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Muffler lifespan

I had some suspension repairs done on my truck recently and I told the shop I thought my tailpipe was loose and to fix that too. It turns out the muffler is starting to go (rusting at the pipe connections allowing the play I noticed). Anyway they tacked it as a temporary remedy but I’m going to need a new muffler sooner rather than later. This got me thinking when I was checking my bills for the warranty - how long should a muffler typically last? It seems a lot of mufflers are ‘guaranteed’ for as long as you own the vehicle but the conditions for ‘free’ replacement involve returning to the original point of sale/installation - something that for me is just not economical considering how cheap said replacement muffler can be acquired over the internet. Plus I still have to pay the labor. Anyway, I live in an area that responds to winter by salting the bejeesus out of the roads and I’ve got just over nine years and 66K miles on this one so I’m guessing that’s above average in terms of life?

My early 70’s Ford truck has had one muffler replacement. That occured while I lived in Colorado, with a lot of snow and salt on the roads in the winter. In a snowy climate, and with say 15k/year of driving, I think if you get 5-6 years out of a muffler, that’s pretty good.

By contrast, my early 90’s Toyota Corolla with 200k miles still has the orginal muffler, which appears good as new from a visual inspection at least. It has been driven in coastal Calif for the most part, so very little snow and salt.

Mufflers on a new vehicle are covered under the basic warranty on the vehicle. Once the vehicle is out of warranty it’s the responsibilty of the owner to replace the muffler if it wears out.

As far as life of a replacement muffler it depends on the brand of muffler. For example, if you were to pick up a Maramount muffler and then pick up a Walker muffler for your vehicle, the Walker muffler will be heavier than the Maramount muffler because the Walker is better constructed. So it depends on how much you spend on the muffler that dictates it’s life.

Tester

I’d say lasting 9 years is doing great for salty roads.

Some exhaust systems are made of stainless steel, including the muffler. These exhaust systems can last virtually “forever”. Mufflers made of regular materials last 5, 10, 15 years. Many rust from the inside out. This happens in cars frequently driven only a few miles per trip. The water condensation will end up rusting the inside of the muffler. Cars driven on longer trips more often heat up the muffler enough to “burn off” this condensation. Muffler life isn’t about years, or miles, it is about the habits of the driver and the conditions the muffler encounters.

I live bear Buffalo NY abd my 2002 Town and Country needed the original stainless steel muffler replaced last year. On the other habd, when mufflers were made of plain sreel and I lived pnly a mile from work, I went through a muffler a year.

My Uncle made a muffler out of stainless steel for his 1965 Chevy C20. I took it off the truck in 1977. I put it on my Dad’s 72 Ford F150. It then went on my 1978 F150. After that it was a tractor for while. It’s now on the wall of my cousin’s garage along with the bumper he made for that same truck. So a well made one can last a long time.

A couple of cars I owned in the past had the muffler located at the rear of the car. The 1978 Oldmobile Cutlass I owned had the muffler mounted transversly. I replaced the muffler at least once every four years. To me, this location didn’t make sense because the exhaust gases were cooler when the reached the rear of the car and the moisture, along with the corrosive byproducts of combustion ate out the muffler more quickly. I think the 1965 Rambler Classic that I owned had the muffler mounted the same way at the rear of the car.
I found on cars I owned back in the early 1960s that a glass packed straight through muffler lasted longer. They weren’t much noisier than a regular muffler and didn’t cost as much.

A couple of cars I owned in the past had the muffler located at the rear of the car. The 1978 Oldmobile Cutlass I owned had the muffler mounted transversly. I replaced the muffler at least once every four years. To me, this location didn’t make sense because the exhaust gases were cooler when the reached the rear of the car and the moisture, along with the corrosive byproducts of combustion ate out the muffler more quickly. I think the 1965 Rambler Classic that I owned had the muffler mounted the same way at the rear of the car.
I found on cars I owned back in the early 1960s that a glass packed straight through muffler lasted longer. They weren’t much noisier than a regular muffler and didn’t cost as much.

Most cars today, the entire exhaust system is stainless from end to end…They can last the life of the car…

I believe even on the lifetime guaranteed ones, it doesn’t cover the labor or other incidental parts so why bother. On my Rivieras, I never replaced them in 20-25 years. My 86 Park Avenue needed one every two years because it was driven for a couple miles and shut off. I’ve got a 95 Olds in the garage with 200K with the original muffler and pipes, so just depends. I did have to replace the cat on my 89 Riv due to rust though but not the muffler. You can usually figure one muffler and tailpipe first, then all the rest of it the second time.

Didn’t the industry largely switch over to stainless steel exhaust systems in the mid-late 80’s?

I agree with Caddyman. I live in the rust belt and have never replaced any part of the stainless steel exhaust system on my 94 LHS. On other cars without stainless, it seemed like I was always replacing some part every few years.

