Mufflers are a major part of every vehicle’s exhaust system, but they don’t get talked about enough. Hence, they may just be one of the most underrated car parts.
How? You might ask.
Keep reading to discover why cars need mufflers, if they’re standard and the impact they have on your car’s performance.
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Here’s the answer to whether all new cars have mufflers:
Simply, all cars fresh out of any dealership will have a muffler. They’re standard in vehicles today and are as essential as any other engine part. Hence, their usefulness is the reason they’re an industry standard.
Are Mufflers the Same as Tail Pipes?
A muffler has a more complex design and comprises chambers and tubes within. Mufflers are wider than tailpipes because of the work they do and aren’t visible unless you check your vehicle’s underbody.
Both mufflers and tailpipes are essential parts of any exhaust system and are often confused with each other. The tailpipes ensure that the muffled fumes leave the vehicles properly without sticking around to poison passengers.
The exhaust fumes get slowed down by the muffler before they leave via the tailpipes.
So the tailpipes are the last exhaust system components that you see protruding from beneath the car. However, that’s by the way, because a tailpipe is merely a tube. Let’s talk more on mufflers, onward.
When Did Mufflers Become Standard in Modern Cars?
They’ve been in use since the 1890s. This shows that noise has been an automobile problem for over a century.
The earliest record of mufflers being standardized is in the state of Oregon in 1905.
This was a legal declaration that required all cars to have them. However, legal reasons aren’t all that drive standardization.
Normally, automakers do their best to ensure their cars are usable worldwide. It’s simply not nice to be unable to sell your cars in a region because they aren’t equipped with mufflers.
Hence, even if it weren’t compulsory everywhere, they’d be forced to include it just to have an acceptable product globally. Using mufflers would’ve also spread by the 1920s that car owners must’ve developed a preference for them.
As we’ve all learned from history, it’s better to give the public what they want. This is especially if it’s beneficial to the environment.
Hence, demand must have been a major contributor to its standardization even more than the law.
Why Do Cars Have Mufflers?
Quite plainly, cars have mufflers because our cities would be a lot noisier without them. There’s already enough noise on city roads as it is and omitting them from cars would only make things worse.
Engines are a lot louder than people give them credit for and mufflers are literal silencers. If you spend a lot of time seeing movies, you must have observed your favorite characters using gun silencers.
Recall we said that mufflers have chambers within them and contain tubes. These chambers serve as noise-canceling compartments. The chamber that’s next in line cancels out whatever noise that escapes from the previous one.
Hence, whatever noise you hear as fumes exit via the tailpipes has already been reduced. That’s why mufflers are so important; without them, highways would be unbearable. Most people don’t even know the full extent of the raw noise that an engine makes.
That’s the case because mufflers have made it possible to cancel out the deafening sounds.
Cars also have mufflers because of the law. Driving without them may have legal implications and we’ll explain more about that soon.
Why Do People Upgrade the Muffler?
A serious reason could be because of performance. There are people who don’t mind spending more money just to get the best quality the market offers. So although all cars come with mufflers today, not all cars come with the best grade mufflers.
One thing to keep in mind is that regardless of grade, certain mufflers have unique noise canceling techniques. Some car owners may want to explore better noise cancellation options. Some mufflers may operate efficiently without reducing engine output too much.
Today, there are many types of mufflers available, including bullet mufflers, full case mufflers, turbo mufflers, etc. They all have distinct methods of operation; some work better than others. So it’s easy to understand why someone might want an upgrade.
Perhaps they love the aesthetics of a better car sound. There are other, more serious reasons, though. Eventually, cars can end up with worn-out or damaged mufflers. When this occurs, car owners may feel inclined to opt for an upgrade.
This is opposed to simply replacing it with another one of equal quality, performance, and style.
Car enthusiasts may also upgrade their mufflers because they use high-performance cars. For example, if you drive a mustang, you’d likely buy a “new” car muffler design that just hit the market.
Hence, the idea of keeping up with the latest innovation or trend is another motivating factor.
How Come Some Cars Have No Muffler?
