If you have an exhaust pipe leak, you’ll want to act fast.
Exhaust gases produced by normal vehicle combustion should be vented through the tailpipe. That’s after passing through the catalytic converter to reduce the danger of any exhausted gases.
If you have a leak before the tailpipe, those same exhaust gases could cause problems in the engine or to the people in or around the vehicle.
The average cost of repairing an exhaust leak ranges from about $100 to over $1200. Those costs depend on the part, the location of the leak, and labor. For example, if you have to replace your catalytic converter, you’re spending most of the cost on that. On the other hand, if you just need a new section of tailpipe, the fix will cost you $100 or less.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of exhaust leak repair cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Supplies (sealant and replacement piping)|
|YourMechanic||$94-$114.99 (inc labor)|
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How Much Does Exhaust Leak Repair Cost?*
In most cases, the largest factor in the cost of repairing an exhaust leak is labor.
However, that does depend on the cost of the part. E.g., if you have an exhaust manifold leak you can probably expect to pay $300-$700.
If you have a catalytic converter leak, you can probably expect to pay upwards of $1,000. For this article, we’ve focused on exhaust pipe leaks, which means you’ll likely pay a small fee in parts and the rest is labor.
For example, if you’re replacing a gasket in your exhaust pipe, you might get away with paying as little as $5 in parts and about an hour of your mechanic’s time.
The following price estimates cover multiple popular vehicles:
|Vehicle||Exhaust Parts Cost||Labor Cost|
|Dodge Ram 1500||$24.99-$307||$85-$267|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Exhaust Leak Repair Pricing Factors
The cost of repairing an exhaust leak will heavily depend on factors like which part is leaking. Here, common culprits include the exhaust manifold and the connections in the tailpipe.
In addition, the exhaust pipe itself is prone to leaks, as it’s unprotected under the car. Your repair might range from a simple clamp and seal on a hole to replacing your full exhaust system.
We’ll go over most of the pricing factors that will affect your exhaust leak repair below:
Location of the Leak
The cost of the leak will affect the cost of parts as well as the cost of accessing the part. The exhaust system extends from the front of the vehicle, through the combustion chamber, and down into the tailpipe.
The “exhaust system” also connects to the vacuum system, with valves and pressure releases throughout the engine, allowing everything to seamlessly work together.
When you have a leak, it could occur at any point in that system. Weak points often include gaskets, valves, and connections.
For example, the exhaust manifold is a frequent point of leaks. Here, gaskets are the most common issue. On the other hand, a simple clamp coming loose between the catalytic converter and the connecting pipes could also cause a leak.
You might also have a hole in the connecting pipe, in the muffler, or in the resonator. Often, if you’re not sure where the leak is coming from, your mechanic will perform a smoke test to see where smoke is coming out.
Type of Repair
Repairing an exhaust leak can range from replacing the part to using adhesive and a piece of replacement metal.
If you need a new part, that could range from a simple $5 gasket to a $120 tailpiece pipe. On the other hand, you might simply have to pay for a few cents of adhesive and a piece of aluminum to cover a hole in the existing pipe.
How can you tell which repair is good enough? Normally, mechanics will make the decision based on the total condition of the exhaust pipe or the part.
If your muffler has a hole in it but is otherwise in good shape, a simple patch may be good enough. On the other hand, a dented catalytic converter might not even work anymore, so you’d want to replace it.
A simple connector or gasket will cost you $3-$15. A section of tailpipe will cost you $24-$500 depending on what it’s made for. An exhaust manifold will normally run $300-$500+. So, the cost of your repair will heavily depend on which parts are damaged. In addition, if your full exhaust system is damaged, you might have to replace the full thing. That normally costs around $1200-$1500.
That’s especially true if you have a newer vehicle, which is more likely to have a section of flex pipe. A flex pipe is an accordion-shaped stretch of exhaust pipe that fits into the front of the engine.
It’s flexible, so it doesn’t break in the engine. But, it also costs a lot more than rigid pipe. Unfortunately, if you have a modern Nissan or Honda, or some other vehicle like a Ford Aerostar, it’s very likely to have flex pipe. That will increase the total cost of the work.
Cost of Labor
Taking your vehicle to the local mechanic is often not a cheap thing. Instead, you’ll normally expect to pay a diagnostics fee ($30-$100+) and then a fee to fix the issue ($30-$1,000+). Often, rates are charged on an hourly basis, with national rates ranging from about $15-$210+ per hour.
In addition, you’ll normally pay a shop fee (5-20% of the bill) and any bill for parts. In some cases, you’ll also pay to leave your car in a parking lot or in the garage for the time it takes to fix the vehicle.
What Are the Symptoms of an Exhaust Leak?
The symptoms of an exhaust leak will change somewhat based on where the leak is located. However, for the most part, you’ll see the following five issues:
1. Increased Smell
If you’re smelling fumes in or around the vehicle, it’s a good sign you have an exhaust leak. That’s especially true if you smell gas or fumes inside of your car.
If your exhaust system is functioning as it should, those fumes should be catalyzed before they hit open air and you should barely be able to smell them. If you’re outside your car, it’s a bit more normal to smell some fumes.
However, they should never smell like gasoline. And, if fumes smell worse than they did before, it’s a good sign it’s time to check for a leak or to get your catalytic converter checked.
2. Using More Fuel
If you’re using more fuel than you’re used to, it could relate to a number of issues. However, a leaking exhaust is one of them. Here, exhaust issues impact the air to fuel ratio in your engine.
