Home Ownership Tips and Advice How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get: As Toasty As You’d Expect?

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get: As Toasty As You’d Expect?

by Jordan Harris
How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get?

Knowing what the temperature range the exhaust pipes should normally be at makes it easier for the motorist to identify any unusual temperature rise or decline from your vehicle’s exhaust system. Hence, the reason why you’re probably asking how hot does a car exhaust get.

The vehicle’s combustion chamber produces waste and toxic gases. The exhaust system brings these combustion gases away from the engine out to an exit point. These fumes need to be cooled down, as they are very hot, and purified. The exhaust pipes are probably the hottest part of your vehicle. Very powerful cars can make the exhaust manifold glow in the engine compartment.

Follow this article to learn about how hot a car exhaust and exhaust pipe can get and the factors that determine these temperatures:

Exhaust Pipe Car

The average temperature range for the exhaust system is between 600 to 930 Fahrenheit. Driving for a longer period or driving the car harder can cause temperatures to rise to 1600 to 1800 Fahrenheit as well.

The exhaust system is made up of many parts. This means that the temperatures will vary at different parts of the exhaust pipe. Around the catalytic converter and bends in the exhaust pipe right next to the cylinder are the hottest parts in the exhaust system.

Muffler Pipe

Hot combustion gases from the engine enter the muffler. The muffler dissipates powerful sound waves from within the fumes that go through the exhaust. As a result, the muffler reaches a temperature of 1200 Fahrenheit whilst the engine is active. The higher the RPM, the higher the temperature in the muffler.

The temperature can also rise due to the inefficient combustion of gases.

Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converters remove any harmful emissions that are present in the exhaust gases. They will often reach a temperature of 1400 Fahrenheit. However, if unburnt gases from the combustion chamber pass through the catalytic converter then the temperature will increase significantly.

Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor is actually one of the hottest points in the exhaust system. The sensor measures the percentage of oxygen present in the exhaust gases, forwards this information to the engine management system or ECU, and then adjusts the air-fuel mixture accordingly.

The sensor comes after (and before in some vehicles) the catalytic converter and deals with extremely high temperatures, so hot that it sometimes glows white in some vehicles.

What Is An Exhaust

Before we determine what makes the components in a car exhaust reach extreme temperatures, we need to understand how the exhaust system works.

What are the main functions of an exhaust? To reduce noise levels, remove exhaust fumes, improve fuel consumption and improve the performance of the engine.

The exhaust system contains these elements: Exhaust manifold, resonator, catalytic converter, oxygen or lambda sensor, muffler, exhaust pipe, and tail pipe. Depending on the make of your vehicle, the layout of the system can differ.

Let’s start with the exhaust manifold. Here, the toxic gases from the combustion chamber are collected from the cylinder head and are directed away from the engine into the exhaust pipe. Now, the gases are at very high temperatures, and due to the exhaust manifold being made of cast iron, it can withstand these hot fumes.

There are usually 3 or 4 cylinders that help remove the gases and then release them through a single cylinder – called the front pipe.

Muffler And Tailpipe

In modern vehicles, the exhaust gases will reach the first oxygen sensor. The oxygen sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust gas and sends this information to the ECU, the computer then uses that information to determine how much fuel is injected into the engine.

Next, the exhaust gases containing hydrogen monoxide and carbon monoxide go through the catalytic converter where they are converted into inert, less harmful gases. After this, the gases will pass through a second oxygen sensor and this will compare the amount of oxygen to the first oxygen sensor, making sure the catalytic converter is working.

The newly converted gases then pass through the resonator. The resonator changes and slightly mutes the sounds coming from the engine. It creates a more pleasant sound before it reaches the muffler without decreasing the power generated from the engine.

The muffler shapes and reduces the amount of noise coming off the vehicle produced by the exhaust. To cancel the noise of these sound waves, they are sent through a number of different-sized chambers where the sound waves collide with the walls and are destroyed due to friction.

Finally, the exhaust gases consisting of less harmful gases along with considerably low sound waves move out of the tailpipe and into the atmosphere.

Exhaust Temperature

Now that we have established the typical temperatures of the different components within the exhaust system, we can determine which different factors can cause the temperature to fluctuate in the exhaust pipe.

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Factor #1: Condition Of The Exhaust System

The overall condition of the exhaust system must be satisfactory as it will determine the various temperatures that you will get in the pipe. The exhaust system must always be in a good state for maximum efficiency of fuel consumption.

Abnormal high temperatures can be reached if there are many bends or constrictions on your exhaust system. This is because hot exhaust fumes are not allowed to escape easily.

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Factor #2: Engine Speed

Of course, the combustion gases come from the engine. So, the faster the vehicle is moving, the faster the engine is working which means the exhaust valve sends more burnt gases with high temperatures heating the exhaust pipe each time.

