How to Check for Exhaust Leaks

Written by jessica jewell
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How to Check for Exhaust Leaks
Corrosion could cause an exhaust leak. (exhaust pipe image by A74.FR Ben Fontaine from

If you hear a strange noise coming from your car's muffler, there is a chance that the pipe may have a leak. You may not even know that your car has an exhaust leak. Even if no noise is present, a leak could be contaminating the passenger cabin or your garage with harmful carbon monoxide fumes when the car is running. Whether you hear a noise or you simply haven't looked at your car's exhaust for a long period of time, with the proper investigative techniques you can quickly and cheaply check for exhaust leaks.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Listen to your car's muffler when the engine is running. If you hear a hissing or periodic popping noise, the exhaust might be leaking.

  2. 2

    Inspect the exhaust system visually. Look at the muffler and pipes. If there are cracks or holes in the muffler or pipes, especially where the muffler and exhaust pipes are joined, you often will have an exhaust leak. Look for gaps and cracks in all seams that are part of the muffler and exhaust system. Feel parts of the muffler and exhaust pipe that may have rusted. Rusting could create holes and cracks allowing exhaust to leak.

  3. 3

    Check the exhaust ports on the cylinder head, spark plugs and boots. These are located in the engine block, underneath the bonnet of your car. The engine block consists of spark plugs and boots, in addition to various other valves, depending on the type of car that you own. If you are unsure where these items are located in your car, check your car's manual. Even if you are unsure, it is still helpful to look under your car's bonnet. If you notice that there is rusting, discolouration or burnt paint, you may have an exhaust leak. For a diagram of the cylinder head, head gasket and engine block, consult Resource 1.

  4. 4

    Inspect your car's gaskets, especially if you have an older car. The head gasket is located between the engine block and the cylinder head, which is a casting that contains bored holes for pistons. The gasket that connects the manifold to the cylinder head can crack over time and can be a source of an exhaust leak.

Tips and warnings

  • If you cannot find the location or source of an exhaust leak, though you continue to hear a popping or hissing sound coming from your muffler, take your car to a certified mechanic who can diagnose the source of the leak.
  • Before touching any part of your exhaust system, such as the muffler and pipe, make sure that your car is turned off and completely cool. These parts can heat up quickly and you could burn your hands.

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