In general, people tend to dread car repairs because there are so many potentials for malfunction. A car is a very complex piece of machinery. It is a lot like the human body in the fact that all of its systems are really interconnected and affect each other. If one portion is damaged or fails, then it can have negative effects on the other systems near by. For example, the muffler exhaust system in a car is so closely linked that the two functions are stated together in the title. They are kind of the equivalent of the small and large intestine in a human. They are under constant use, yet often neglected because people hope that they never malfunction, though they often need good quality care and maintenance.
Whether you live in Zimbabwe or San Diego, muffler exhaust systems have a few basics that any car owner should know. First, and probably the funniest, never park your car over tall grass, especially if it is dry. The exhaust system on a car utilizes a catalytic converter which can get extremely hot. If you put that hot metal above dry grass, there is the potential for starting a grass fire, right under your vehicle. This is not really a scenario you want to find yourself in.
Now for the basics. Like any good system, once the car has burned the fuel, like the body, it has a few waste products that need to be taken care of. This is why states require annual or bi-annual emissions tests. The waste products from a car can be considered toxic to people as well as the environment if they are not handled by a good operating muffler exhaust system. This system takes the waste products to the very back of the vehicle so that when they are released, they do not harm or affect any passengers within the vehicle.
The catalytic converter is the first element on the muffler exhaust system. It’s job is to remove pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. It changes the nitrogen oxides to Nitrogen and Oxygen, both of which naturally occur in Earth’s atmosphere. Then it oxidizes the carbon monoxide and changes it to carbon dioxide which can sometimes lead to some water dripping out of the tailpipe with the carbon dioxide.
The catalytic converter is a crucial part of a cars function. Most often, the largest amount of toxic emissions occur right after the car is started and is warming up. The muffler exhaust system has to reach a certain temperature before the catalytic converter is fully effective. Some car models have added a pre-converter that is closer to the engine and warms up more quickly than the main converter. However, precious metals are used in catalytic converters and sometimes they are stolen and cut off from vehicles right on the street. The precious metals Palladium and Platinum are used in small amounts to complete the carbon monoxide processes. Palladium and Rhodium are used to convert the Nitrogen Oxides. The price of a catalytic converter can be quite high because of these metals, but fortunately, they rarely need to be replaced. This part of muffler exhaust systems usually lasts the lifetime of the car unless some unusual damage occurs.
The catalytic converter can be damaged by leaded fuel and coolant leaks. Both of these substances will cause the materials in the catalytic converter to break down. This function of muffler exhaust systems is largely why only unleaded gasoline is available at gas stations. If there is ever smoke coming from the tail pipe, this can indicate a coolant leak within the exhaust system that should be looked at promptly. However, if this is occurring, there will often be an indication with the check engine light as well. Muffler exhaust systems are intimately connected, the catalytic converter takes care of emissions and the muffler deals with noise levels emitted by the engine. Both are needed functions that are interconnected quite beautifully in design.