How Long Can You Drive With a Broken Muffler?

Driving with a broken muffler is technically possible, but doing so can be both dangerous and illegal.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Pat Roache
Your car will still run with a broken or missing muffler, but it could be unsafe to drive. Depending on where you live, you run the risk of getting a ticket if you don’t get it replaced ASAP. 
If you’ve found yourself with a broken or missing muffler, you might be wondering how long you can drive before you have to get it addressed. But just because you can drive with a broken muffler, it doesn’t mean you should! Read on to have our
car repair
gurus explain why.  

Is it safe to drive with a broken muffler?

According to most sources, it could be unsafe to drive with a broken muffler
Your muffler is a part of your car’s exhaust system, and its purpose is to—that’s right—muffle the sounds being emitted from your car’s tailpipe. The muffler is located on the underside of your car, and your car’s exhaust passes through it on the way out through the tailpipe. 
If your muffler is broken or missing, it could lead to exhaust fumes being released under your car rather than through the tailpipes. This makes it more likely for exhaust fumes to be able to seep into your car, which is not only unpleasant but also hazardous. 
In addition to that, your car will be polluting more and smelling worse, as the muffler is an important part of your car’s exhaust system. You’re not going to be able to
pass emissions testing
without a functioning muffler. 
And let’s not forget about the noise! Nobody wants to be that guy who’s blazing down the road sounding like a bucket full of rattling bolts and angry murder hornets. Most urban areas have noise pollution regulations, and a damaged or missing muffler could result in a ticket. Some states require all cars to have a working muffler, and some have even made it illegal to remove a muffler from a car that originally had one. 
Key Takeaway While your car can still operate without a muffler, it’s often illegal and could pose a threat to your health and safety. 
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How long does a muffler last?

In general, your muffler should last for at least 40,000 to 80,000 miles. Other sources state that an OEM muffler on a new car should have a lifespan of up to 10 or 12 years
But the truth of the matter is that it’s a little tricky to say how long your muffler will last. It sits right on the underside of your car, so it’s vulnerable to damage caused by road debris and unexpected bumps and potholes. Corrosion and salted roads in winter also dramatically shorten the life of a muffler.

Can a bad muffler cause engine damage?

It might not cause severe damage per se, but a bad muffler will harm your engine performance and fuel economy. Your car’s exhaust system is just that—a system. Having one component missing or broken puts a strain on the whole unit, and this means that your car isn’t going to be able to drive and perform like it’s designed to.

Signs of a malfunctioning muffler

If you have a broken or missing muffler, it’s going to be pretty apparent right off the bat. Pay attention to any of these signs, as they could indicate a broken muffler:
  • The noise: The biggest sign is going to be the racket. If your car is suddenly sounding like a loud, roaring beast, investigating your muffler should be your first move.
  • The smell: If your tailpipe emissions are smokier or smellier than normal, one of the culprits could be a malfunctioning muffler.
  • Reduced fuel economy and engine performance: If your ride isn’t as smooth as it used to be or if you’ve noticed your fuel economy dropping, a broken muffler might be the source.
These symptoms can all be caused by other problems as well, so if you’re noticing any of them it’s important to get your car checked out right away. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and it might even make things worse!

How much does a muffler cost?

Let’s be real here—a new muffler isn’t exactly the cheapest repair to make! RepairPal reports that the cost of a muffler replacement can be as much as $1,000. This can vary a lot depending on the make and model year of your car, though—so make sure you get at least three quotes when you’re shopping around. 
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