I remember when I was first driving, when there were a lot of 70s cars on the road. Mufflers and exhaust parts lying in the road and off to the side was a very common sight. You still see this once in a while, but it’s pretty rare these days.

I live in NJ, where the roads are fairly heavilty salted in the winter.
From 1971 to the present, I’ve owned 9 cars, and the only one that ever needed a muffler/exhaust system replacement was my POS '74 Volvo. In fact, it needed these repairs twice in the 7 years that I owned it.

By comparison, none of the other cars (Dodge Charger, VW Karmann Ghia, Chevy Citation, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, 3 Subaru Outbacks) has ever needed any repairs to the exhaust system, and that includes up to 11 years of driving on some of them.

I really don’t see exhaust problems as much of an issue nowadays, and that is likely due to two factors:

The extensive use of stainless steel on modern exhaust systems
The higher operating temperature of modern engines, and thus the higher operating temp of exhaust systems

I doubt that I will exceed the nine years or so I got out of this muffler because of the type of driving I do now largely involves the dreaded short trips with the attendant condensation build-up…although the rot does not seem to be inside (yet) so I guess I have to be pleased with it lasting as long as it has. The truck was six years old when I bought it (under 40K miles) and still had the original exhaust front to back. This was in the Canadian prairies where road salt isn’t used much because it is ineffective in the cold dry winters out there. I basically tripled the mileage on the truck before I had to replace any exhaust parts but this was done mostly pulling a trailer in the South during the winter so I never had any issues with condensation. The exhaust manifolds however were another story.

How long a muffler lasts is dependant on a number of huge variables, including the muffler material, the driving environment, and the engine and exhaust system design.

Many if not all new vehicles have stainless steel exhaust systems. If you drive a sufficient distance to work every day for the exhaust system to heat up fully, these will typically last the life of the vehicle…unless you’re ilike me and keep your vehicle forever. Even then, if you commuteon the highway like I do, they may last forever. If you only drive a mile or two to work, and you live where there are large temperature variations, you’ll probably routinely have condensation in the system and it won’t last as long. Even stainless steel can rust under those conditions, typically where it’s been welded.

Older vehicles have steel mufflers that’ll last anywhere from 3 years to indefinitely depending on the system design and the driving environment.
Arizona? Forever.
New Hampshire, Short drive to work? 3-5 years.
NH, highway commute? 10-15 years, maybe more.
Guam? If you stand and listen, you can hear the metal rust.

I had to have the muffler and tailpipe replaced last year on my 2000 Blazer. The exhaust system was stainless, but the weld between the muffle and intermediate pipe was vulnerable to corrosion. Other than the rot at the weld the muffler had no rust whatever. The stainless exhaust on my 1993 Caprice is still in good shape but the muffler is closer to the engine.

Ed B.

I’ve never seen a muffler rust out due to road-salt. They usually rust out from the inside-out. Moisture buildup in the muffler is the usual cause. If you do short drives …the water never has a chance to burn off. This can rust out a muffler.

Muffler warranty is beyond the normal 36mo/36k miles. Last I knew it was 50k miles on all vehicles.

Most cars these days use Stainless steel. And the mufflers/exhaust systems last a lot longer. Prior to 1997 we were lucky to get 100k miles out of muffler. Now I’m not replacing my muffler for at least 200k miles. Stainless steel will still rust out. Only the very expensive stainless steel NEVER rusts out. There are many different grades of stainless. If manufacturers used the highest grade stainless…it might double or tripple the price of the car.

The first muffler and cat-back (“B”) pipe on my '88 Accord lasted 6 years and 120k miles. Rusted from the inside.
Then I took a job I bike to. Now lots of short trips. Low annual miles.
The second muffler and “B” pipe (bought from Honda wholesale, easy to bolt on) lasted 5 years and 20k miles.
The third lasted about the same time and mileage as the second.
When the fourth muffler was installed it also needed the manifold to cat “A” pipe with the flexible section.
Got an aftermarket “A” pipe because it was $250 vs $500+ for the Honda part.
When I sold the car at 210k miles and 20 years it still had the original cat converter (stainless as I understand).

Now my 2006 Matrix has 31k miles, stainless system holding up well after 6 1/2 years.

“Didn’t the industry largely switch over to stainless steel exhaust systems in the mid-late 80’s?”

My 86 Buick Riviera had stainless but my 86 Buick Park Ave. did not. My 89 Riv had stainless and everything after that I guess but think it was sporatic by model.

One thing my muffler guy finally did on my Park Ave was to punch two small holes in the bottom back of the muffler to drain the water out. That helped longevity quite a bit. The muffler was way in back behind the bumper and only about a 12" tailpipe after that so a couple holes was not problem.