Flexible Exhaust Pipe: A Cost Effective Quick Fix to Save Money
How to Repair Flexible Exhaust Pipe
A flex pipe is an important part of a vehicle's exhaust system. Without this flexible pipe, the exhaust would break or fall apart all the time. It is the nature of this type of pipe that enables the exhaust system to work without issues. However, the exhaust system is not without its issues that lead to a need for repairs.
Whether it is just worn out or it gets damaged, there is likely to be a time when you need to repair the flexible exhaust pipe. Luckily, repairing the flex pipe is not too hard of a job. If you have the right tools and equipment, you can probably even do the repairs yourself. Continue reading to find out more about the flexible exhaust pipe and how to repair or replace it.
About Flex Pipe
The main reason why flex pipe is used in the exhaust system is to allow movement in the area that connects to the engine. As the engine starts up and runs, it moves about. If the exhaust system was connected by a stiff, unmovable pipe, it could lead to damage to the engine and the exhaust. With the flex pipe in place, the pipe moves along with the engine to prevent damage.
In addition, the flex pipe reduces issues with noise and vibration because it can move. Imagine an inflexible pipe connected to the engine with the engine moving and vibrating. That could be loud and distracting. Having a pipe that has some give in it, absorbs such movement and therefore eliminates noises and vibrations that would normally occur.
Another perk to the flex pipe is that it handles the demands of the exhaust system much better than an inflexible pipe. The exhaust runs very hot. After all, it is expelling the heat from the engine. Hot pipes expand and move. The flex pipe can handle this better than a solid pipe. It is not possible to use products like rubber on pipes in this system because it would melt, so having a metal pipe that also has some give is the ideal solution. It adds life to the overall system.
Flex pipes are made from metal, but the metal is woven. This is what makes it flexible and able to withstand the demanding heat of the system. However, its construction also makes it weaker than a solid pipe, which is why it eventually has to be repaired or replaced.
Issues with Flexible Exhaust Pipe
A flex pipe can be damaged in a couple of ways. First, there is normal wear and tear from the exhaust system. Over time, the pipe is constantly moving, expanding, contracting and in constant movement. Anything that is constantly moving will eventually fail. There will probably be an area of the pipe that will break or develop a hole that needs to be fixed for the exhaust system to remain sealed and to work properly.
The other common way a flex pipe is damaged is through an external factor. Because of its location underneath your vehicle, it is pretty much exposed. There isn't anything covering it to protect it from the elements or anything you come across on the road or wherever you are driving. In vehicles that are lower to the ground, the risk of scraping it on something, such as a speed bump or road debris is high. One rough contact with something could lead to a tear or hole. If you are in a cold climate that gets snow and ice, you could also face weather-related problems due to the substances that are put on roadways to melt the ice and snow. Over time, it can eat away at the pipe and lead to damage.
The biggest issue, though, comes when you want to repair or replace just the flex pipe. The manufacturers decided that it was a good idea to make this pipe a solid part of the exhaust, which means it is not supposed to be a part that you can just remove and reinstall a replacement. The idea is they want you to replace the whole exhaust system, which is not great when you are trying to save money or when you don't feel like replacing a perfectly fine system that has one part with an issue.
Dealing With the Challenge
Since the major challenge with replacing a flex pipe is that it is fixed within the exhaust system, if you take your vehicle to a repair center, you most likely will be told the whole thing needs replaced. This is such a waste when the only issue is a damaged flex pipe. Your better option is to figure out how to fix it yourself. Not only will this save you money, but it also reduces waste, which is always a good thing.
You first need to make sure the damage is just to the flex pipe. You should be able to visually make this call. Look for the braiding on the pipe and any tears or holes in it. Also, check out the rest of the system, looking for holes or other damage. You don't want to waste time fixing the flex pipe only to learn there is a bigger issue, so do a thorough check of the whole system to be sure the flex pipe is the problem.
Before you start working on the repairs, you need to do some prep work. This starts with figuring out what size pipe you need if you will be replacing the pipe. You need two measurements. You first need to measure around the ends to get the diameter. Then, you need to measure the length.
You will also need some tools and supplies. If you are replacing the pipe, you can either clamp it on or weld it on. Clamp on replacement pipes usually come with the clamps you will need. For welding, you need the right machine and safety gear. For a repair, you will need a tail pipe bandage, tail pipe sealer, exhaust heat shield and exhaust clamps to do a repair.
Regardless of whether you are doing a replacement or repair, you will need proper safety gear. Remember the exhaust system is very hot during and right after you have driven your vehicle, so make sure it cooled down before you do any work. You also need proper equipment to lift the vehicle. Do not jack it up and work on it while it is on jacks. This is dangerous and unsecure. You could be seriously injured. Always work on flat ground as well.
Repairing the Pipe
Replacing the pipe is a little more involved because you have to remove the old pipe and secure on the new pipe. You may need this done by a professional to ensure it is done properly. However, if you have welding experience or you are using a clamp-on part, you may be able to do it yourself. Just ensure that it is tight and secure once you get the new part on.
More likely, though, you will be repairing the pipe. A repair basically involves covering any holes, rips or other damage using the tail pipe bandage. It is an easy process that shouldn't really take very long to do.
Start by wrapping the flex pipe with a tail pipe bandage. You don't want to just wrap the damaged area. You should wrap the whole pipe from one end to the other. You want to do multiple layers of wrap. Usually two to three layers is recommended. However, do not go overboard and wrap it too much. Never do more than three layers of wrapping. As you wrap, make sure you keep it tight.
The next step is to cover the wrap with exhaust sealer on the ends. This will secure the wrap. You want to wait for the sealer to dry before you continue on, but it should do so within minutes.
Now, you need to cover the bandage with exhaust heat shield. This will protect it from the heat of the exhaust system and increase the life span of the repair. You just wrap the heat shield over the bandage and clamp it into place of each end. Make sure the clamps are secure. You have different options in the type of clamp, but the most common uses screws to secure them in place.
Once you have completed the repair, you should turn on the vehicle and run it for a little bit. Then, let it cool and check the repair to make sure it is holding.
Repairing your vehicle's flex pipe can save you a lot of money. This repair is pretty easy to do on your own. Plus, doing it yourself will help you get back on the road a lot quicker. If you take it to a repair shop, the chances are very good they will suggest a full replacement of your exhaust, which is very time-consuming and expensive. There really is no need to do that if you just need a simple repair. So, if you notice your exhaust is loud and, after checking it out, see that it is the flex pipe, then give a repair a shot.