The exhaust system in vehicles is a precarious one, and if the tailpipe ever becomes loose, you run the risk of losing not just the pipe, but the muffler as well. This system is a key component of a combustion engine.

When fuel is burned in the combustion chamber, the excess gas needs to go somewhere, and that's where the exhaust system comes in. It takes the burnt gases from the engine and forces them from the car through the tailpipe.

Also attached to this pipe are the muffler and, in some cases, a catalytic converter. The converter filters out dangerous chemicals from the gases to reduce emissions, and the muffler does what its name suggest. It muffles the sounds of the engine so the people can hear something other than the roaring of the engine when they drive.

Losing any of these components could cause a lot of other problems as well. The exhaust system, along with the cooling system, keeps the engine from overheating. So it is wise to keep an ear open for any unfamiliar sounds that could alert the driver to a possible issue. The sooner a problem is noticed and handled, the less damage will likely be done to the car.

Rattling noises are often the earliest signs that your car's tailpipe is becoming loose. These sounds may also indicate problems with the muffler. Intermittent rattling could point to muffler issues, and may not necessarily mean your tailpipe is loose.

You can check to see if a loose pipe is the source of the sound by reaching under the car on the side of the exhaust pipe and trying to move it around, but do not do this unless the car is completely cool.. If the pipe wiggles around, you would be wise to check the hangers that anchor the pipe to the car to prevent it from dangling and banging around while you drive. Tightening a loose hanger can prevent catastrophe on the road.

If you are not lucky enough to catch an exhaust pipe problem early, and it comes loose while you are driving, you risk losing the pipe and even the muffler. When the pipe breaks free of the hanger, it can catch on an obstruction in the roadway and be torn from the vehicle. This is why it is important to be prepared if such an incident ever occurs.

The most important thing to remember, whether you're on the side of the highway or in your driveway, is to wait until the car is completely cool before you attempt to check for a problem. An exhaust pipe gets extremely hot when a vehicle is running. If the pipe was dislodged enough to drag on the ground before you were able to stop, you'll want to wait even longer before you attempt to touch it.

You will be able to drive your vehicle if the pipe is torn loose. However, do not drive it farther than absolutely necessary. The car will run, but it will be loud and driving without an exhaust system will put the engine under excess stress and you run the risk of overheating the engine, which can just cause further damage. Unless you absolutely have to drive the vehicle without an exhaust, don't.