Replacing "exhaust shield"

I own a 99 Pontiac Sunfire 2.2L. Recently, the car started to make a high-pitched whining noise while on a trip. The noise only started after driving for a few hours (we normally only drive short city distances). It went away when we braked, and sometimes it would disappear altogether. We stopped in a garage just to make sure we weren’t in danger or damaging the car by driving the vehicle any further and got an okay to get back home.

This morning, I took the car into our mechanic, who has always done us right.

He got in the car with me, drove it around for a little bit, told me he thought it was the exhaust shield. when we got back to the garage they put it up on the lift and he started testing the car by - this is the only way i can describe it so please forgive me if it is not the correct nomenclature - shaking a section to see if it was loose.

he called me over to the vehicle and pointed to a long pipe that ran from the front to the back, and from my limited knowledge of cars, would have guessed was the exhaust. He pointed to a particular area of this pipe, that had a roundish device that looked like it was made of woven wire, and said that it was loose and needed to be replaced - but that the problem was that in order to so, I would have to replace the whole pipe, front to back, because it was welded in the center, I couldn’t just replace one section of the pipe. That it was an expensive repair, about $600.

He told me that I could keep driving it until the noise got very loud, and when it got very loud, that was when I needed to bring it back to get it fixed, and that I shouldn’t take any long trips until I got it fixed.

Again, while we’ve been pleased with this mechanic, my instincts are telling me to check it out further. I have done some research online to try to validate this or at least understand it further, and I don’t think it is the ‘exhaust shield’ since everything I find that references that term is talking about motorcycles, or a part that does not look like the offending part on my vehicle.

I would like to 1) get a second opinion and 2) get some other estimates on this work, but want to make sure that I am using the right terms. I know I’m not going to fool anyone into thinking I actually know something about cars, but I’d like to at least try to educate myself a little bit.

I realize a car that is almost 10 years old is going to start requiring work but at some point we will need to decide if we keep doing work or if we become Zipcar users until finances permit a new vehicle purchase (new as in ‘new to me’, not necessarily ‘new’).

Thanks in advance for any advice or counsel you could offer.

His diagnosis is reasonable. I’d bet you could drive the car a long time without the heat shield. The car won’t catch fire without the heat shield in place. It’ll just make the passenger compartment a little warmer than formerly.

Agree; for $600 I would certainly not discard an otherwise good exhaust system. The manufacturer puts this on a a precaution since some catalytic converters get pretty hot, especially when the spark plugs misfire and the converter starts acting as an afterburner.

My brother-in-law was lax about maintaining his Ford; the converter was close to the car floor, and it scorched the carpets.

The only thing I would do is to keep the car well tuned up and take off the shield if it rattles too badly.

“He told me that I could keep driving it until the noise got very loud…”

If it were my car I would follow his advice and just keep driving the car. This does not seem like a reliability or safety issue. If the problem eventually worsens you can review the matter again.

to the poster who suggested taking off the shield, it didn’t seem like that was possible. and it’s not the rattling that gets me, it’s the whining noise.

Thanks to everyone for weighing in. The noise is going to drive me nuts, but as my grandfather (who owned a Citgo station in Chicago) used to say, “got a radio in that car, honey? turn it on.”

If what he showed you looked like this, it’s the exhaust flex pipe. And on some vehicles it requires replacement of the entire pipe assembly. But as shown, these flex sections can be purchased seperately and clamped or welded in place.

If the rest of the pipe assembly is in good condition, then installing one of these is a cheaper alternative.


I agree with the others that the diagnosis sounds reasonable. And I want to compliment you on the clarity and conciseness of your post.

It may also be possible to quiet the spot by putting a worm drive hose clamp around the noisy spot. These clamps are cheap, easy to install, and impervious to the heat. Without seeing the spot it’s hard to tell, but can’t hurt to ask him.

hi, Tester.
Yes, that is exactly what he showed me. Thank you for understanding my description.

Everything else is in good condition, it just seems to be looser than it is supposed to be. But as he explained it, unfortunately with my car, fixing that one part required an entire replacement of the section because it was welded in the center and not just fastened piece to piece.

Would it be worth trying to get a second opinion? Or going to the stealer-ship?

thank you for your response. Is this something that could only be done in a professional garage? My brother worked as a mechanic for many years before getting a full-time firefighting job. He lives an hour or two away, and obviously has a very full schedule, but he owes me a favor or two and does have enough of a garage that he is able to do jobs like replace his wife’s brakes. Would you think that this job in that range or more complex than that?

All it takes is a screwdriver or a small ratchet and socket and about five minutes.

Go to a muffler shop, they do this kind of repair every single day.

If the noise is truly in the exhaust system, you may want to find a good independent muffler and exhaust shop. These shops can make and fit sections of pipes with tools that many ordinary shops don’t have. I learned to visit one of these shops the hard way. I had to replace a muffler on my car and bought a new one at an auto parts store. I spent three hours putting it on, turning the air blue the whole time. The next time I had to replace the muffler on this car, I was in a hurry and went to an independent shop. The muffler was replaced in 10 minutes and the total price was lower than what I had paid for the previous muffler that I had to install myself. The technicians didn’t refer to the pipes as being of illegitimate birth and the work came with a guarantee.

Hex head nut drivers work well, too.

Take a long piece, or two, of coat hanger wire and a pair of pliers…lie under the car and tighten the wire around the shield…I have done this many times not only to hold shields in place but also missing exhaust hangers…the wire repair lasts a long time and it cheaper and easier than the pipe clamp.

I was in the shop waiting for my car one day when they gave a lady the bad news. Her flex pipe was going to cost $900 and was ready to fall off. I thought she was going to have a heart attack.

A muffler shop replaced the flex section on my Toyota Camry exhaust for $200 for the flex section and labor (welding). The whole exhaust piece would have cost $1700. Savivgs: $1500.

Thanks for the suggestion. I think we will go look for a good independent muffler and exhaust shop, and just not drive the car further than the grocery store for the time being. Worst case scenario they confirm my mechanic’s diagnosis. Best case scenario is what you and others have described.

Thanks to everyone on this thread for taking the time to reply and educate.

I need to thank everyone here for their advice. I realize it’s been six months, but we’ve been reluctant to spend the $600, and given gas prices, there wasn’t much incentive to do so.

We finally found a well-regarded exhaust specialist and took the car in. $185 instead of $600+. The noise is because of a small leak. Yes, it is loose, but does not need to be replaced.

Maybe in a week I’ll be back here disrecommending this course of action but for now I thank you all for taking the time to respond,and wanted to follow up in case someone else is ever in my shoes.

I’m just not comfortable with your description of a “high pitched whining noise” and a problem with the exaust.