How Much Does it Cost to Replace an Exhaust System?

In this article we are going to look at the car's exhaust system to find out how much it costs to perform replacements for this section of our vehicles. We will explain more about how this system works and the parts that combine to make it.

What Does the Exhaust System Do?

We always like to start by giving some background regarding a part or a system as it can often help you understand the importance and cost of repairing or replacing parts. In this case we are talking about the exhaust system which has a very uncomplicated job for the most part.

In internal combustion engines fuel, air and a spark create small explosions inside sealed cylinders which are under compression. The result is to move pistons in the engine that create the rotation of various shafts in the vehicle culminating it creating tire rotation. It is all a little more complicated than that but as a basic concept that is what is happening.

So now we come to the exhaust system. What role does it play? Well these combustion events in the engine create not just the explosions but exhaust gases. These are a mixture of some pretty nasty gases which need to exit the engine in order for it to continue working efficiently.

It is the exhaust system that removes the exhaust gases from the engine directing them along a long pipe under the vehicle and venting through a tail pipe at the rear of the car or truck. Along the way these gases pass through other parts such as the muffler and a catalytic converter. These are used to dampen the sound of the engine and to clean the exhaust gases making them less noxious.

Do You Need to Replace a Whole Exhaust System?

Sincerely we hope that you will never have to replace the entirety of your exhaust system as this is a large and expensive job. Generally speaking you most often have to replace elements of the system such as the muffler and catalytic converter.

In extreme cases if the exhaust system has become warped you may need to replace the entire system. Older vehicles may also need a complete exhaust overhaul as the system is located under the car and is susceptible to rust.

Ideally though, replacing parts of the system as needed will save you a lot of money. Unless you are trying to upgrade your exhaust completely that is and in that case you are likely aware of the costs involved.

How Much Does an Exhaust System Replacement Cost?

In general depending on a number of factors if you need to replace the entire system you may spend between $350 - $1500. Ideally however you will likely want to only replace the parts that need to be replaced so in this section we will break that down for you a little more.

Exhaust Manifold

This is a critical part of the exhaust system as it is essentially the very start of it. The exhaust manifold draws the exhaust gases out of the engine sending them on their way through the rest of the system. Over time the strains on this part can cause it to develop cracks and happens most commonly with inexpensive cast iron manifolds.

This is one of the most expensive parts to replace with a manifold itself costing upwards of $500 not factoring in labor costs. If you can do the work yourself then you only need the parts and the right tools but you may need to find a reasonably priced mechanic otherwise.

Downpipe

If you have a turbocharged engine you will have a downpipe on your exhaust this helps divert the exhaust fumes away from the engine. This is an important part which is not always very expensive but can still cost $50 - $200 to replace.

Generally made of stainless steel it is solid against corrosion so hopefully this is not an element you will ever have to replace.

Catalytic Converter

This part alone can really break the bank if you need to replace it. It is a vital part of the system which ensures your exhaust emissions are as clean as possible. In some states if your emissions are too high you may have your vehicle taken off the road until you fix it.

The catalysts in these catalytic converters are made of some of the most expensive precious metals in the world so the part alone costs a lot. In fact people target catalytic converters for theft because of their value.

In terms of cost on average replacing a catalytic converter can run you $900 - $3500. This may be even more in high performance vehicles. Thankfully you should only need to replace it if the part fails or if some criminal gets under your car and steals it.

Muffler

Finally we come to the muffler which you may have guessed muffles the engine sound. Some people will purposely remove this to get a louder engine sound out of their car. This however is not always legal to do so if your state requires the use of a muffler you best have a working one attached to your exhaust system.

In terms of cost a new muffler may be $50 - $200+ to buy with high performance versions demanding a premium. You will also probably have a few hours of labor costs involved as well if you have a mechanic perform the replacement

What Can Affect the Cost of Replacing Exhaust System Parts?

Make and Model of Car

Exhausts are not universal so different makes and models of vehicle will have differing needs when it comes to an exhaust system. This means some will be more expensive than others and may also require more work to replace.

As a result more premium vehicles may require expensive parts and take longer to perform replacements. The result obviously will be a bigger bill. If you have a basic vehicle you will likely have a much cheaper replacement cost for almost any part.

OEM vs Aftermarket

Often with most automotive parts replacements you have the option to get original new parts from the factory made specifically for your model car (OEM). Or aftermarket parts that were made to fit your car but not by the original manufacturers.

Essentially it’s the difference of replacing a part with an exactly identical new part or a part that was made to look and work like an original part but likely is not as high quality. Obviously original parts are better and as a result more expensive.

Aftermarket parts are tempting because they are less expensive but they may not last as long so may need replacing again sooner than an original factory part.

Location

The state you live in can have an impact on your replacement costs as some states have differing taxes which can lead to parts costing different amounts. You also have to factor in labor costs which are higher in more prosperous states and within areas of higher population.

A small rural mechanic may be able to charge a lot less than a mechanic in the big city who has huge rental overheads to cover. Always shop around for a good deal but make sure you balance the cost with a good reputation. A cheap job can be done by a bad mechanic and it will likely fail you quickly. Pay a little more for a skilled mechanic with a good record with their customers.

Conclusion

Exhaust systems can cost thousands of dollars to replace on the high end but on the low end it may only be a few hundred. Ideally you won't have to replace a whole exhaust but perhaps just a part of it. As this system is so important however you must make sure it is working correctly as it can damage your engine or even be dangerous to your health if it does not work correctly.

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