If the engine is at 2,000 RPM or more whilst driving, the temperature of the exhaust gases can significantly rise to 1100 Fahrenheit or even more resulting in a hotter exhaust pipe. However, if the engine is at 700RPM or less, the temperature of the exhaust gas will be 660 Fahrenheit or even less, which will result in a cooler exhaust pipe.

The higher the RPM, the hotter the exhaust pipe.

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Factor #3: Tailpipe Length

The tailpipe has the job of taking the exhaust gases from the final silencer to the rear of the vehicle into the atmosphere.

The length of the tailpipe can determine how hot or cool the exhaust pipe stays whilst the vehicle is stationary or moving.

The longer the hot exhaust gases have to travel, the more heat will be lost before exiting the vehicle. On the other hand, the shorter the distance, it is more likely the gases will be warmer and thus, have a hotter exhaust pipe.

Having a longer tailpipe in some cases is more beneficial for the exhaust system as the exhaust pipes will be cooler rather than shorter ones.

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Factor #4: Condition Of The Engine

To figure out if your engine is in optimum condition, the performance of the vehicle should be good, and it should be generating the right amount of heat within the exhaust gases. The engine will be consuming the maximum amount of fuel and producing the most amount of horsepower. Thus, temperatures naturally increase as RPM increases.

A faulty or older engine with technical issues will not perform well, which may result in overheating.

If the exhaust system is picking up combustion gases with higher temperatures than normal, the exhaust pipes will get hotter and will also underperform.

Prevent Damage To The Exhaust

The temperatures of the exhaust system and exhaust pipes are very high, so the components around the exhaust are also at risk of being damaged.

Here are a few ways you can take precautions to avoid this:

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Prevention #1: Insulate The Exhaust Pipe

This is a very effective way of keeping the heat inside and preventing any heat to escape to other parts of the vehicle around the exhaust.

Although the heat is prevented from escaping, this doesn’t deter the performance of the exhaust system.

Exhaust wraps or tapes are wrapped in a spiral pattern around the exhaust pipe or manifold to insulate the pipes. Silica, fiberglass, basalt, and ceramic are materials you can use for exhaust wraps that can withstand higher temperatures. Fiberglass starts melting at 1500 Fahrenheit.

These have been proven effective as tests have shown that exhaust wraps made of such materials can decrease engine bay temperatures by as much as 50%.

How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get Prevention #2: Reflective Barrier Between Engine And Exhaust

Sometimes preventing heat to space from the exhaust pipe can be difficult. In contrast, you can reflect the heat away from the engine bay and other components around it.

The heat can be reflected using a reflective barrier or material that stands between the engine bay and the exhaust pipe.

Heat control has been manifested in the latest car models as car manufacturers have created embossed heat shields made from aluminum or steel. These shields are placed 1-2cm away from the exhaust and exhaust manifold. So, this makes an air gap which helps to get rid of excess heat.

High Exhaust Temperature

Instead of insulating the exhaust directly, you can protect the components surrounding the exhaust. This, in relation to insulating the exhaust, will be easier and will not require insulation without allowing excess heat through.

Components such as cables, wiring, hoses, and hard lines that are near the exhaust can be insulated with heat sleeves. They reduce heat damage and are used in many new car engine bays.  The heat sleeves are typically made of aluminum foil and the backing of insulating fiberglass. The purpose of the reflective aluminum foil is that repel heat that radiates from the exhaust.

A mylar foil outer layer is another popular material for heat sleeves. Mylar consists of a microscopic layer of foil laminated to an outside layer of polyester resin with insulating fiberglass backing. This polyester outer layer makes the Mylar very tough but can burn off at 400 Fahrenheit.

Los Angeles lemon law lawyer explains: “High exhaust temperatures can indicate underlying mechanical problems that, if unresolved, may qualify a vehicle for lemon law claims. It’s essential for consumers to monitor their vehicle’s exhaust temperature as part of maintaining their rights under lemon law.”

However, with an additional, thicker outer layer of aluminum foil and insulating fiberglass, the heat sleeve is able to insulate firewalls, motors, or other components and can withstand higher temperatures, up to 1220 Fahrenheit.

When air is trapped in small pockets, it acts as a great insulator. Think about how double-glazing works.

In styrene foam and ceiling insulating batts, they trap air pockets and reduce heat conduction. As a result, like exhaust wraps and heat sleeves, the heat can’t be transferred through the material. Instead, it acts as a heat block. It is the air that is trapped between the fibers that reduce heat conduction.

Bad Exhaust Symptoms

A faulty exhaust can be identified through many signs and symptoms. If your exhaust pipe is hotter or cooler than the typical temperature it should be, then the driver can suspect that there must be an issue in the exhaust system. Or, perhaps with the condition of the engine.

