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5 Different Types of Mufflers for Cars

Shiny steel straight-through silencer on car.

The muffler of any vehicle is an important component. The layperson looks at it as an integral part that keeps the car quieter on the road, and this is exactly what it does.

However, without a good muffler and exhaust system, your car is not only making noise but also burning fuel and slowing down its performance. It is that fuel-burning that makes the noise a muffler makes, and when this happens, the car needs to work a little harder to run.

There are mufflers designed for every type of car, but only a few types of mufflers are available on the market. Learn about the different types of mufflers and how to understand them better here.

What is Muffler?             

A muffler is a component of the vehicle that helps your car to decrease the amount of pressure that is caused by fuel emissions. It is this pressure that creates the noise your car makes when you don’t have a muffler.

A muffler ensures those gases are emitted into the environment quietly. When the pressure is high, so are the noises from the car. Gases from inside the vehicle will expand and then cool down in the muffler of the vehicle.

Muffler capacity is an important part of the muffler and exhaust system. The larger the muffler, the more room the gases from the vehicle have to expand.  The muffler also needs to be free of any restrictions, so that the pressure can not expand at all.

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When a muffler has been lost on a car, the noise is immediate. That is because high-pressure gas goes into the atmosphere. In some cars, it sounds like a gun firing or an equally loud noise.

The pressure in the gas inside the car is much different than the pressure of the air it is expelled into. When those two pressures collide, the noise follows. You will find the muffler located between the exhaust pipe and the tailpipe of the vehicle.

Benefits of a Muffler

Mufflers are designed in a number of different ways, with many of them being oval. That allows the muffler to be built into the underside of the car, and still gives the car some ground clearance.

They are typically made of either steel or aluminum in order to provide corrosion resistance.

Mufflers are also made with small holes on the inside, and these are used to drain out any condensation from the gases, and also to help with corrosion resistance. These designs all contribute to the many benefits of a muffler.

The key benefit of a muffler, and why they were invented, is to conserve sound pollution. Mufflers make for a quiet ride.  You don’t actually need a muffler on a car if you can handle its performance issues without one.

A car will still drive just fine without one. Another benefit is the increase in horsepower capabilities that you have when you have a good muffler.

A good muffler ensures there is more airflow through and out of the car in order to eliminate the pressure on the engine. When this happens, you can drive the car with more power.

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Fuel performance and economy is also listed as a common benefit of mufflers, but it isn’t a significant drop in performance here.

Your car by nature has to work a little harder without a muffler, but the fuel economy difference, although noticeable, usually isn’t cost-prohibitive to running the vehicle.

What to Look For in a Muffler

Inside the muffler with green tubes.

When you are looking for a muffler or looking at muffler components, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

You want to know what materials it is made of, what the sound levels are with it, and what sort of exhaust configuration and emissions testing the muffler can provide.

Sound muffling is the key benefit of a muffler, and the key reason many car owners will have theirs replaced. Chambered mufflers are going to muffle the sound more, while mufflers with glass packs will make for a crackle sound.

You also have to consider that because the muffler is on the outside of the car, it takes the most heat on the road than many other vehicle components. It is susceptible to debris, water, and salt.

These will eventually corrode the component, even with the best possible muffler on the market. This makes aluminum and steel the most popular materials for mufflers today, although these materials are susceptible to rusting faster in salt-prone areas.

You also need to look at whether or not you want a single or dual exhaust configuration. For dual exhaust designs, you are going to be looking at a higher cost because it will be two mufflers and tailpipes for the vehicle.

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Another important thing to consider when purchasing a muffler is whether or not it will pass smog and emissions testing. Before you get the car fixed, check your local regulations to see what is needed to pass smog and emissions testing in your area.

Types of Mufflers

1. Baffle Silencer Mufflers

Baffle silencer type of muffler on black car.

The baffle silencer mufflers silence the gas in the vehicle through holes that are formed into the silencer tubes of the muffler and exhaust system. With every muffler, there are silencer tubes.

In this muffler, there are holes formed in the tube to muffle the pulses of the gas reactions. A baffle is then used to direct the gas out of the vehicle.

A baffle is a vane or webbing, or even a panel that directs liquid and gas flow in industrial products. You can find it in stoves, tanks, and many other heat exchange systems.

Standards for these products are outlined by the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association (TEMA) and these standards are found in your everyday baffle silencer muffler.

These baffles are then welded into the cylinders in the muffler pipes, to close the exhaust passage. This is the most common kind of muffler as it is the most affordable, and is found on most factory-built vehicles.

Many car owners will modify their vehicles to have turbo-charged mufflers, but many also will not care about what kind of muffler is on their car.

