How Long Should My Muffler Last?
Ideally, a muffler could last forever (or at least longer than your truck). However, many factors come into play that cause the exhaust system to wear and corrode, and eventually require replacement. Some owners find they must replace their truck muffler every 2 or 3 years, while others find their truck’s exhaust system is trouble-free for more than a decade.
Here’s a quick overview of how long a system can and should last, depending on your specific situation.
1. Geography matters. Living in an extremely humid climate is often a formula for premature muffler replacement. As we all know, water + steel = rust, and rust is bad for exhaust systems. Rusting exhaust systems are less efficient and louder than rust-free systems, not to mention the potential for danger associated with a leaking exhaust system (carbon monoxide in your vehicle’s interior has been known to cause death).
If you live in a humid area, the smartest things you can do to are:
- Drive your vehicle long enough for the exhaust system to get to full operating temperature. A quick five or ten minute drive can cause water to pool inside your exhaust system (water is a byproduct of combustion) and rust from the inside out. Try and drive 20 minutes or longer anytime you turn on your truck.
- Inspect your exhaust system regularly. If you spot any areas where there seems to be more surface rust on your muffler or exhaust pipes, it might be a good idea to get the system looked at. Sometimes a tweak to the alignment of the muffler or system can prevent water from collecting.
- Plan to buy a replacement at some point. It’s a fact of life – if you live in a humid climate, you will need to replace your truck’s exhaust system down the road.
2. Snow and ice hurt mufflers too (at least indirectly). Snow and ice aren’t bad for your exhaust system…but the salt used on the road to melt snow and ice is very bad for your exhaust system. Salt is a catalyst in the steel oxidation process, which means that salt makes your system rust faster than it would without salt. The solution? If salt is used on the roads in your area to clear ice, you should wash your vehicle’s undercarriage on a regular basis during the winter months.
3. Seriously, short trips are bad. Water is a natural byproduct of combustion. When your exhaust system is nice and hot, water can not pool inside the system because it’s too hot for water to collect. However, if you only drive two minutes to the Qwik-E-Mart, your exhaust system might not get hot enough to “steamify” any water in the system.
Not only is water inside your exhaust going to cause rust, but short trips are also bad for your engine (poor cooling, poor lubrication) and your fuel economy…so avoid them whenever you can.
4. Muffler materials. Is your muffler made with aluminized steel (also called galvanized steel, sometimes incorrectly), or is it made with stainless steel? If it’s stainless, what kind is it…304 or 409? Some materials, like the 304 stainless steel that Borla uses for all of their exhaust systems, is practically impervious to rust. Aluminized steel, if poorly protected, can rust through in a couple of years.
Most of the factory exhaust systems on newer vehicles are using 409 stainless steel (read more about types of exhaust system steel), which puts their expected life span at 8-10 years for most climates. Still, this expectation doesn’t account for salt, short trips, etc.
While a replacement muffler isn’t terribly expensive (some can be had for $100-$200), and a good performance exhaust system can be had for as little as $600, there’s every reason to protect your current exhaust system by following the advice above. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? 🙂
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Filed Under: Tundra Exhaust