Can Putting a Banana in a Car’s Tailpipe Actually Damage it?

If you have seen the movie Beverly Hills Cop, then you might be familiar with the scene where the main character, Axel Foley, shoves a few bananas up a car’s exhaust tailpipe to stall out a car. The car does end up stalling as its pulls away. But can stuffing a banana up a car’s tailpipe actually damage it or make it stall in reality?

Can a blocked exhaust stall an engine?

The movie "Beverly Hills Cop", directed by Martin Brest. Seen here, Eddie Murphy as Det. Axel Foley sticking a banana into the tailpipe of a 1983 Mercury Marquis sedan
The movie “Beverly Hills Cop”, directed by Martin Brest. Seen here, Eddie Murphy as Det. Axel Foley sticking a banana into the tailpipe of a 1983 Mercury Marquis sedan. Initial theatrical release December 5, 1984. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures.| (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Since a car’s engine is essentially a large air pump in which air is inducted into the engine via the intake system and out the exhaust system, a block in the outlet can stall an engine. Motortrend notes that a blocked muffler or catalytic converter can restrict the engine from breathing properly and create a large amount of backpressure. That back pressure can cause the exhaust gasses to be pushed back into the engine when the exhaust valves open, which can eventually choke the engine.

Can a banana really harm the engine?

As far as a banana, or even a potato being shoved up a tailpipe and causing problems, you most likely won’t need to worry. The MythBusters TV show even tested the theory during one of its episodes and every time the car was started, all of the objects were instantly propelled out of the exhaust system, The News Wheel reports. However, if someone did stuff enough food, junk, or other solid material up a car’s tailpipe, it’s theoretically possible for it to cause the engine to stall. But it’s going to take a lot more than a few bananas to do it.

Symptoms of a clogged exhaust system and what to do about it

Mechanic Harrison Garcia works on a Ford Mustang at Brake and Wheel Service Center in San Francisco, California.
Mechanic Harrison Garcia works on a Ford Mustang at Brake and Wheel Service Center in San Francisco, California. | (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The most common symptoms of excessive back pressure in the engine include a loss of power, stalling, or the inability to start the engine. Muffler technicians and auto mechanics have a specific way to test if an engine has too much backpressure. The process involves connecting a vacuum gauge to the O2 sensor bung in the exhaust system or catalytic converter to test the engine. That being said, if you think your car’s exhaust system may be blocked, then take the car to a qualified mechanic for testing.

If you continued to drive the car with a blocked tailpipe, then the car can not only lose power, but it can start overheating and cause more damage to other components. Of course, a clogged exhaust system won’t typically occur from food being stuffed in it, however, it can normally occur from a faulty catalytic converter or a pinch in the exhaust piping.

A clogged exhaust system is nothing to mess with, so if you think that your car might have a blocked tailpipe, take it to a mechanic immediately. Whether it’s meant as a prank or is done with malicious intent, someone stuffing anything into a car’s tailpipe could sometimes cause serious damage. And while it’s proven that a few bananas won’t do the trick, this goes to show that we probably shouldn’t believe everything we see in the movies.

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