. You don’t need to be an expert to do this. Simply follow the steps below, and you will get it done in no time. But before we proceed with the steps, there are things that you need to know first.

Signs and Symptoms of a Clogged Muffler


If you suspect there is something wrong with your exhaust system, the first thing you need to do is to observe and determine if the following signs and symptoms are occurring:

A Noisy Engine

If you hear an unusual noise from your engine, it could be a sign that your exhaust system, particularly your muffler, has a problem. The exhaust may sound like a tapping or hissing sound. It creates a loud sound every time you have a cold start or when you accelerate your car. The check engine light is sometimes illuminated because the car silencer is malfunctioning in the exhaust system. The sound is definitely due to a clogged muffler.

Reduced Power and Acceleration

Another sign of a clogged muffler is reduced engine performance. Your car will have a hard time accelerating, and you will not get the same power. This issue will worsen if you will not fix the exhaust leak. The backpressure due to clogged muffler can cause exhaust gases to push back into the engine, thus choking it, resulting in loss of power.

Decreased Fuel Efficiency

Once the power and acceleration decrease, the fuel efficiency likewise decreases. If you want your car to function the same way when it does not have an exhaust problem, it needs to work harder, thus utilizing more fuel. Fixing the exhaust might be costly, but you will be spending more on gas if you do not fix it right away.

Odd Smell From the Engine Bay

If your vehicle’s casket fails and starts to leak near the engine wiring or other automotive parts made of plastic, the heat from the exhaust system could cause the parts to burn and releases a burning smell. In some instances, it also emits smoke. If you start smelling any odd or burning scent, you should have your car checked right away to prevent any serious injury to you and your passengers.

Diagnosing Your Vehicle


Most car owners will simply let an expert mechanic check on their car if they notice the above symptoms.  However, you still need to know how to diagnose your vehicle so you can deal with it in case there is no available car expert around.

If you suspect your exhaust is clogged, you can use a pressure gauge and place it close to the engine. Start the car, and if you got back pressure higher than 1.5, you could check the pipe by tapping it until you notice a change in tone. This usually reveals the location of clogging. Then you can proceed with getting rid of the clogging.

Tips on How to Clean a Clogged Muffler


Before working on your clogged muffler, you have to assess if unclogging can resolve the problem or require replacements. If the latter is your final assessment, you can do the unclogging or ask an expert mechanic to do the work. However, if you decide to do it, the following steps can help you make it easier.

Step #1 Removing the Muffler

Remove the muffler from the exhaust pipe. Keep in mind that the process of removing the muffler differs depending on the type of your vehicle. Some are welded with the pipe, while others come with nuts.

If it is a welded muffler, you need to cut the connections to separate it from the exhaust system. Also, you are required to weld it when installing the muffler after removing the obstructions.

You can use a breaker bar for mufflers with nuts if you have a hard time removing them. You can use penetrating oil to smoothen things out.

Step #2 Prepare the Degreaser

You can use detergents that can deal with oil and thick build-up. Harsh chemicals are not recommended. This is recommended only for carbon-based or minor oil clogs. Some foreign elements can get more clogged when treated with the detergent solution instead of cleaning. So make sure you check carefully what causes the clogging before you start degreasing.

Step #3 Overnight Soaking

Soak the muffler in the bucket of degreaser overnight. If you want a better result, soak it for 24 hours. You can accelerate the process by shaking the muffler once in a while to loosen the build-up.

Step #4 Clean, Drain, and Reinstall

After soaking the muffler for 24 hours, drain the water out. Clean the muffler and remove any remaining water from the degreaser. Dry out the muffler, then install it back in the car and check if it improved or not. If you notice that nothing has changed, you can replace the muffler or let an expert mechanic check your vehicle.

Car Muffler Maintenance Tips


Here are some maintenance tips to help your muffler last longer:

Clean Regularly

The muffler is the most exposed part, so it can easily collect dirt and debris that cause oxidation by trapping moisture on metal parts. This can be avoided by cleaning your vehicle’s undercarriage regularly. After removing the dirt and debris, put some degreaser or mild cleaner into the muffler.

Paint the Muffler

You can protect your muffler by applying high-temperature paint. It will serve as a protective shield from debris and moisture similar to your car’s auto body paint. Using a wax coating can extend the muffler’s life span. But you need to apply the wax often as it wears off quickly.

Take Longer Drives

The common cause of muffler rust is the moisture inside the exhaust pipe. When the exhaust system gets hot, the moisture evaporates. So, the best way to get rid of water in the muffler is to drive your vehicle for an hour. Driving your car shorter than half an hour will not get the muffler hot. Take longer drives to eliminate the moisture completely.

Buffing Off

Many car owners use buffing to keep the rust away on their exhaust system. It is done in two ways. One is by hand buffing and by using a specific type of powdered metal brush. Buffing will eliminate any unseen rust particles before they can accumulate in the muffler.

Final Words


Having a clogged muffler is one of the car problems a car owner would not want to have. It will affect the car’s performance. Sometimes the situation gets worst that could ruin your journey. Let this how to clean a clogged muffler post help you deal with it before it’s too late.

The unclogging process is quite simple, but you need first to assess how severe the clogging is and what causes it. Also, the maintenance we included in this post will help keep the muffler in top condition longer. For worst condition of your muffler, it is best to consult an expert mechanic. If there is something that you want to share, you can comment below.

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