An exhaust manifold leak can be very damaging to your engine if it's not taken care of in a timely manner. A leaking exhaust manifold gasket can cause a burned exhaust valve, which can cause exhaust from the combustion chamber to flow the wrong way into the the intake manifold.
On smaller-displacement engines in front wheel drive cars and most engines in rear wheel drive cars, replacing a leaking exhaust manifold gasket is quite easy.
What It Takes
As stated, replacing a gasket causing an exhaust manifold leak is quite easy. You'll need a couple of wrenches or deep sockets to remove the manifold. You'll also need something to remove traces of the old gasket. Emery cloth or some very light grit sandpaper is perfect for this, but we've found that a small scraper works best, especially in tight confines. You can pick up these scrapers from Home Depot or Lowe's.
Typically, most shops use what is known as a parts and labor guide to determine how many hours of labor to charge for any given repair. Usually, this type of repair will run between two and three hours. Most independent shops charge around $80 to $90 an hour, so it should cost between $160 and $270 in labor. At a dealership, with a labor rate of approximately $110 an hour, you can expect a labor bill of between $220 and $330. Of course, if you plan on replacing the leaking gasket yourself, there will be no labor cost involved, and you can learn something to add to your arsenal of Things Every Guy Should Know.
The cost of the replacement gasket will vary depending on make, model and year of your car and how many cylinders the engine has. For example, on a 2000 Chevrolet Impala, you can expect to pay between $18 and $28 at your local auto parts chain retailer for the gasket itself. This price will increase to around $50 if you go to the dealership, but an aftermarket gasket will work perfectly fine in this situation.
With the prices quoted above, you can expect a cost of $18 at the low end for do it yourself repairs to as high as almost $400 at a dealership to repair an exhaust manifold leak.
Creative Commons photo by VirtualEm