It might not look like that, but any vehicle’s exhaust system is a complicated and significant part of that vehicle’s operation.
An exhaust system consists of different parts, and among those, you might have heard about two named resonators and mufflers. What the exhaust system primarily does is take the exhaust gas away from the vehicle. But with that gas comes the sound of combustion too.
Over the years, the policy regarding pollution from vehicles went through a drastic change. Now alongside emission, sound pollution has an equally strict set of rules. To deal with that loud noise and pollution caused by it, resonators and mufflers come in handy.
As both of these parts seem like serve the same purpose, many people have a confusing reading the difference here. So to clear that confusion, I have decided to break these parts down for you alongside their purpose and difference from different key aspects. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Any vehicle with an engine can make a lot of noise. The resonator in a vehicle’s exhaust system is the first part to interact with this noise. Even before the muffler, the resonator, aka pre-muffler, first receives this noise and alter it to a certain degree to reduce its strength.
After the catalytic converter filters out the toxic emission from the gas, it’s time for the resonator to filter the sound. Resonators are usually designed by acoustic engineers that work as an echo chamber. What this chamber does is eliminate specific sound frequencies and make the work easier for the muffler.
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Functions of a Resonator
There are certain functions a resonator has, making it a crucial part of any exhaust system. Just altering the exhaust sound might not seem like its only job, but a resonator also comes with other purposes.
Helping hand of the muffler
Before the resonator was invented, scientists were looking for a way to unload the work burden of the muffler. After much research, they came up with the idea of pairing the muffler with a resonator that can change the exhaust sound and make the job easier for the muffler.
You can also look at this as a dampening process where the higher frequencies are dampened, making the noise removal effortlessand faster afterwards.
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Tunes the exhaust sound
Not only does the resonator eliminate particular frequencies, but it can also be tuned to deliver a particular type of exhaust noise. As you know, sports cars tend to have a unique exhaust noise, considered as the beauty of a sports car. However, unlike luxurious cars, sports cars require a deeper and aggressive sound.
Now, which part of the exhaust system do you think does all the tuning to deliver a specific exhaust tone? The resonator does it. The design of the resonator essentially decides what type of sound it’ll produce.
Improves engine performance
The main job of the exhaust system is to get rid of the exhaust gas. The sooner this process can be done, the better performance you’ll get from your vehicle. If the muffler doesn’t work efficiently, it somewhat restricts the exhaust flow that rests into back pressure, which ends up slowing your engine.
As the resonator’s job is to assist the muffler and the muffler is directly related to the performance, the resonator also improves the engine performance.
You can pretty much guess what this part called muffler is for. The main job of the muffler is basically muffing the sound of the engine. A car engine typically generates a ton of power which comes at the cost of loud engine noise. Lots of noise comes through the exhaust system every single second. Without a properly functioning muffler, this engine noise becomes intolerable.
Unlike the resonator, the muffler works like a reflector through a chamber. Inside the chamber, the exhaust noise waves are reflected so that it cancels each other out. This way, the muffler successfully eliminates the majority of the exhaust noise.
Functions of a Muffler
We know very little about the muffler, only about the noise elimination of the muffler. But there is more to a muffler’s function than we know. Let’s have a quick peek into the functions of a muffler.
This is the primary function of a muffler, and we are familiar with it. Not only are loud engine noises bad for our health, but it’s also against the law to have a car engine with more than a certain amount of noise. To solve these problems, mufflers are installed at the very end of your exhaust system through which the exhaust noise goes through.
I have already mentioned how sound elimination is done in a muffler. But if you don’t want to remove the sound altogether and instead want to have a different sound tone, a muffler can provide that. There are different types of mufflers available on the market that offer different types of chambers. With the help of all these, you can produce a particular sound from the exhaust noise.
Maximizing the Engine Performance
This is the second important function of a muffler that many of us don’t know about. For an engine to function properly, it needs fresh air-oxygen intake regularly. So the muffler not only drives the exhaust noise out, but it also does the job of taking in that air.
The faster this intake happens, the more power an engine can generate efficiently. So, if you have a muffler with high functionality, you’ll be able to get the maximum performance and efficiency out of your engine.
Protection from Fumes
This is a function that many people are unaware of, but still, it carries great significance. Till now, we have discussed only exhaust gases and noises that mufflers eliminate. But another thing that the muffler deals with is the exhaust fumes generated by the engine.
Exhaust fumes usually contain harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide and other similar hazardous substances. Without the muffler in place, these fumes can be extremely harmful to the passenger with a potential fire hazard.
Resonator vs Muffler
As these parts sit beside one another and serve almost the same purpose, their difference is often overlooked. If you are a car enthusiastic, the sound of the engine should feel like music to your ear.
But to get that perfect engine sound, it’s crucial to know the differences first between the resonator and muffler. Both these parts have different attributes with functions of their own. Let’s see which key aspects separate these parts from one another.
- The difference lies within the objective and purpose of the resonator and muffler. A resonator’s job is to manipulate the noise frequencies to deliver a certain sound, which eases the muffler’s job. On the other hand, the muffler does the job of reducing whatever sound comes out of the resonator.
- Another noticeable difference between these two parts is the way they function. To alter the exhaust sound, the resonator has an echo chamber that eliminates certain sound frequencies to change the outcome. On the other hand, the muffler chamber works as a reflector for sound waves. These reflected sound waves then cancel each other out, thus reducing the volume.
- Though both these parts of exhaust systems work with sound, the muffler does extra work that’s really important for proper engine function. For example, a muffler not only reduces/ eliminate the noise but also reroute the exhaust gases and create backpressure. Resonator’s job, on the other hand, is just dealing with the sound alteration.
- Weight is another factor that separates these two parts. While the job is similar, the muffler weighs quite a lot more than the resonator. As a muffler is more important for the proper functionality of the engine, you can try removing the resonator if you are trying to lose weight.
- Road legality is different too for resonators and mufflers. Muffler removal is somewhat illegal everywhere as removing it can cause widespread noise pollution and unpleasant sound experience. However, that’s not the case for the resonator, and there are no legal obligations there either. Though removing the resonator is not illegal, you should always check with the local authority first.
- In terms of financial benefits, none of these parts offers something extraordinary. The installation cost for both resonator and muffler is almost the same. Additionally, there is no benefit in terms of fuel economy either.
That’s a wrap for today. As you can see, there are some very distinct differences between the resonator and muffler. Though both these parts may not seem like a big deal, they are two crucial addition to your car’s exhaust system.
They are responsible for a pleasant sound experience and proper engine functionality. Your engine might still function without these, but you’ll eventually end up with exhaust related issues.
I hope the article was helpful enough to show you the differences between a resonator and a muffler. In future, it’ll help you get the powerful sound you want for your powerful car.
Simon graduated with a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Degree. He has over 20 years of servicing experience in both Japanese and German car dealerships. He now acts as a freelance mechanic’s instructor for local schools.