Exhaust pipes are more prone to wear and tear than other parts of your car, so learning how to weld an exhaust yourself is a useful and cost effective skill. Welding an exhaust can feel like a daunting task to novice welders and seasoned professionals alike. However, with a little prep work and some expert tips, anyone with access to welding equipment can repair their own exhaust.
Understanding an Exhaust System
First, understanding at least from a high-level what an exhaust system is, the importance in the performance and efficiency of a vehicle, as well as the health of the environment goes a long way in learning how to weld an exhaust.
At its core, an exhaust system is a series of components in a vehicle that help to remove the burned gasses from the engine and provide a clean and safe path for the gasses to exit out of the vehicle.
The primary components of an exhaust system include the following:
- Exhaust manifold – collects the gasses from the engine’s cylinders and directs them into the rest of the exhaust system
- Catalytic converter – helps to reduce harmful emissions from the gasses
- Muffler – helps to reduce noise
- Tailpipe – carries the gasses to the back of the vehicle and out into the atmosphere
Equipment and Supplies Needed to Weld an Exhaust:
To get started, you will need to round up your supplies. If you don’t weld on a regular basis, you may not have access to a MIG machine. While MIG is the preferred method for welding an exhaust, many beginner welders have had great success with Flux welding. You will have the best success using the welder that you are most comfortable operating. Whatever welder you use, the basic technique will remain the same. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the settings and use of your particular welding machine. It can be helpful to practice on scrap pipes of a similar thickness prior to beginning this project.
To weld an exhaust system, you will need the following equipment and supplies:
- Welder – You will need a welding machine that is capable of welding exhaust components, such as a MIG welder or a TIG welder. The type of welding machine you use will depend on the materials you are welding and your personal preference.
- Drill with steel wire wheel attachment – You may need metal cutting tools, such as a hacksaw or metal cutting snips, to cut the components to the correct size.
- Welding mask or helmet – A welding helmet will protect your face and eyes from the bright light and flying debris that is generated during the welding process.
- Welding gloves – Welding gloves will protect your hands from heat and flying debris while welding.
- Flame resistant clothing – It is also important to wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants, to protect your skin from flying debris and sparks.
- Welding wire – You will need welding wire that is appropriate for the materials you are welding. For example, if you are welding stainless steel exhaust components, you will need stainless steel welding wire.
- Welding clamps – or C clamps/clips/etc to hold pipe in place
- Grinder or sandpaper: A grinder or sandpaper will be necessary for cleaning and preparing the surfaces of the components to be welded.
Careful prep work is key to any successful welding job. Before you begin the welding process, it is important that you prepare your workspace, your attire, and your materials. This will ensure both safety and an effective weld.
How to Weld an Exhaust Pipe:
Begin preparing your pipe by using your drill and steel wire wheel attachment. Remove any paint, rust, and protective coatings. Creating a rough surface on the ends that will be welded helps to form a strong bond. If the existing exhaust pipe has an uneven edge from wear, trim it to a clean edge prior to cleaning.
Fit the end of the new pipe into (or against) the existing exhaust pipe. Use the c clamps, clips, or other tools to secure the pipe and exhaust in place. You will need both hands free to complete the welding.
Adjust the settings on your welding machine. Depending on the style and manufacture of the machine you are using, settings will vary. It is a good rule of thumb to start at a low temperature for the thin metals used in exhaust piping. If your heat is set too high, you risk burning through the pipe during the welding process.
Once your materials are prepared, arrange your workspace with all necessary supplies and equipment. Make sure you are wearing flame resistant clothing and put on your welding mask and gloves.
Start the welding process by tack welding around the circumference of the joined pipe seam. This will create a secure base for your weld.
Next, weld a continuous line around the joint where the pipes meet. This weld will go over the previously placed tack welding. As you weld, use a “down and up” motion. Using quick precise movements, dip into the pool and drag upwards against the seam. Be sure to go at a steady pace as you weld and avoid spending too much time in one spot. Moving too quickly will cause the line to stack. Allow the weld to cool down before adjusting the exhaust in the case it needs to be readjusted during the welding process. Once the weld is complete, allow it to fully cool before removing the clamps.
Once the weld is cooled, use the drill with the wire brush wheel attachment to remove any excess weld material and other debris. You can follow up with sanding or other tools for a smooth finish if desired.
Inspect the weld on the exhaust to ensure that the line is consistent. If needed, you can go back in and patch any areas that need reinforcement.
Once you are satisfied with your weld, it is time to test your work. The best way to ensure that the exhaust has been welded properly is to turn the vehicle on and allow it to idle. Inspect the emissions as the car idles. If you do not identify any defects, you have successfully welded your exhaust. Now it’s time to celebrate with a joyride!
You don’t have to be a mechanic or a welder to replace a worn out exhaust.