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A Holey Muffler

Q. I have an 88 Beretta with 123,000 which I have been putting money into, I want to stop. I have two holes in my muffler one is longer than 3". I went to a parts store and they had this tape that was 3" in width. Can I put some kind of sheet metal between the tape and the hole? Do I need some kind of metal that can withstand high heat. Can I use a piece of aluminum siding, or even a piece of a can? I think the siding is painted. I assume the paint will burn off, would this be a problem?

Thank you.

A. When I was a wee nipper just starting out in this business, I was working in a muffler shop on Long Island, NY. One day a guy comes in with a 1969 Chevy Impala and asks for a price on a muffler and tailpipe for his car. I was wondering why he wanted a new muffler and tailpipe because the car was so quiet, that even standing next to it, you couldn't here it run. I gave him the price and he said go ahead and do it.

I pulled the car into the shop and onto the lift. I put it in the air and what I saw still amazes me. The muffler and tailpipe were gone... not even there. Just a space where they were supposed to be. What this gentleman had done was take a Coke can, punched a bunch of holes in the bottom and cut the top off. He had stuffed it with steel wool and used a radiator hose clamp to clamp it to the exhaust pipe. That soda can stuffed with steel wool did a better job of quieting the car than the new muffler did.

Having worked in a muffler shop I have seen all kinds of patches and repairs. The one thing they all had in common is that they didn't last long. Mufflers rot from the inside out so patching one hole today will not stop a new one next week.

What you have in mind is as sound a plan as any. I would cut the top and bottom off an aluminum can and then cut it end to end to get some material to work with Cut a piece large enough to cover the hole and apply the tape. If the area around the hole is fairly clean and free of rust, I would also try putting a bead of liquid steel around the hole and use that to seal the aluminum to the muffler. Then wrap the tape around the patch and that should do it for you.

The thing I would worry about is sealing it well enough so there's no chance of exhaust fumes getting into the passenger compartment. Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide and breathing it in will result in death. So be careful to do as good a job as you can.

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