Once attached, the exhaust system needs little maintenance outside of keeping it shiny and looking slick.

You can gauge the health of the engine based on the color of smoke the exhaust emits but blue, black or white smoke says little about the actual health of the exhaust system which consists of the pipe and silencer (2-stroke) or header and slip-on (4-stroke). That's not to say the exhaust never needs inspection before heading out on ride day.

In continuing our "Are You Ready to Ride" series we take a deeper look into those components that work in conjunction with each other to give you the best possible experience on your dirt bike. "Are You Ready to Ride" laid out more than a dozen checks you need to mark off before heading out to the track or trails so now we take a deeper dive and focus on individual units that help make the whole.

The exhaust does help indicate internal problems but before we tackle that, let's get a handle on what you need to get done for the exhaust before firing up the engine.

Exhaust Packing

The biggest and only maintenance need for all exhaust systems, whether 2-stroke of 4-stroke, rests with the exhaust packing in the muffler. You know the packing needs replacing when the throaty sound you have come to love turns into a tinny annoying pitch. The sound decibels also increase when the packing no longer functions properly.

We believe in starting fresh and because of the ease and affordability of exhaust packing we'd suggest changing the packing in your dirt bike prior to the coming riding season unless you had recently changed it last year just prior to shutting down your personal riding season.

Shop for exhaust packing.

Tighten Bolts

Finally, check all the bolts and other fasteners that keep the exhaust system attached to your dirt bike. The nuts and bolts on the exhaust tend to unravel more than most because of the temperature extremes and proximity to the jostling from riding. So, give each an inspection and tighten to spec.


Eventually, you will dent the exhaust piping especially the pipe on a 2-stroke. These small bruises have little effect on the performance of your dirt bike but larger indentions need fixing. Most owners farm this process out because of the intricate nature of removing these depressions and the need for special equipment and know-how. If you have a large dent affecting the exhaust you probably should have had it taken care of while your dirt bike took the winter off.

Exhaust Can Signal Health of the Engine

Carbon/Oil Deposits

Removing the piping and cleaning the inside of carbon deposits is unnecessary as long as your bike runs correctly. If you have excessive carbon or oil deposits this indicates a problem with the engine not the exhaust system.

Most notably, you will see oil ooze out of the muffler. Yes, shriek in horror but this looks worse than the actual problem - a rich fuel to air ratio in the engine that needs adjusting. Also, you won't catch this on first inspection. You either noticed this last time out or when you replace the exhaust packing it might look more like an oiled air filter. Thus, a good reason to replace the packing regardless of hours from last riding season.

Exhaust Smoke Color

Same holds true with the color of smoke emanating from the tailpipe. Expect to see some initial darker smoke or white smoke when you first turn the bike on after all these months. The white smoke indicates some water vapor and the darker smoke might be residual carbon (the exhaust system will always have some residual carbon) that has broken away. If either doesn't stop after about 30 seconds then you got bigger problems.

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