Easy Tips and Tools for Cutting an Exhaust Pipe at Home

An exhaust pipe.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-500
What You'll Need
Bench vise
Tape measure
Permanent marker
24 teeth-per-inch (TPI) saw blades
Reciprocating saw
Half-round file
Safety glasses
Gloves
What You'll Need
Bench vise
Tape measure
Permanent marker
24 teeth-per-inch (TPI) saw blades
Reciprocating saw
Half-round file
Safety glasses
Gloves

If you have to cut exhaust pipe, you can use several different tools. Read on to learn how to cut exhaust pipe and what the best exhaust pipe cutter is.

Why Might Someone Need to Cut an Exhaust Pipe?

The exhaust pipe actually covers quite a distance along the underneath side of the vehicle.

We most commonly think of the tailpipe because it’s the part that’s most visible from standing height beside the car. However, the exhaust pipe includes everything before and after the muffler. That’s a lot of opportunity for rust, impact damage, or other general wear and tear.

If the exhaust pipe is cracked, it affects the airflow and will need to be replaced. You may choose to replace a section of pipe, or you may decide to replace the entire thing end to end.

Some people appreciate the roar of a loud engine. Since the muffler’s job is to soften this noise, removing it results in a much louder vehicle. For this reason, some people cut the exhaust pipe in order to remove the muffler just so the vehicle roars with noise.

Called muffler delete, in older car models the process may improve the horsepower of the vehicle slightly. Most experts agree that’s not the case with newer models.

Exhaust Pipe Function

Stainless steel exhaust pipe is very important as it allows the release of exhaust gasses. You don’t want those nasty toxins building up inside your engine or flowing into the interior of the car.

The exhaust pipe also helps to improve the functioning of the engine so it can last longer.

It also prevents overheating of the engine when the hot air and other gasses are let out. It is designed to withstand toxic gasses and is heat resistant.

This durability is handy when encountering salt, oil, grease, water, snow, gravel, and other elements on the road’s surface.

Finally, the exhaust pipe helps filter out pollutants and reduce noise pollution.

It serves as a chimney and a sieve for the vehicle, so it has an important job to do. Accordingly, proper care and placement is crucial.

Tips for Cutting an Exhaust Pipe

1. Prep Safety Equipment

While cutting the pipe, take every safety precaution. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes against small shards of metal that commonly fly around when cutting through an exhaust pipe. You’ll also be protecting against flying sparks.

If you’re using a loud saw, or if the manual saw you choose makes a screeching noise on the metal, ear protection is recommended.

In addition, be sure clothing doesn’t have loose sleeves or dangling bits of fabric that can get caught in a saw blade. Always wear gloves rated for metal work to protect against cuts.

It’s easiest, and safest, to cut through an exhaust pipe that has been removed from the vehicle, but cutting a stainless steel exhaust pipe is possible, and often necessary, when it’s still mounted to the vehicle.

2. Take Accurate Measurements

If you’re cutting off a section of pipe, measure the required length of the pipe with a tape measure and mark the length with a marker on the pipe so you know where you need to make the pipe.

Always measure more than once to verify accuracy. You don’t want to find yourself short. Less of a concern, but still annoying, is having to make a second cut to shorten the pipe further.

3. Mark Your Cut

Depending on the reason for cutting your exhaust pipe, you’ll want to carefully consider the location of the cut. Be sure to allow enough space to make welds when it’s time for the next step in the process.

If you’re simply making the cut to remove and dispose of the pipe, this is less of a concern.

When cutting through an exhaust pipe, you’ll want to get it right the first time. This means making sure you’ve got the blade lined up precisely. Marking a line or using the edge of carefully placed tape are two ways to ensure accuracy.

In the first technique, you can mark equal measurements on several sides of the pipe. Then use a permanent marker to mark every 0.25 inches on the pipe, using the measuring tape as a guide.

The finished line will look like a dotted line all around the pipe. After you’re done marking, remeasure each dash to ensure accuracy.

Another way to measure the cut location is to use any kind of tape around the pipe. This is an easy and inexpensive way to mark the precise area for your cut.

Pick any tape that sticks to metal for this task. Wrap the tape around the pipe, making sure the sides of the wrap are even and square on the exhaust pipe in alignment with your measurements.

You will overlap the ends of the tape, aligning the tops and bottoms to ensure it’s straight all the way around. You can use the edge of the tape as a guide.

Even better, make a cut line using a permanent marker by following the edge of the tape around the pipe. You can then remove the tape, or wait until after you make the cut.

4. Secure the Pipe

If you’re cutting the exhaust pipe off the vehicle, you can skip this step.

Not all types of cutting devices will require the pipe to be securely held in place, but most will. Use a bench vice to firmly lock it in place, keeping it from moving while you make the cut.

Make sure the pipe is firmly secured, but ensure the steel doesn’t get dented from too much pressure.

