What Does a Performance Exhaust Do and Why Should I Get One?
People get performance exhaust systems on their cars or trucks for several reasons; making their cars sound louder or more aggressive is the primary reason. If all you want is louder car exhaust, a lot can be achieved with a new performance muffler. A new muffler isn’t going to change much else though. A whole new exhaust system, on the other hand, allows you to improve several things about your vehicle, like horsepower, torque, fuel efficiency, and exhaust sound, all in one project.
How Can a New Custom Exhaust Improve Increase Horsepower and Fuel Efficiency?
It may be difficult, at first, but picture your car as a living and breathing thing. From the moment you turn the key, it requires oxygen and fuel to work together to run and keep running. If one is restricted your car will not run smoothly or may not even start, at all. This is due to a complex relationship between the air and fuel mixture and the several other components that either help regulate the process or benefit from it.
So How Is My Car Like a Living Being?
I am glad you asked. Like animals and people, your car has a circulatory system that relies on your engine block (the heart) to pump oil (the blood) through the engine to keep components working properly and reduce friction. We can get lost in that analogy with coolants, brake fluids, transmissions fluids, etc but I think you get my point there. The point that is most pertinent to this article is how the exhaust system is responsible for your car’s exhale.
Factory cars come with an exhaust that consists of 1 or 2 manifolds, which depends on your engine size. On a V8 gas engine, you have an exhaust manifold on each side (left and right) on the bottom of the engine. Each manifold is rectangular and has four ports that dump or relieve exhaust pressure into them. This is the first bottleneck in the exhaust system that contributes to reduced horsepower and torque due to back pressure. The exhaust pipes from the manifolds usually lead to a Y pipe that combines into one pipe. This is typically the second bottleneck because it causes more backpressure by combining two pipes into one that is the same size. Then you have a long pipe that leads to a muffler and a shorter pipe off of the muffler that leads to the tailpipes or exhaust tips. You will notice that I didn’t mention the catalytic converters here because they do cause back pressure but they are mandated as part of the pollution control system. We will talk about cats a bit later. Don’t worry. I didn’t forget them.
How Does a Performance Exhaust Work?
First, to understand “how does a performance exhaust work?”, we have to talk about the upgraded components. Let’s start by replacing the factory manifolds with headers. Choosing the right headers for your car or truck is important. Not only are all heads different from manufacturer to manufacturer but the configuration of your transmission, transfer case, etc can all play a role in which header you’re going to get. Where you want your exhaust to exit from plays another role; fender or chassis. By shopping for your high-flow performance headers by year, make, model, engine, and transmission type, you should eliminate any questions about proper fitment.
Long Tube Headers vs Short Tube Headers
On each header of a V8, you have 4 tubes that converge into one larger tube. At the end of that tube, which is usually 3 to 3.5 inches you have a “collector” that reduces the size of the exhaust pipe down to a 2 – 2.5 inch pipe. This pipe leads to the main cat(s) and then to the muffler(s). Both long tube headers and short tube headers have their place in his discussion. They both improve performance and have their advantages and disadvantages.
Long tube headers provide higher horsepower and torque across the RPM spectrum from low to high. This makes long tube headers the favorite for high-rev vehicles and racecars, it gives a strong and fast pedal reaction whether you are in first gear or fifth gear. There are a few cons for long tube headers, however. The first issue is potential legality. Every state has different laws on what is required for your car or truck to be street-legal. Another potential issue is that long tube headers take up a lot of room in your engine bay and if you get one that is a custom fit, you make have to do some expensive rearranging of engine components to make it work.
Short tube headers work best in the low or idle range to mid-range RPMs. This is not going to be ideal for racecars BUT it’s perfect for increasing horsepower to a lower RPM daily commuter or work truck. The biggest con for shorty headers is that they will not produce the horsepower or torque of the long tube headers but they take up less room in the engine bay, making them easier to install. Shorty headers are also more likely to be street-legal in your state.
High-Performance Catalytic Converters
Catalytic Converters will create backpressure and reduce horsepower and fuel efficiency vs having a full open exhaust with no cats. Catalytic converters are required for your vehicle to be street-legal in all states. If your car or truck is only a trail truck or track car, then you just need to know the law in your state on catalytic converters but most states have relaxed laws when it comes to recreational vehicles when it comes to emissions.
For street-legal cars that need a boost in horsepower, you can always replace your factory cats with high-performance catalytic converters. They still filter out and burn up the toxins that other cats do but allow for better airflow or exhaust flow that reduces some of the backpressures and creates higher horsepower and fuel efficiency. Some cars and trucks have anywhere from 1 to 4 catalytic converters. Replacing one of 3 or four will provide some increase in HP and efficiency but I highly recommend replacing all factory cats with high-performance converters for the best results.
What Else Makes Up The Exhaust System?
After the cats, or as we call it in the industry “Catback exhaust”, things get a lot simpler. From the main catalytic converter(s), you have the exhaust pipes that lead to the muffler(s), and pipes from the muffler(s) to the tailpipes or exhaust tips.
In a Catback exhaust system, the main things we want to consider are material and mufflers. A stainless steel exhaust system will help prevent corrosion and rust which means your new performance exhaust system should last the life of your vehicle. A performance muffler is going to reduce any back pressure you may get with a factory muffler and produce a much more aggressive sound at the tailpipe.
Performance Exhaust System Benefits All Summed Up
Is a custom-performance exhaust system something for everyone? Yes. It is! Because with all of the configurations available, you can get what you need from a custom exhaust with nearly any vehicle and on different budgets.
“Improved performance” doesn’t just mean your car will be fast and loud but it could. All-in-all, your car or truck will experience higher horsepower and improved efficiency by reducing backpressure in your exhaust system. Minor changes will result in minor gains. Major changes will result in bigger gains.
SSTubes has recently joined forces with Stainless Works and added custom-fit performance exhaust systems to our expanding inventory of easy-to-install car and truck upgrades. From OE-fit stainless steel exhaust systems to custom performance exhaust systems, SSTubes has what you are looking for; increased horsepower and fuel efficie