Why am I going through a muffler every year? Is it Midas or me?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I drive a 1991 Toyota Camry. I've gone to Midas, and I've gotten a muffler with a lifetime warranty. However, I've had to have the muffler replaced just about every 12 months. The muffler has gotten so loud every spring for the past four years that I have had no choice but to have it replaced. The guys at Midas have been more than happy to replace my muffler every year at no cost. Is it normal to have a muffler replaced every year? Are the guys at Midas secretly regretting giving me a lifetime warranty? -- AJ

RAY: Au contraire, AJ. They're thrilled to see you. First of all, those mufflers they put in only cost them about eight bucks. And every time you come in, they have a chance to sell you another part of the exhaust system, or some brake pads or shocks -- especially if you feel guilty about taking so many free mufflers from them! So, don't worry about the poor guys at Midas. They'd put cardboard mufflers in if it would get you to come back more often.

TOM: I'd like to note here for the sake of Midas lawyers that my brother is just making a little joke there, guys. We know you don't make mufflers out of cardboard.

RAY: Not yet! Anyway, to answer your question, AJ, it's not normal for a muffler to last only a year. And there are generally two factors that lead to premature muffler failure.

TOM: One is the way you drive. If you only take short trips and never let the exhaust system heat up enough, it won't vaporize the water that naturally comes out of the engine. And that water is going to have a corrosive effect on the exhaust system.

RAY: But the other factor, which I'll bet is much more of a factor in your case, is the quality (or lack of quality) of the muffler. In my opinion, none of the aftermarket mufflers are as good as the original equipment (OEM) stuff you buy from the dealer. The OEM mufflers fit better, sound better and last longer, in my experience. But they're more expensive, and many of them don't come with a lifetime warranty. So many of my customers go for the aftermarket stuff.

TOM: And like you, AJ, some of them end up going back for a new, free muffler every year or so. And -- in a lot of cases -- end up with some not-so-free connecting pipes or shocks to go with it.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One