If you are experiencing any of the problems with your exhaust system listed below, then it must not be avoided and you need to take immediate action.

1. Why Is My Exhaust System Making Weird Noises?

One of the obvious signs of a faulty exhaust system is the sound it makes. Different sounds reflect a different component of the exhaust system that is damaged.

If your exhaust makes a loud roaring noise, then check the muffler. Due to the muffler being the furthest away from the engine and condensing corrosive acids, the muffler risks being corroded. Hence, allowing gases to escape and as a result, making this noise.

A chugging noise means that there could be a blockage in the exhaust system.

If there is a crack in the exhaust system, exhaust pipe, or a leaking gasket, then this will result in a hissing or whooshing noise.

An exhaust system that has shifted out of place or is misaligned can create a rattling sound coming from under the vehicle.

Brackets and hangers keep exhaust systems in place and provide support to the exhaust housing. If a support bracket, clamp, or mounting has loosened then a loud metallic vibration will be produced. Something touching the exhaust pipe will also make this same sound. If any of the support elements become fractured, corroded, or fall off then this can cause premature exhaust failure as the exhaust housing is not secure.

2. A Low Fuel Efficiency

A vehicle with an exhaust problem will consume more fuel than usual. This occurs when the exhaust emission control device is not working properly. The engine must work even harder to compensate for this. As a result, it drains the fuel to keep the vehicle moving.

To avoid this increase in fuel expenses check the entire exhaust system to get this problem fixed as soon as possible.

3. Fumes Leaking Into The Car

Many toxic gases are driven away from the engine, through the exhaust system, and out of the tailpipe into the atmosphere. If, however, the fumes can be detected from the vehicle through smell, then there is something wrong with your exhaust.

Exposure to gases such as carbon monoxide can be very harmful when inhaled, causing drowsiness to passengers within the vehicle. In addition, a leaking exhaust pipe will also result in the smell of gas entering the cabin. Do not drive the car if this is the case.

4. Condensed Exhaust Pipes

Toxic gases are directed away from the engine to be converted into water and carbon dioxide in the catalytic chamber. However, if the water is not able to escape, tiny holes cause leaks. Thus, letting rust form as a result of condensation in the muffler.

Condensed, leaking exhaust pipes should be regarded as hazardous and the entire exhaust system needs to be checked immediately.

5. Visual Check

Getting to know what a good and efficient exhaust system looks like is crucial to identify any physical damage. An exhaust pipe that is out of place, dragging, or hanging is abnormal. This can cause leaks in the pipe and unattractive sounds. Hanging exhaust pipes can rip off at any time and cause damage to other vehicles and motorists.

When driving off-road or over potholes, the jolt of this on the vehicle can cause loss of parts on the exhaust system. Therefore, it is important to visually check the entire exhaust system for any irregularities and get it fixed or replaced.

6. Rusting

Another problem that can be identified through a visual check is rusting.

Rust is formed as a result when water comes into contact with the exhaust and combines with combustion gases. This leads to corrosion of the system. Often, in the muffler, if the gases are not hot enough to vaporize, then internal condensation occurs. This is because of water depositing which causes rusting inside the muffler. Environments that experience high snow and rainfall present rusting problems in cars more commonly.

Using your vehicle for short trips will lead to more corrosion in the exhaust system than on longer-distance journeys.

If rust is found on the surface of any of the components in the exhaust system, it may not look serious. The rust could possibly go through the component’s surface or be rusted from inside.

If one component is corroded, it is likely that other parts that were installed at the same time will corrode as well. In some situations, different components of the exhaust can actually merge together. This is due to the heat build-up and will also be corroded together. Thus, separating these parts is extremely difficult.

By using a screwdriver, you can gently scrape the rust to see if any of the surfaces gave weakened. If a hole is formed easily then that component needs to be replaced.

7. Low Power And Acceleration

The exhaust system is connected to the engine. So, if the exhaust is underperforming, such as combustion gases overheating the system, then the engine will have to work harder. This will result in a reduction in power and acceleration from the engine.

8. Catalytic Converter Problems

We know the typical temperature a catalytic converter should be. So, what damage can extreme temperatures do to the catalytic chamber?

Extremely high temperatures as a result of unburnt gases in the exhaust can cause damage to the fine catalyst material (for more insight, check out our guide on what’s inside a catalytic converter). As fewer chemical conversions take place, the catalytic converter becomes less effective and there is a decrease in engine performance. This is dangerous for the environment as there are now more harmful gases being expelled from the exhaust.

On the other hand, when the catalytic converter reaches cooler temperatures, this also poses issues. For example, if the chamber is submerged in water, the internal honeycomb structure (to learn more, check out our write-up on what is a catalytic converter and what does it do) can pull apart. This means that the exit to the exhaust pipe will be blocked. This will decrease engine efficiency and engine power.

