Travelogue: Detonate Your Car's Muffler





Introduction: Travelogue: Detonate Your Car's Muffler

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

How did I grow to (the age of) adulthood without learning this one?
While racing your engine or just driving down the highway, turn the ignition off then on again. You'll hear one or more loud explosions. Bystanders will think they're being shot at. Possibly your muffler will be destroyed.
This works with gasoline engines.

How it works:
When you turn the key off, the sparkplugs no longer fire. So that perfect gas-air mixture your car was running on gets pumped into your exhaust system. Then when you turn the key back on the sparkplugs fire and the hot exhaust detonates the rich mixture in your exhaust system like a huge potato cannon.

I did it with an old pickup with no catalytic converter. With a catalytic converter things might be different, but you know what? I'm not going to test it.
If your car has been running for long enough to heat up the catalytic converter it will probably burn the fuel-air mix before too much builds up. If the converter is cold it might act as a spark arrestor. Either way might result in a smaller volume detonating at once. And any damage is likely to be more expensive.

This fun new trick has cost me $90 so far.

Step 1: Step Two: Get a New Muffler

My mom and I are driving from Minnesota to California in the best little truck ever built, a '78 Toyota with the 20R engine and a manual transmission. Right now we're in South Dakota.
My mom was driving. Her key for the truck isn't well cut so it tends to jam in the "start" position, which will burn out the starter. I heard a funny noise and wanted to make sure the starter wasn't grinding itself to death while the motor ran, so I turned the key back a notch, which turned off the spark, then back on.
KABANG! the truck jumped a bit and now was very loud with no muffler.
After checking the damage we kept going with earplugs in and switched to sign language. "Great Sunset"
and "There ought to be more boats on that river" are pretty easy to sign, even if you have to invent the language from scratch.

I would have beat it back into shape and welded it with coat hangers, but time is short and I don't get to see my mom that much, so I checked with the garage at the truck stop when we stopped for the night in Murdo, South Dakota.
Fortunately they had the right replacement muffler, so for $90 I got the thing replaced at 10pm on a sunday night. Wow. Thanks Cole Venard and Bob at the Triple H Truck Stop! (605)669-2465

I'll give the guys a break while they fix it and wander around the shop for a bit.

Step 2: Gawk at Truckstop Stuff Like Truck Testicles

I've been asleep for a hundred years, so excuse me if I don't already have a pair of giant rubber testicles hanging under my truck's bumper. These are a huge seller.

This sticker collection is really good too. I especially like "Hi. Eat me." and "You suck and that's sad". These are reusable stickers so you can put them on and off your windows as the mood suits.

For a dollar and thirty cents I bought a see-through lighter with a built-in flashlight and a compass that really works. Damn! Technology doesn't stop EVER!!!

Step 3: Wooden Block Ramps and a Nifty Chair

Back to the garage.
This chair is comfortable. The seat is made from the top of some kind of tank.

Here's a good use for all those chunks of studwood you've been hoarding. Make a pair of ramps. These raise the vehicle 4", just enough to get under it with a creeper, not enough to make it dangerous.

I'm sorry to leave this truckstop. Everyone is friendly and has good helpful things to say. I could have gotten a stainless steel muffler even. Maybe stayed here forever.

But in a few short weeks it's going to be a million degrees below zero here and blowing a hundred miles an hour. And now it's midnight and I better get to sleep or I'll miss Mt.Rushmore.
Good Night America!

Step 4: $100 Off Your Next Windshield, Cure for Grinding Starters.

In step 1 of this instructable is the story of how we drove the truck a long way with the starter on.
That was bad and damaged the gears of the starter, probably the flywheel as well.
Now when I turn the key there's usually just a grinding sound, no starting.

That's okay because this truck has a manual transmission and can be push started.
"Only own cars with manual transmissions" is the the 11th Commandment.
Actually, let's make that Commandment #1 and push the other Commandments back.
That's how important it is to having a happy life.

My mom is a good sport. Every time we push started the car she broke out laughing. A couple of times gangs of motorcyclists or tattoed youths with bad hair helped push the car.
Push-starting your car enables you to see people at their best.
It always makes people happy to see you run along your car pushing it, jump in, and have the engine fire right up when you pop the clutch in 2nd gear.

I thought I'd have to replace the starter and maybe the flywheel. I jacked it up a couple of times and crawled under it but lost enthusiasm and crawled back out.

So I had the cracked windshield replaced first. "I don't have insurance. How much to replace my windshield?" Those magic words will save you $100. Insurance is a hassle for everyone, and people don't shop for price for insurance jobs. Thus they charge you less if you say you don't have it. Try it. it's true. It works for me anyway.

