Aaron Widmar
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Does Putting a Potato or Banana in a Car’s Tailpipe Actually Cause Damage?

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banana in car exhaust tail pipe prank

Remember that iconic scene from Beverly Hills Cop when Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley sneakily shoves his banana (technically three of them) into the tailpipe of the patrol car trying to tail him? Have you ever wondered if that trick works in real life?

We’ve all seen it happen in movies and television shows: some prankster–whether the hero or a bully–gets the bright idea to disable a car by shoving an object in its exhaust pipe–often using foods like potatoes or bananas. The result is typically immediate, ranging from the car stalling to it outright exploding (in more dramatic cases). But is that how a vehicle would react in real life?

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Beverly Hills Cop Banana in Car Tailpipe scene

Eddie Murphy as Axel F in “Beverly Hills Cop”
Photo: Paramount Pictures

A quick online search will show multiple discussion forums and YouTube videos of people discussing and testing the idea (hopefully this prank has never been done to you–and you’ve never done it to anyone else!).

The most common result of shoving a banana or potato in a tailpipe–according to examples and testimonies from experts and everyday users–is that the object wedged in the pipe will shoot out before enough pressure builds to damage the engine. Another possible result–if the object does actually successfully plug the exhaust pipe–is that it will lead to a rupture in the exhaust line that would slowly leak fumes into the inside of the car. A more effective way of achieving this is to use a rubber plug or mallet head.

One of the earliest Mythbusters episodes actually tested this theory, and in every case all of the objects were propelled out of the pipe once the engine started up. Yet, some online users do claim to have had their car (or their prank’s recipient) stall from plugging the pipe, so it apparently is possible, though not common.

The concept for the trick comes from the fact that if a car’s exhaust is blocked and the fumes are trapped, it won’t allow the engine to take in fresh air and thus will disable it from working (hinder the engine’s performance and cause it to run poorly and possibly die altogether).

Regardless of what the results of shoving a potato, banana, or some other foreign object into an exhaust pipe are, it’s a dangerous act that could permanently damage the car and even hurt you. But  if you absolutely have to, stuffing party horns in a car’s tailpipe is a lot funnier.

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Sources: Mythbusters, Straight Dope, Car Talk