Here, exhaust gasses leak out before they’re mixed back into the fuel mixture, causing the engine to use air instead. With too much air in the fuel mixture, your engine will run much less efficiently. You’ll notice that when you go to fill up the tank.
However, this does give you a good indicator that the leak is probably (but not certainly) between the muffler and the front exhaust, as the tailpipe and reverberator shouldn’t impact combustion.
3. Noisy Engine
If your engine is rumbling, popping, or hissing, it’s a sign you have an exhaust leak. In addition, if your engine is louder than before, it might be because of issues with the muffler or the reverberator.
Or, if you have a break, a hole, or a disconnect in the exhaust above the muffler. While an increase in noise doesn’t necessarily mean you have an exhaust leak, it is a good reason to have your engine checked.
4. Loss of Power
If your fuel injectors are mixing too much air into the fuel, your engine will lose power.
You probably won’t notice this at first. However, if your engine starts slowing down or failing to respond as usual when you go up hills or when you try to tow something, it may be the exhaust.
This issue will continue to worsen and could cause real damage to the fuel injection system if not fixed.
5. Brake Failure
If your exhaust leak is in the exhaust manifold, it could impact your vacuum system. This means you might lose power in your brake system.
While unlikely and you’re just as likely to have to check the brakes separately, it is a good thing to keep in mind.
How To Repair Exhaust Leaks: 6 Steps
If you have a simple hole in your exhaust pipe, you can likely easily repair it yourself with a few dollars of supplies.
On the other hand, if you have a gasket that’s out or want to replace a connector, you can often easily do the work yourself as well.
Things you’ll need:
- Adhesive repair tape/muffler tape/metal repair tape
- Floor jack + Jack stands
- Stainless steel hose clamps
- Pre-cut metal patch or a roll of aluminum + tin snips
- Wire brush
- Steel wool
- Rust remover
1. Raise the Vehicle
Jack the vehicle up and stabilize it using jack stands. In most cases, you’ll want to lift the back of the vehicle and then stabilize under both axles.
Alternatively, you lift the left side of the vehicle if your exhaust system is to the left.
Make sure you set the parking brake and use chocks for the front wheels before jacking up the vehicle.
2. Find the Leak
Check where the leak is coming from. If you’re not certain if the leak is in your exhaust pipe, you’ll want to use either a smoke machine.
Here, if you see smoke coming out from under the hood, it’s a good sign that the issue with a valve or with the intake manifold.
If smoke comes out from the exhaust pipe or between connections, you know that you have a gasket or a connection issue.
On the other hand, you might not have to bother with this kind of test. If you can physically inspect the exhaust pipe and find punctures or obviously leaking hot air while the vehicle is idling, you’ve likely found the leak (unless there’s more than one).
Be careful when checking for leaks with the engine on as the exhaust will get hot. Use a mirror where you can.
3. Clean the Exhaust
If you’re using adhesive, you’ll want to fully clean the area around the hole. To do so, apply rust remover. Then, scrub the area with a wire brush. Wipe the full area clean.
Keep repeating the process until you’re down to bare metal. If you have a very old exhaust pipe, it may be a good idea to take an electric sander or a bristle brush on an angle grinder to it as well.
4. Prepare the Hole
Check the size of the hole you have to cover. Then, make sure your metal can safely go over it.
If you’re filling a very large hole, you may want to add steel wool to the hole to provide some additional support for the aluminum. If doing so, cut the piece so it fits into the hole.
5. Apply Repair Tape
Read the instructions on your muffler repair tape package. This is important because some have slightly different instructions. Most likely, you can simply take it out of the package and wrap it tightly around the exhaust where you want to fix the issue.
You’ll want to make sure you’re wearing protective gloves because muffler tape contains resin. Cut the tape where it overlaps with itself.
Most adhesive tape requires you to either add a hardening agent, squeeze the tape, or otherwise take steps to add a hardening element. Other muffler tapes only require heat after.
6. Cut Tin
Use tin snips to cut your roll of metal to the size you need. Then, wrap it tightly around the point on the muffler with the tape. Use stainless steel hose clamps to tightly clamp it down against the resin.
From there, you can turn your engine on and allow your vehicle to idle for 20-30 minutes, depending on the instructions on the muffler tape.
From there, you can take your vehicle for a test drive to see if the issue has resolved. If not, you’ll probably want to check for more leaks.
If you still have questions, this FAQ should help.
Can I replace flex exhaust with rigid exhaust?
No. While rigid exhaust pipe is much cheaper than straight exhaust, the two are not interchangeable. If you put rigid exhaust in place of flex, the rigid exhaust will likely break.
Can I patch an exhaust?
Yes. There are plenty of epoxy resin-based patch kits for mufflers and exhaust pipes. However, you shouldn’t use them if the hole is very large.
Do I have to replace my entire exhaust system?
If the hole is very large, your catalytic converter is damaged, or the full exhaust pipe is damaged or rusting, it may be better to replace it. However, it’s unlikely you’d have this much damage unless your vehicle is 10 years or older.
Can you drive with an exhaust leak?
It’s probably illegal to drive with an exhaust leak in your state. In addition, it could be dangerous, and it could cause further damage to your fuel intake system and the catalytic converter.
Therefore, you technically can drive with an exhaust leak but you should not do so.
Exhaust leak repair costs range from an hour of your mechanic’s time to well over $1,000 depending on what the issue is.
In addition, if you have a simple puncture in an exhaust pipe, you can probably fix it yourself for less than $20.
In either case, it’s always a good idea to test the vehicle and make sure there’s only one leak.
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