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Replacement Mufflers

If your car is starting to rumble and roar like a drag racer, it’s probably time to do something about your muffler. For many consumers that means pulling into one of the well known replacement muffler shops (such as Midas, Meineke, CarX, or Merlin’s Mufflers) and making a best guess of what options are really important. However, a few basics about mufflers can help you make a more informed decision.

The original muffler on your car was intended to make your car quiet—with only secondary concerns about maximizing engine power, fuel economy, and durability. When the original muffler eventually rusts out (and it will after a half dozen years or so), you will have the opportunity to select a replacement that better fits your needs and desires. Several features about muffler design and construction underlie the wide range of mufflers that are available.

  • Baffled or flow-through design. There are two basic types of mufflers. The most common style has internal baffles that force the exhaust gases to bounce back and forth inside the muffler shell to dissipate energy that is left over from the gas explosions that occur in the engine cylinders. The trade off to taming the exhaust stream in this way is that the baffles restrict the flow of the gases on their way to the tailpipe and cause "back pressure" in the exhaust line that adversely affects the efficiency of the engine itself. To avoid this, an alternative design allows the exhaust gases to pass straight through the muffler in a perforate pipe that is surrounded by sound absorbing material, such as fiberglass. This design is a bit noisier but it helps engine performance (and, thus, they are often called “performance mufflers”). Increases in horsepower and fuel economy can be quite real.
  • Material of construction. Exhaust gases are extremely corrosive and eat away at the muffler’s innards even faster than road salts and other environmental hazards attack the shell from the outside. Auto manufacturers have decided that it is not cost effective for them to strive for longer muffler life—to the disadvantage of people who keep their cars longer than average. Standard mufflers are made of steel with galvanized or aluminum coatings, but premium mufflers use stainless steel (which never rusts). Not surprisingly, they are more expensive.
  • Sound options. While the fundamental purpose of a muffler is to dampen the noise of the engine exhaust, absolute silence is impossible to achieve. So, if there will be residual noise anyhow, why not tune it to a particular style? Accordingly, mufflers can be distinguished by the character of the sound they produce—leading to a unique vocabulary among muffler specialists that rivals that of wine connoisseurs; terms include throaty, deep, aggressive, and bold.

Not to be overlooked in choosing a replacement

muffler is what guarantee comes with it. Many manufacturers or installers offer to replace the muffler with a new one for the life of the car—as long as the present owner keeps it. If you're planning on selling your car in the next year or two, it probably isn't worth paying extra for this guarantee.

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