The functionality of these kinds of mufflers lies in their ability to restrict exhaust gas, which will give the emitted gas a longer area to travel, and thus more room to decrease in pressure as they travel.

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2. Turbo Silencer Mufflers  

Turbo silencer muffler on table.

Turbo silencer mufflers are the next most common kind of muffler and offer a curved path or S-shaped path for gas to move through.

The gas moves through these curved pipes and then enters the silencer before leaving the pipes and going out into the environment. This typically results in the poorer gas flow, but some people like that in their cars.

These mufflers use perforated pipes which will guide the exhaust through the S-shape and out of the vehicle. Some mechanics will call this restrictive, but it does provide for better noise control.

Many turbo mufflers will also add packing inside the muffler tubes in order to further muffle sounds. Turbo mufflers are considered to be one grade above the factory-grade mufflers.

There is some poorer gas flow and control here, but the silencing impact is noticeable. If you are looking for a slight upgrade of the muffler to your car, you will enjoy the silencing impact of a turbo silencer muffler.

3. Straight-Through Silencers

Straight-through silencer on white isolated surface.

Straight-through mufflers offer more perforations to help decrease the pressure of gas moving through your muffler pipes. There is much less restriction of flow here with these perforations than there is with a turbo silencer.

The perforations decrease the pressure by enabling the release of gas in a much more silent way than the other two kinds of mufflers offer.

These kinds of mufflers are also referred to as glass packs or cherry bombs. They can allow flow and will also help you to maximize the horsepower of your car.

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The perforated tubes are often packed with a fiberglass material to help enable the impact of silencing on your muffler. This is an excellent choice of the muffler and will offer a tremendous amount of silencing for your vehicle.

It is not going to offer you the same impact that a chamber-designed muffler will, which offers even more sound control.  

Still, car racers and roaders like this kind of muffler because it is compact and a middle-grade modification to the vehicle. This muffler, also called an absorber, was very popular in the 1970s for car racers and lowriders.

4. Chambered Performance Silencers

Chambered performance silencer on white isolated surface.

The chambered mufflers or performance silencers are popular mufflers to envy. They will offer both a meaty performance sound while still reducing the noise from the exhaust system.

Here, a number of inner chambers are used to turn the sound waves into an advantage on the vehicle.

When the pressurized gas moves between the chambers of this muffler style, the sound waves will bounce off each other and cancel each other out.

The more chambers for the gas to move in, the more noise reduction you can expect. Baffles may also be used here, and fiberglass inserts can also be added to these types of mufflers.

With these mufflers, the chambers are added to either the ends or the middle of the component. These chambers are also called resonance chambers and offer the vehicle a truly controlled exhaust sound.

These are also arguably notoriously better for the environment from an emissions standpoint.

5. Silencer Inlets

Silencer inlet on car.

The silencer inlet is not a type of muffler per se, but it can modify an existing muffler. The silencer inlet is a kind of muffler component. The components of a muffler include resonators, tubes, outlet, and the inlet.

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The outlet will emit the gas from the vehicle, and the resonator is the chamber where the main noise reduction takes place.

The inlet is the component that can attach to an exhaust system. Here, the pressurized gas will enter the inlet and then move through the muffler and out of the vehicle.

A silencer inlet is an additional component you can add to your muffler to change the type of muffler, and also increase the noise reduction in your car.

You’ll want to talk to your mechanic or check your owner’s manual, or both, to determine if the additional purchase of an inlet is a good idea, or is necessary when you are replacing your muffler.

With a silencer inlet, you may hear the term “coffee can muffler”. The benefit to this kind of muffler is that you will see an increase in your vehicle’s horsepower and also a significant amount of noise reduction.

Muffler Pricing

No matter what your lot in life, the cost is a factor in every decision, particularly when it comes to your car. The types of mufflers listed here are listed in order from the most affordable to the most expensive.

The average price for mufflers can range from as low as $60 to $300, and this is for the muffler alone.

If you have your entire exhaust system replaced, you could see much higher costs ranging into the $700 and $800 range, or even higher depending on the amount of work you are getting done. Labor costs will also be factored into every repair.

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The most expensive mufflers as a part alone will be between $100 and $300 as a typical price range. What you want to see here are mufflers that will improve your vehicle’s horsepower and also its overall performance.

If the muffler can offer warranties and corrosion resistance, even better. Mufflers are typically constructed with aluminum and steel.

This is to ensure they can withstand high pressurized gases, while also being corrosion resistant and resistant to debris and weathering. The least expensive material here is aluminum, but steel will last longer when it comes to these variables.