Imagine its a lovely sunny day, the windows are rolled down, you’re driving along, and ‘clang clang clang’ the heat shields lose. You will automatically ask yourself whether you can remove the exhaust heat shield from your car. But, before you do, you should consider the consequences; what might seem like a quick innocent modification also carries risks covered in this article.
What does an exhaust heat shield do?
There are two different types of heat shields found under vehicles; one is attached to the underside of the car. The other is connected to different exhaust parts like the manifold or catalytic converter. Typically they are constructed from steel or aluminum, so they tend to rust and give you that annoying rattle when they become loose.
The heat shield attached to the car is usually attached to the exhaust tunnel, which runs from the engine to the back of the vehicle. Its job is to stop the car’s underside from heating by absorbing the exhaust’s heat. An exhaust, even at the rear muffler (the coldest part), can reach temperatures of +500 degrees Fahrenheit just from regular driving. With some spirited driving, it can get much higher.
The catalytic converter heat shield has two jobs. One is to protect the underside of the car from heat. The other job is to protect the catalytic converter from impacts; it is the most expensive part of the exhaust to replace and thus needs the most protection. Not all catalytic converters have a separate heat shield; if you’re sticking your head underneath and can’t see yours doesn’t, it will probably just have one attached to the undercarriage.
How important is the exhaust heat shield?
The exhaust heat shield is essential because of the temperatures exhausts can reach; without it in place, the car’s underside is not protected from extreme heat. If any ignitable debris like paper receipts or sweet wrappers were to somehow get under the carpet, there could be a fire hazard. You might think that will never happen, but if you’ve removed a car carpet before, you’ll find wrappers slide down the side of the handbrake and end up where you think they couldn’t get.
Another thing you might think is that car carpets are fire or heatproof; however, that is not the case. However, the likelihood of the carpet catching light from the heat without a spark is slim. It’s not impossible; to reiterate, the heat shield is essential.
Can I remove the heat shield from my car?
Although the heat shield can be removed very easily with just a few small tools, you shouldn’t for reasons indicated above. The only time you should consider removing the heat shield is if you’re repairing or replacing it.
You will find some mechanics’ advice is to do away with the heat shield completely, and while that’s ok 99% of the time. Realistically, you’ll probably experience no issues, but it’s that one journey where you could drive for 5-6 hours straight, the exhaust will get very hot, and thus the underside of the car could get hot enough to cause a problem. For that reason, you shouldn’t remove the heat shield, but if you decide to remove it on your own head, be it.
How to fix a loose heat shield
Repairing a loose exhaust heat shield is a fairly simple process that can be completed in a few steps:
- Tighten – The exhaust shield is typically held in place with bolts, nuts, or clamps. Use a wrench or socket set to tighten the bolts or clamps holding the shield in place. If any bolts are stripped or damaged, replace them with new ones.
- Use a metal hose clamp – If the clamps are missing or cannot be tightened enough to secure the shield in place, you can use a metal hose clamp to hold it in place. Wrap the clamp around the shield and exhaust pipe, and tighten.
- Use penny washer – This only works on heat shields secured to the car’s underside when the heat shield has rusted. Use an oversized penny washer larger than the rusted hole, retighten using the original bolt, or use a self-tapping screw to re-secure the car’s underside. (not advisable if you have no clue what’s on the other side of your vehicle)
- Replace – You can sometimes buy an exact replacement heat shield. But if it’s unavailable, you can buy the material in large sheets for a universal option. Create your own and secure using the original mounting points.
Can Aluminum Foil be used as heat shield?
Aluminum foil can be used as a solution to protect the car’s underside from exhaust heat, but it is not recommended to wrap it around the exhuast it any way.
Aluminum foil is not designed to withstand the exhaust system’s high temperatures and harsh conditions. Over time, it can deteriorate, melt, or even catch fire. This could cause severe damage to your vehicle and potentially pose a safety risk.
You can use aluminum foil by scrunching it into a large ball, flattening it to create a large washer, and drilling a hole in the middle for the bolt to go through to secure the original heat shield back in place.
A car exhaust heat shield is a vital safety component that should remain in place. To answer, can you remove a heat shield? The answer should always be no; sadly, that’s not the case. Some people tend to rip them off without considering the risks. It would be best if you always tried to repair or replace the heat shield; it is straightforward to resecure a heat shield and stop that annoying rattle.