Exhaust leaks in a motorcycle can be frustrating to identify and can be damaging to your motorcycle health if left unchecked.
While it is difficult to locate an exhaust leak unless you actively search for it, there are symptoms that the bike shows which can be used as indicators of an exhaust leak in your motorcycle.
So, what are the symptoms of a motorcycle exhaust leak? Here are the 7 motorcycle exhaust leak symptoms that you should be aware of when faced with a leak in your bike exhaust.
- Bluing of Exhaust Pipe
- Exhaust Popping
- Scorch Marks
- Higher Noise Levels in Exhaust
- Burning Smell
- Decreased Power and Acceleration
- Overheated Exhaust Pipe
Let us discuss each of these symptoms in detail one by one.
#1 Bluing of Exhaust Pipe
Whenever there is a leak in the exhaustion system, there will be excessive heat going through the exhaust pipes. The exhaust metal, as a result, can start forming an oxidized layer on its surface due to the extreme heat.
This oxidized layer colors the exhaust pipe, most commonly in blue. Other possible oxidized layer colors include yellow, orange and even red.
Any kind of leakage in the exhaustion system causes the temperature of the exhaust gases going through the exhaust pipe to soar high.
As the temperature rises, the stainless-steel material of the exhaust pipe start oxidizing, giving rise to the exhaust pipe bluing.
Now, all leaks in the exhaust might not lead to coloring of the exhaust pipe. However, if the exhaust pipe has turned blue, then there is a high chance that there is a leakage in the exhaust pipe.
Whenever you find your exhaust pipe starts changing its color, it provides a clear indication that there is something going on with the exhaust system. The most likely scenario is that there is a leakage in exhaust.
While the bluing of pipe can also be caused by incorrect fuel mixture or mistimed ignition, the leaks in the exhaust is definitely a major cause. It is better to check the root cause as soon as you see your exhaust pipe turning blue.
#2 Exhaust Popping
Exhaust popping occurs when excessive hot air detonates the unburnt fuel coming to the exhaust. This detonation of the unburnt fuel usually produces a pop-pop sound, which is commonly called as exhaust popping.
While the presence of unburnt fuel in an exhaust is not an irregular occurrence, the presence of excessive air is.
The entry of such amount of air for detonation can only come from two places.
First, in a high flowing exhaust system. If your motorcycle has a larger opening at the back and a short pipe, then it is a high flowing exhaust system. The air can enter the exhaust through the large exhaust opening.
While this causes popping, it does not concern with any exhaust leaks.
The second way, however, the air can enter the exhaust is through any leaks. This excess air in the exhaust will react with the unburnt fuel to cause popping.
That’s why, exhaust popping provides a major indication of a leak if you don’t have a short and large opening exhaust pipe. Whenever you hear the popping sound, it is better to take a look around the exhaust system for any sort of leakages.
#3 Scorch Marks
Scorch marks on the exhaust system components is another symptom of exhaust leakage in your motorcycle.
Whenever there is a leak, it provides a shortcut path for the exhaust gases to escape out into the atmosphere. During this escape, the outer material of the component where there is the leak, will come in contact with the high temperature exhaust gases.
When the component outer layer and the hot exhaust gas come in contact, there is a high probability of reaction between the metal and the gas. Most commonly, an oxidized layer or a burning mark will be formed.
Irrespective of the kind of reaction between the metal surface of the leaking component and the exhaust gas, there will be a trace formed in the form of scorch marks.
This provides us a way to identify where the exhaust leak is happening the motorcycle.
So, when faced with scorch marks on an exhaust system component specially burning scorch marks, it provides us an indication that the exhaust is leaking in the motorcycle.
Whether the material is chrome, steel, aluminium, or plastic, the overheated exhaust gas leak is bound to leave a mark. Look out for any scorch marks on the exhaust system if you suspect a leak.
#4 Higher Noise Levels in Exhaust
Whenever there is a leak in the motorcycle exhaust, the noise level will be usually higher than the normal.
Larger the leak, more will be the erratic noise levels. A puffing sound may clearly be audible if you have a big leak in your motorcycle exhaust.
Another symptom of a major exhaust leak is the change in exhaust sound. In a normal scenario, the mufflers will usually suppress most of the noise. However, when there is an exhaust leak, the exhaust gas will now have an alternate path to escape out other than through the mufflers.
As a result, either the noise seems strange with puffing sounds or the noise altogether gets louder.
So, whenever you feel the exhaust noise is erratic or the sound is louder than the usual, it can be a symptom of a leakage in your motorcycle exhaust system.