Verify you have at least three inches of space between the end of the vice jaw and your cutting location. You’ll want room to work without bumping the saw into the vice.

What Tool Could Be Used To Cut An Exhaust Pipe?

Choosing the right exhaust pipe cutter is the most important aspect of cutting through your exhaust pipe. You actually have several options.

There isn’t one right answer about the best way to cut exhaust pipe, so choose the saw you have, works best for you, or you’re most comfortable with.

Circular Saw

A a circular saw like this DEWALT 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Electric Brake will easily cut through an exhaust pipe. Your circular saw can be battery powered or electric, as long as it has enough power to make the cut.

Chop Saw

Chop saws are made to cut through large chunks of metal or wood. Make sure your chop saw has the appropriate blade for cutting through metal.

A model like this one will cut quickly. In fact, it’s probably the fastest way to cut through an exhaust pipe. The downside is the quick speed can cause injury from the hot metal chips that fly through the air.

This tool is the fastest way to cut an exhaust pipe, but it requires the right protective gear to use safely.

Chain Pipe Cutter or Tailpipe Cutter

This manual tool cuts through the wall of the exhaust tubing without throwing hot metal shavings around. It’s a great option if you’re not near your shop or don’t have a power source.

It’s also a rewarding way to earn a nice clean cut. It takes longer than any method with power tools, but it gets the job done nonetheless.

Tailpipe cutters are made specifically for this task, so they’re a solid choice regardless of your situation. It’s for this reason, many professional mechanics ditch the power tools and reach for one of these instead.

They are available in a range of sizes and some models are variable to adapt to sizes as small as ¾” to larger sizes over three inches.

To use a chain pipe cutter, wrap the chain with the cutting wheels around the exhaust pipe and lock the chain into place. The nice thing about the tailpipe cutter is it can be used on an exhaust pipe that is still on the vehicle, or for one in a vice.

Once the cutter is locked in place, rotate it around the pipe or make a back and forth motion if you don’t have a lot of room to work. Keep rotating it until the cutting wheels cut all the way through the exhaust pipe.

Reciprocating Saw

Also known as a Sawzall, reciprocating saws are a popular choice for cutting through exhaust pipe, especially where clearance and accessibility are a problem.

Cutting the exhaust pipe with a reciprocating saw is fast and efficient with the right blade. Typically, a reciprocating saw is used if the goal is simply to cut the exhaust piping away from the vehicle, such as if you plan to replace it.

If your muffler or anywhere along the pipe is rusted through, cracked, or otherwise damaged, cut it away with a reciprocating saw to make room for the new parts.

Reciprocating saws have a tendency to bounce around a bit. However, you can minimize this by controlling the rate of speed with the control knob.

This isn’t the best option if you’re going for a precise, clean cut.

Hacksaw

If you want to remove the exhaust pipe from your vehicle and are budget-minded, then a hacksaw is the cheapest choice.

While it might seem like an insignificant tool for the job, if you’re wondering if you can cut the exhaust pipe with a hacksaw, you can.

Cutting the exhaust pipe with a hacksaw isn’t the fastest or easiest choice, but it is a viable option to consider when the need arises.

If it’s the only tool option you have, it will get the job done. It just requires a bit more persistence and patience than other options on the list.

Cutting Exhaust Pipe with Angle Grinder

An angle grinder is a type of circular blade that moves quickly in a circle as it rotates.

It can be used for a variety of tasks, such as grinding away uneven areas and rough edges on a concrete floor. It can be used to cut off nails rather than removing them.

It’s also a good tool for cutting metal, so it makes sense it can be used for cutting through an exhaust pipe. However, there are significant safety concerns when it comes to using an angle grinder to do the job.

With a smooth blade on an angle grinder, it has the potential to kick back when you’re getting started on your cut. Don’t use an angle grinder from below if the exhaust pipe is still attached to the car for this reason.

Not only can the saw kick back into your face, beneath the cut is a poor location because the saw will assuredly throw sparks.

An angle grinder is certainly an option for cutting through an exhaust pipe or muffler, but is best used in an open space after the pipe has been removed from the vehicle.

Step 7 - Watch for Overheating

Metal on metal can be a hot affair. Watch for sparks. If the color of the steel on any type of blade or the exhaust pipe turns orange or red, stop sawing and allow it to cool.

Step 8 - Smooth the Edges

Depending on the type of saw you selected for cutting your exhaust pipe, you may have a very jagged edge to contend with. If you’re tossing the cut piece, you won’t need to worry about it.

If you were simply changing the length of the exhaust pipe and will be using it again, smooth out the rough edges with a metal file.

Use caution if you’ve just finished sawing, particularly with a reciprocating saw, because the metal can be quite hot.

There are a variety of reasons one might want to trim down an exhaust pipe and it’s a task most DIYers can handle.

Then you can move on to learn How to Install a Straight Exhaust Pipe or better understand 6 Advantages of a Flexible Exhaust Pipe.

hands holding an exhaust pipe

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