Then I procrastinated more by paying my taxes, fixing and cleaning a toilet, got a couple more free boats, etc. etc. and finally it was time to fix the starter. Fortunately my pal Joe Van Niekerk from South Africa came sailing with me. He taught me a trick for starting a car with bad teeth. When you park your car, stop the motor by stepping on the brake, putting the car in gear, and letting out the clutch. That stalls the motor and stops it right away. That way the motor stops in a position where there are fresh teeth.
It works like a charm. After stopping the motor that way, the starter works perfectly every time because the flywheel teeth are fresh and sharp in that position and the starter gear engages well.
When you do it the usual way and stop the motor by turning off the ignition key it stops in the same old positions where the teeth are already shot, so the starter just grinds and doesn't mesh with them.

So there you have it.
Stall your motor and spare your starter.
And the magic words that save you $100 on your next windshield. Or any other bodywork for that matter.



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    49 Discussions

    Truck testicle, I lol'd. Never seen them in Germany :-P

    This is a great post. It's awesome to realize that car enthusiasts share their thoughts about cars especially the Muffler.

    yea i fly airplanes and they dont have mufflers but we have to shut the magnetos one by one and then off well i didnt do it quick enough and i got this big backfire. well that airplane is currently being worked on so yea

    10 replies

    interesting trick for airshows etc showing off is to wind the engine up using the starter and run the choke rich but turn on the ignition last thing you do, your exhaust should fire about 30feet of flames out of them and your engine will wind up to an extra high speed for a sec this is for turbo-prop obviously jet engines are a null point and in piston engines this doesn't really do anything but may jsut get it going when nothing else will but yeah I knew a pilot (emphasis on past tense) who did that in the air during an emergency restart by accident and saved himself that time unfortunately he died from a crash my supsicion is that he did that as a last resort all i know is an engine fire caused him to crash don't know if it was that or not due to the fact that I heard the plane was half on fire by the time it landed, crash landing went wrong and fuel tanks went I wasn't there but I suggest you don't do this as some cylinder based planes just overload the cylinder and when the ignition fire you blow the rings or the piston rods to bits like when a diesel wont start and when it finally does you get a blast of blue smoke, it's the same idea except avgas is a a tad easier to ignite as the overloaded will knock

    Wow. I've discovered these sweet little dots called periods- they make reading long passages possible. Props for the longest run-on sentence I've ever seen!

    Oh long while ago, I used to be awful at english, my apologies for my record breaking behaviour. I have since learned from my past mistakes. See.

    Hey sorry about that- I don't what I was thinking when I dropped that one. I'm sure you can speak your native language way better than I can... where are you from anyways?

    Haha, I'm from northern Ireland, the awful at English referred specifically to grammar etc. in class... No worries anyway, it was a pretty bad habit of mine...

    Just curious, but how'd you come by the name "killerjackalope"... i mean, i'm originally from 'out West' (Colorado, U.S., specifically), and i always assumed that jackalopes were a local native species. Were you traveling in the Western U.S., some time ago, or do jackalopes grow in Northern Ireland, too (or anywhere else you've been). I realize this is COMPLETELY 'off topic'. Sorry.

    Eh I don't know really, I originally used it as a gamertage on XBL and it stuck, it just had a nice ring for me... Jackalopes are reasonably well spread folklore though so it's not surprising I've heard of them...

    If a car muffler sounds like "a double barrel shotgun right by your head", that must have been pretty intense :)

    *** OH HECK CHAA *** Actually, when I did it by accident in my old 70's boat (big car), the car rocked to the side and it sounded EXACTLY like a stick of dynamite. (which BTW is unbelievably awesome! And really scary... NOTHING like four M-80's, Forget the old "1/4 stick of dynamite" thing about M-80's, never was, an' never will be even close...) I looked underneath the car because tons of small pieces of red fibreglass was blowing around the ground coming from there. And the muffler was peeled completely open and shrink-wrapped to the shape of the underneath car body. REALLY COOL, but it'll put a racing stripe in your shorts if you aren't expecting it...

    Amazing,i saw the same fiberglass blowing out of a bus that was probably struggling to keep pumping out the power fact:bad drivers torture engines

    A lot of people in Nebraska have testicles on their trucks. I think it's a hick thing, but I can't be positive.

    3 replies

    I think it's mostly people who aren't sure whether or not they're hicks, but want to be.

    Maybe they just want to be REALLY SURE their trucks are male. What, do they not want baby trucks or something???

    well i live in hick ville and the only balls i have seen hanging on a truck came from the neerby snootyville and and the driver was a female... and i have seeen her driving it many times... makes me think...

    Without wanting to sound mumsy, remember, when you are screaming down the freeway in your Hurtling Machine about to perform this trick, DO NOT TURN THE KEY ALL THE WAY OFF. 'Steering lock' looks bad on a headstone.

    1 reply

    yep,just turn it far enough that the engine turns off,but the electrical stuff remain on