#5 Burning Smell
Another way to tell if there is a leak in your motorcycle exhaust system is the burning smell coming near thee exhaust system.
Any leaks in the exhaust, will allow the exhaust gases and unburnt fuel to escape through the leak to the outside atmosphere.
The exhaust gases will be hot with the temperature soaring above 800 degree Celsius sometimes. And when the exhaust gases come in contact with the outer surface of the leaking exhaust component, the material will start to burn.
Additionally, the exhaust can also contain unburnt fuel. This fuel when comes in contact with excess air through the leak, will detonate. The detonation will again burn the surface material of the leaking component.
The material can be chrome, steel, aluminium alloy or plastic. There will be some degree of burning. That’s why scorch marks are such a good symptom for an exhaust leak in a motorcycle.
Along with scorch marks, which can be observed only if you are actively looking, burning smell compliments as a very good indicator for an exhaust leak.
However, the corollary can be quite confusing. That is, if there is a burning smell, does that mean there is an exhaust leak?
Not necessarily true. The burning smell can also originate from other components, specially from the combustion engine.
However, if you have any of the above symptoms that match along with a burning smell, then you can be sure that there is an exhaust leak in your motorcycle.
#6 Overheated Exhaust Pipe
The bluing or coloring of the exhaust will not be an overnight phenomenon. It takes a longer exposure of overheated exhaust gases to change the color of the exhaust pipe.
While the bluing and coloring will definitely reinforce the possibility of an exhaust leak, a more immediate symptom is an overheated exhaust pipe.
Think about this, how does the exhaust pipe turn blue? Or for any other color like yellow, orange or even red for that matter?
The answer is the overheated exhaust gases forms an oxidized layer on its surface due to the extreme heat. Now, even if the oxidized layer is not formed, one thing we can certain is the overheated exhaust pipe.
Exhaust pipe in general are at higher temperatures. However, when there is a leak, the temperature soar to extreme levels. You can try with a drop of water falling on the exhaust pipe. If it evaporates with a sound at too fast a pace, you can be sure the exhaust pipe is overheated.
#7 Decreased Power and Acceleration
The last symptom of an exhaust leak in a motorcycle is the decreased power and acceleration of the bike along with reduced fuel efficiency.
Yeah, this symptom can be confusing at times. You wont even recognize this symptom if you have not been riding your motorcycle for a long time.
However, if you are riding your bike for some time, you will easily notice any drop in your power and acceleration.
Also, if you are one to track the fuel efficiency, then you will definitely notice a significant drop in the mileage of the motorcycle.
So, any drop in power, acceleration and fuel efficiency is a cause of concern. While this drop may not necessarily correlate with an exhaust leak, it is still a major symptom that one notices whenever there is an exhaust leak in the motorcycle.
If you have an exhaust leak in your motorcycle, then you will start facing problems in acceleration and power and the mileage will start reducing day by day for your motorcycle.
How to Identify an Exhaust Leak in a Motorcycle?
Here, the above symptoms will help us in guiding where the exhaust leak is happening in the motorcycle.
The scorch marks combined with a burning smell around that area is a clear indication of an exhaust leak. If you see any gases passing through near the scorch mark, it is a confirmation for the exhaust leak.
Exhaust popping can also help in locating the leakage. The tone of popping noise can indicate how close the leak or multiple leaks are to the actual exhaust manifold or even the exhaust valve itself.
Most commonly the leaks will be in the connections. Try checking the connections first. Mufflers to head pipes, head pipes to exhaust manifolds.
If the pipe is bluing or coloring up, locate the area where the color intensity is high.
Once you have an idea on where the leak is, use a non-inflammable maintenance spray to apply on the suspected areas. Spray it sparingly to locate the exact location of the leak. If you have to start the engine to identify the leak more thoroughly, keep a fire suppressant handy. Having someone to assist you will help a lot as well.
Will an Exhaust Leak Hurt your Motorcycle?
Exhaust leak will hurt the motorcycle and hampers its performance severely in the long run as well.
The exhaust system will always be overheated resulting in regular detonation of unburnt fuel in the exhaust, oxidization of exhaust pipe material, increased temperatures of the components.
These soaring operating temperatures will damage the exhaust components. While the exhaust system is built to withstand higher temperatures, these extreme heats will induce fatigue overtime to reduce the lifetime of the components.
In addition, the motorcycle performance, the power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency will start taking a hit and you will start noticing a significant blip in the performance of your motorcycle.
Overall, an exhaust leak will hurt your motorcycle by damaging the exhaust system components overtime as well as reducing the motorcycle performance in terms of power, acceleration and fuel efficiency.