If a car is missing a muffler, then its last one was probably damaged and has not been replaced. You will not find any mass-produced cars without mufflers.
Instead, finding cars with damaged mufflers is a more likely scenario. These cars might have no functional mufflers because of the cost of getting a new one.
Also, some people may temporarily remove their muffler intending to boost engine output. Mufflers reduce the horsepower produced by an engine.
Their chambers and small diameter tubes often cause exhaust fumes to stall before leaving. This is opposed to a free flow of exhaust through a large diameter pipe with no chamber walls.
For the engine to have maximum output, it needs to get rid of the exhaust as quickly as possible. So you might find a high-performance vehicle in a remote area far from ‘civilization’ with no muffler.
Not to worry, its owner is aiming for an unmatched performance.
They’re like gas masks that limit your ability to breathe freely. This doesn’t mean you won’t breathe, but you’d observe an obvious difference when you take it off. That’s how the engine feels with mufflers around.
Is It Legal to Drive Without a Muffler?
Unless you drive on a farm or somewhere remote on off-roads, you don’t want to be without a muffler. Vehicles without them are always so obvious on roads. So much so that you can’t just hide in traffic amongst every other car.
Modern vehicles have maximum permissible noises they can legally emit. While the figures differ with regions, it’s okay if your car noise doesn’t exceed 80 to 85 decibels.
You should also expect that without a muffler, you will exceed the noise limits in your location.
You also can’t sell your car without a muffler to someone else as there’s a penalty for that. So before you can sell any vehicle, it must have adequate and fully functional noise control equipment.
Hence, we advise you not to drive a car if it has inadequate noise control equipment. In this case, a muffler. Doing so may cause fines since you’d be easily spotted on roads and can get pulled over.
How Do I Know If My Car Has a Muffler Installed?
You’d know if a car has a muffler once you start its engines. Recall we said cars without mufflers are obvious because they’re so loud.
On a regular day, even cars with damaged mufflers make deafening noises. So you can imagine how much noise a car without a muffler would make.
If you really want to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt, or before buying a vehicle, check the underbody. The tailpipes are usually directly connected to a larger diameter pipe that may resemble a watering can.
This “watering can” is the muffler.
It’s usually silver-colored (although gets discolored with aging) and looks more like a container than a pipe. You’d notice that a smaller pipe connects to it and it connects to the tailpipes.
Hence, the muffler has smaller pipes on its opposing sides and that’s how you can easily recognize it.
How Long Do Mufflers Last?
Under fair conditions, they should deliver up to 5 years or 60,000 to 70,000 miles, give or take some thousands. Still, it is not uncommon for them to last the entire life of the vehicle.
Of course, depending on your location and driving habits, mufflers will last longer or shorter before problems arise. So road conditions and vehicle specifications play a significant role. Hence, try to avoid pothole-filled roads.
If you frequently go off-roading, there’s a greater chance of puncturing your muffler. The likelihood of this occurring gets further higher if your car has a low ground clearance.
Ground clearance is the minimum distance between your car and the road.
Environmental conditions are also a huge determining factor for longevity or the absence of it. Since mufflers are in the underbody of cars, they’re susceptible to rust. We all know rust prefers to start with the underbody, since it can thrive silently there.
If you frequently encounter thick snow and slush most of the time, your muffler is even more at risk. The best way to curtail rust is to maintain a clean underbody and avoid trapped moisture from slush or mud.
The constant heating and cooling, no matter how little, causes it to wear. So higher-grade mufflers made with tougher materials will outperform low-grade ones. Now you know a muffler can get damaged by both external and internal factors.
Related: Do All Cars Require Seat Belts?
How Much Does It Cost to Replace or Upgrade My Muffler?
RepairPal’s average muffler replacement cost is north of $800. Note that this is an average for different vehicle types. Your car-specific amount may be a lot higher or lower.
Also, upgrade costs will usually be higher than replacement costs because you’d be going for a better grade.
Still, before making a choice, browse different online stores. They may have really affordable prices that’ll blow your mind.