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Discussion Starter #1
My 1999 Grand Caravan needs a new muffler. It is an all welded assembly from the front of the catalytic converter to the tip of the tailpipe. I don't mind replacing the muffler and tailpipe but I hate to have to replace the converter and pipe if I don't have too. Do after market mufflers fit into or onto that pipe if I cut it? I would appreciate any ideas anyone has.
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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You shouldn't have to replace "everything". It would probably be best to have a reputable shop take a look (not a chain). They can probably install a new muffler for reasonable cost. Expect to have to replace everything from the muffler to the tailpipe. The question is do you want stainless steel or not. SS is moderately expensive, but will last quite a long time The OEM exhaust on your '99 was stainless steel - notice how long it's lasted - 14 years. If you opt for a regular steel muffler, expect to replace it in 3-4 years.

Exhaust work is something I just don't work on. I replaced the exhaust system on a '79 El Camino SS I had long ago (hand me down from my Dad). In the end I got it done, but it was nasty work - spent more time cutting it off than installing the new parts. I vowed then and there never to do exhaust work again unless it was minor. To me, it's worth paying someone else.
 

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This doesn't sound factory to me. The cat is a separate piece with a long pipe back to the muffler. The muffler assembly is clamped (maybe the clamp is gone?) to that pipe and includes the tailpipe and/or resonator depending on what engine you have going rearward over the rear axle.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Imperial Crown you are right. I went back with a wire brush and cleaned up the pipe and found where the joint is between the pipe and the muffler. The clamp looks like it been long gone. Looking at it now it looks like a no brainer, just typical exhaust work. Thanks for your input.
 

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I just read the thread and I have the same situation; my 98 GC's muffler is starting to sound loud. I was going to ask who does one turn to if not the chain stores? Walking in the front door, I have no clue as to the quality of the shop-chain or private. Looking at the pipe going into the muffler, it darn well looks lie a weldment. And it is the muffler that is going at the rear seam. I know that yeas ago, I took my 89 Caravan to the big M-chain and those guys were below he term grease monkey so I am leery everytime I need work and have been going to the dealership for everything from oil changes on up.
 

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Word of mouth or local BBB reviews are good for determining who to go to. I don't know what part of the US you live in as some muffler/brake chains are regional.
The dealer can install Mopar Value-line exhaust parts at a lowered labor rate and may be competitive in both price and warranty with the independent shops.
Walker probably makes most of the auto industry's exhaust parts.
Make sure that they are 'direct-fit' parts without having to mess around with pipe adapters and extensions. I have seen some poorly-fitting exhaust replacements in my time. Stay away from 'fits-all' universal muffler installations.
Most places have a lifetime muffler warranty and 1 year on the pipes. They don't mind eating a muffler every 4-5 years if it means getting you back in the door for more work.
The OEM stainless steel exhaust system can last over 10 years, but SS components are expensive.
 

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My Dodge service department doesn't do mufflers and told me that I am on my own. He had no recommendations regarding local shops. I live in a western Chicago neighborhood.
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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Agree with IC. Not all chain shops are badly managed. And, yes, SS components are pricey, but they do last longer than regular steel exhaust components. Most do use direct fit parts. Stay away from Sears - they tend to use "universal" parts and adapters to make it "fit".

Exhaust work is downright dirty, messy work. It's one job I don't mine letting a shop take care of. I don't care for having to break rusted clamps, pipes apart and getting rust particles in my eyes. I've done it on a few vehicles and as I have gotten older, it's just not worth hassling with.
 

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Agree with IC. Not all chain shops are badly managed. And, yes, SS components are pricey, but they do last longer than regular steel exhaust components. Most do use direct fit parts. Stay away from Sears - they tend to use "universal" parts and adapters to make it "fit".

Exhaust work is downright dirty, messy work. It's one job I don't mine letting a shop take care of. I don't care for having to break rusted clamps, pipes apart and getting rust particles in my eyes. I've done it on a few vehicles and as I have gotten older, it's just not worth hassling with.
That's why I switched many years ago to an AC-powered Dremel tool (up to 30,000 RPM) with a heavy-duty cutoff disk. Instead of using a hacksaw for an hour, I can get an exhaust system off in 10 minutes or less (and that's without using a vehicle lift).
 

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Agree with the use of a cut-off wheel. I use an air-powered die-grinder tool. It cuts like a knife through clamps and pipes. It is much safer and just as quick as acetylene torches.
Your experience may vary with different shops of the same chain. Not all technicians or managers are created equal. There will always be good ones and bad ones. Hopefully the bad ones are weeded out before you get there.
If you feel that you have been taken and can't resolve the issue with the shop manager, corporate would like to hear about it.
 

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To end my story, I took the van to the Merlin Muffler in Naperville which installed a new muffler. In at 8am and out at 10:30am. I guess the next thing to get repaired are my ears. The van seems so quiet now. While there, I had a chat with anothr customer who is a wrist watch repair technician. Being a ME myself, I was intrigued by the micro-world this guy works in (anything smaller than 1/4" is small to me).
 
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