What are Exhaust Emissions?

Anna Brooks

Exhaust emissions are pollutants that come out of a car's tailpipe when the engine is running. These emissions can reduce the quality of nearby air, an effect that is greatly multiplied in densely populated areas that have a lot of cars on the roads. Many scientists believe that the combined effect of exhaust emissions and other particulates released into the atmosphere through industry is leading to global climate change.

Hybrid cars have fewer exhaust emissions.
Hybrid cars have fewer exhaust emissions.

A car engine produces a lot of emissions, some of which are treated inside the car's catalytic converter by a chemical process that makes them less hazardous. When a car's exhaust emissions are checked during an inspection, it is usually the failure of the catalytic converter that causes them to be higher than permitted levels. It may also be a problem of the muffler, which is the next stop for gases in an exhaust system.

Gasoline-powered cars release greenhouse gases in their exhaust emissions.
Gasoline-powered cars release greenhouse gases in their exhaust emissions.

Even if all of the parts of a car's emissions control system are working properly, there is still potential harm to the atmosphere from the exhaust emissions that are released. Larger cars or SUVs, sometimes referred to as "gas guzzlers," consume greater amounts of gasoline and thus produce more exhaust emissions. Hybrid cars that run off of a combination of gasoline and a rechargeable electrical source, however, produce fewer exhaust emissions.

The EGR valve filters vapors to help prevent excess pollutants from being released in a car's exhaust emissions.
The EGR valve filters vapors to help prevent excess pollutants from being released in a car's exhaust emissions.

Some car manufacturers are moving toward reducing exhaust emissions through improved designs. Many governing bodies are also setting limits that new vehicles will have to conform to before they can be on the roads. Many scientists around the globe are also working toward finding alternatives to gasoline power for cars and other industrial needs, thereby eliminating exhaust emissions altogether.

Regular oil changes can ensure reduced exhaust emissions.
Regular oil changes can ensure reduced exhaust emissions.

Since it isn't possible for everyone to purchase newer cars that are more effective at dealing with harmful exhaust emissions, individuals can help reduce exhaust emissions from their current vehicles by properly maintaining them. The better a car is functioning, the fewer harmful gases it releases. As part of maintaining their vehicle, car owners should check that tires are properly inflated, that oil changes are performed regularly, and that the car is never left to idle for more than a few moments. Driving at or near the speed limit is also important because faster speeds burn more gas and produce more emissions. Finally, carpooling or taking public transportation is a great way to reduce exhaust emissions because it keeps more cars off the road.

Exhaust emissions exit a car through a tailpipe.
Exhaust emissions exit a car through a tailpipe.
Car owners should check that tires are properly inflated as part of maintaining their vehicle.
Car owners should check that tires are properly inflated as part of maintaining their vehicle.
Car exhaust, especially from larger vehicles, is a major source of air pollution.
Car exhaust, especially from larger vehicles, is a major source of air pollution.

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