7. Exhaust Systems And The Law

If your vehicle’s exhaust system is producing excessive amounts of exhaust gases, then a police officer has a right to warrant the removal of the vehicle from the road. In addition, if the exhaust system is too noisy and is broken, then your vehicle can come under scrutiny by the police. Incorrect emissions coming from the exhaust system can be identified in your MOT test and will fail until the fault is resolved.

Facts about Car Exhaust System Temperature and Maintenance

  • Car exhaust pipes can range from 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, but high-performance exhaust pipes (something like the NB Miata catalytic converter) can reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more, with the hottest point at the exhaust manifold reaching up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The catalytic converter, on the other hand, can reach temperatures between 1000 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Signs of a failing exhaust system include a check engine light, car shakes while driving, loss of power while driving, increased fuel consumption, rust in the system, and the smell of exhaust.
  • The temperature of the exhaust system is affected by the condition of the engine and the exhaust system, the speed of the engine, and the design and length of the pipe.
  • A faulty exhaust system can lead to leakage in the gas, vibrations and rattling noises, noise at high speeds, and dangerous carbon monoxide emissions from the exhaust fumes.
  • To prevent exhaust pipe damage, one can rinse the bottom of the car, use a good quality exhaust system, add an undercoat or paint the exhaust, regularly wax the system, avoid frequent short-distance driving, and conduct regular emissions tests.

FAQs On How Hot Does A Car Exhaust Get

If you’re still curious about how hot does a car exhaust get, our FAQs here might shed some light on it…

What Is A Muffler

A muffler is a key component in most automotive exhaust systems. Its key role is as the name suggests – as a muffler muffles the sounds created by your car’s engine. Normally, a car engine is often very loud, which passes on those noises as pulsations and vibrations that reverberate through the exhaust pipes. However, these sounds, if left as they are naturally, can be annoyingly loud. Moreover, having them pulse and shake your car constantly isn’t ideal. Hence, this is why most cars have mufflers that quieten these sounds made by an engine. Inside a muffler, you’ll find various tubes, baffles, and chambers that reflect the sound waves of your engine to cancel each other out. Thus, muffling them before it leaves the tailpipes.

How Hot Does A Catalytic Converter Get

Your car’s catalytic converters play an important role in catalyzing the by-products of an engine’s combustion process (aka exhaust fumes). These by-products are naturally very toxic and deadly, which contributes heavily to harmful emissions and air pollution. To control this, a catalytic converter essentially scrubs through your exhaust gases, and through a series of chemical redox reactions, catalyzes them into less harmful pollutants. Since hot exhaust fumes are passing through the catalytic converters, they will get pretty hot. On average, a catalytic converter will get as high as 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Hot Does A Muffler Get

The muffler in your car is responsible for, as its name implies, muffling the sound of your engine. An internal combustion engine is typically very loud (not to mention all the pulsations and vibrations you feel), which can be rather unpleasant. To somewhat dampen the unwanted and excess noise, your exhaust system contains a muffler. Through a series of chambers, baffles, and tubes inside the muffler, it’ll reflect and cancel out all the sound waves to quieten your engine. Although, having to process raw exhaust fumes does raise the muffler’s temperature quite a bit. It can rise as high as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, or more if the engine speed increases.

How Hot Do Exhaust Pipes Get

Your car’s exhaust system is a surprisingly complex unit and is made up of many constituent parts. Regardless, the fact that your internal combustion engine’s hot exhaust fumes are passing through the exhaust pipes will heat everything up. Typically, an exhaust pipe will heat up to between 600 to 930 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it can go even higher the longer you drive your car. In this case, it could rise even further, by up to 1,600 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. There are other factors that determine just how hot your car exhaust can get, such as the length of your tailpipes, the condition of your engine, or even what speed you’re traveling at.

How Hot Does An Exhaust Manifold Get

As it’s the first major component of your car’s exhaust system, the exhaust manifolds tend to get pretty hot. After all, they bolt directly onto the engine and is the first recipient of heaty exhaust fumes that flow straight out of the combustion chamber. Most exhaust manifolds can get up to around 1,200 to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s so hot, in fact, that if you drive a high-performance car and are going at speed, the exhaust manifolds might even glow. The exact temperature will vary based on certain factors. It will increase as you rev higher and put more load onto the engine, as well as driving for prolonged periods.


Hamzah shakeel 03/19/2021 - 10:17 PM

Very detailed and very well written great article, goes into great detail on the various parts of the engine and various ways on how the temperature of components of the engine can differ.

Zack Norman 06/16/2022 - 7:28 PM

Thanks for the comment, Hamzah shakeel!

Cheers, glad you’ve enjoyed our detailed guide, and we appreciate the kind words 🙂


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