What do you do when your exhaust pipe breaks in half in the middle of the road? If you don’t have the several hundred dollars to invest in a new exhaust or you don;t know how to fix it yourself, you can temporarily fix a broken exhaust pipe for fairly little money and some work. This will give you a little time to get the money to have a broken exhaust pipe fixed properly.
I have done small work on my own cars since the mid-1980s. I started with a manual to the car I owned at the time. I don’t claim to know a lot about cars, but over the years, I have learned some useful tips from both certified mechanics and “backyard mechanics” alike. This has helped me to deal with many unexpected car problems, including a broken exhaust pipe.
Earlier this summer, my exhaust pipe between the front of the car and the catalytic converter just broke in half, dragging as I drove. Luckily I was in a nearly-empty parking lot and pulled into a parking space quickly.
How to Get the Car with the Broken Exhaust Pipe Home
If you don’t have money for a tow and you are not too far from home, you can get your car to your driveway even with a broken exhaust pipe.
If part of your exhaust fell off, you will have to let it cool before handling it. Then just put that part of the exhaust in your car to take home. Then you can deal with the dragging part of the broken exhaust pipe.
If both sides of the exhaust are still attached to your car, you should hook up both sides of the broken exhaust pipe to prevent dragging. You will need to let your car cool down. I waited about ½ hour while my son arrived with the supplies I needed: 2 coat hangers and a pair of pliers.
After your car has cooled, you will need to jack up your car a bit. Make sure your car is in a level place. Be sure the jack is balanced and your car will not move. Although this is the start of a temporary fix to a broken exhaust pipe, you still want to take the time to be safe.
Twist open and straighten the coat hangers. Slide under the car the best you can. Be sure not to bump the car. I’m always afraid the jack will give and I’ll knock the car off of the jack.
Find somewhere solid under the car where you can connect the wire hangers, one for each side of the broken exhaust pipe. You will need some kind of opening to slide each end of the wire hanger through. You may find a clamp or a place on the bottom of the car near the exhaust pipe. In my case, I found places near the sides of the car to hook each end of the wire hanger into to hold up my broken exhaust pipe until I got home.
After locating your hanging points, hook on end of the wire hanger through the opening. Use the pliers to wind the wire hanger round and round. You don’t want the broken exhaust pipe to drop down again before you make it home.
Hold up one side of the broken exhaust pipe. Put the wire hanger under it and across to the other side. You may need someone to help you hold up the broken exhaust pipe or hook the hanger. This can be done with only one person if necessary.
While holding up the broken exhaust pipe with the wire hanger underneath it, hook the other end of the wire hanger through the second opening on the other side. Again, use the pliers and be sure the wire hanger is tight and the broken exhaust pipe stays lifted away from the ground.
Perform the same steps for the other side of the broken pipe. Let your car off the jack and you should be able to get your car home.
Prepare to Temporarily Fix a Broken Exhaust Pipe
You will need to get some supplies to temporarily fix a broken exhaust pipe. Do not drive the car that has the broken exhaust pipe. Not only is it unsafe, it is illegal in most states.
First, you will need to measure your broken exhaust pipe. Measure across the open end of the pipe with a ruler to get the diameter. I measured from outside edge across to the other outside edge because the replacement piece of pipe will have to slide over your broken exhaust pipe.
At the store you will need to get some supplies. Choose one of the following options:
Heavy Duty Exhaust/Tail Pipe Repair Kit. This is really neat. This is what I wanted when I fixed my broken exhaust pipe. I see it listed at autozone.com1 for $8.49, but did not see it when I went to my local Auto Zone when I fixed my broken exhaust pipe.
Flexible Exhaust Repair Kit. This was my second choice to fix a broken exhaust pipe. You will need to get the flexible pipe and two clamps to hold it on. On autozone.com, it shows this repair kit as only having one clamp2 for $7.49. At the physical store site, my flexible repair kit came with two clamps. The diameter given at the store will be for the inside of the exhaust pipe. Be sure to choose the size closest to your measurement but not smaller than your measurement. Remember, you want the flexible pipe to slide over the edges of your broken exhaust pipe.
Before you leave the store, you should have the store cut the flexible repair pipe to a workable size. This is hard to do at home without a good saw. We chose to go with a ten inch length due to the amount of room available on the two broken pieces of the exhaust pipe.
Be sure you have the specific tools required to install your chosen repair kit before you leave the store. You may need a screwdriver, a wrench, pliers or other small tool.
Temporarily Fix Your Broken Exhaust Pipe
Jack your car up as mentioned earlier. Now that you’re at home you have more opportunity to secure your car. You should put something heavy behind the car’s back tires to prevent rolling. Safety should always come first. To be even safer, have someone near you when working under the car to fix a broken exhaust pipe.
Bring all of the supplies with you as you carefully slide under the car to fix a broken exhaust pipe. You don’t want to have to slide in and out from under the car.
Follow the instructions if you are using the Heavy Duty Exhaust/Tail Pipe Repair Kit1. According to autozone.com, there is simply a gasket and a clamp to attach to your broken exhaust pipe. How simple is that?
If you are stuck as I was and meed to use the flexible exhaust repair kit2, follow the instructions to prepare your broken exhaust pipe. Try to keep the wire hangers attached at this point if you can to help you hold up the broken exhaust pipe.
Flare the ends of your flexible repair pie with pliers. To do this you will grab an edge with the pliers and bend slightly outward, doing this all the way around the edge of the flexible repair pipe. Be sure to flare both ends. This will help it slide over the broken exhaust pipe without catching metal on metal.
Slide on end of the flexible repair pipe all the way over one side of the broken exhaust pipe. Carefully line up the other end of the broken exhaust pipe, then slide the flexible exhaust pipe over the other end of the broken exhaust pipe. Ideally, you will have half of the flexible repair pipe on each end of the broken exhaust pipe.
Use the clamps to secure each end of the flexible repair pipe to your broken exhaust pipe, one clamp for each end, using the tools recommended in the instructions. I also purchases a better hanging device for my broken exhaust pipe to replace the wire hangers which I installed.
You can then lower your car from the jack and clean up.
This is only a temporary fix. Be sure the clamps are tight to prevent exhaust leaks. You need to get your car in to a professional as soon as possible.
Tips to Help Prevent a Broken Exhaust Pipe
Careful observation and frequent inspection of your car should alert you to any exhaust problems before you need to fix a broken exhaust pipe. A great article by Allen Teal3 here on AC describes how to detect leaks in your exhaust pipe as well as how to fix them. “How to Repair an Exhaust Pipe on Your Car”3 not only tells you how to repair your exhaust pipe before it breaks in half, but Teal gives more on jack safety and information on exhaust fumes.
If you take care of your car and have frequent inspections and maintenance, you should never have to fix a broken exhaust pipe.
THIS ADVICE IS ONLY A TEMPORARY MEASURE AND SHOULD ONLY BE USED IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO A CERTIFIED MECHANIC FOR A BRIEF PERIOD OF TIME. ALWAYS HAVE YOUR VEHICLE REPAIRED BY SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
1) autozone.com; VersaChem/Heavy Duty Tail Pipe Repair Kit; www.autozone.com
2) autozone.com; Part Search: Exhaust Pipe and Adapter; www.autozone.com
3) Allen Teal; How to Repair and Exausht Pipe on Your Car; www.associatedcontent.com