Useful Car Tips

How to Upgrade Your Exhaust for Sound or Power

January 16, 2019
If you’re a car enthusiast, chances are, you’ve considered upgrading your exhaust system. Perhaps you’re looking for a more pleasing sound; maybe a deeper engine note or some aggressive burps and burbles upon downshifting. You could be looking for a modest power increase, which the right exhaust can accomplish too. You could even be looking to save the most weight while increasing power for the track, and you guessed it, you can find an exhaust system for that as well. There’s an exhaust upgrade for many purposes, it just takes a little time to find the correct one for you. For newbies or just those looking to brush up on their knowledge, we’ll take a look at some of the most common upgrades and provide you with a crash course. HEADERS/EXHAUST MANIFOLDS Headers (which can also be referred to as exhaust manifolds stock from the factory) will be the first components to handle spent exhaust gases after they exit the cylinder head in your engine. Headers are bolted to the cylinder heads and help expel these gases from the combustion chambers. Upgrading to performance high flow headers can lead to substantial increases in horsepower and torque, making them a common point of upgrade. What these performance headers do is increase the exhaust piping diameter and thus, exhaust scavenging by aligning the exhaust pulses in a manner conducive to increased performance. Stock, your exhaust manifold probably features small tubing with unnecessary bends and poor casting. Sometimes, the factory flanges do not even positively align with the exhaust port. These factors can all contribute to major restriction. Simply put, high flow performance headers are designed in a way that rectifies these issues. CATALYTIC CONVERTOR The catalytic converter, or cat, is the component in your exhaust system which works to reduce the amount of harmful emissions your vehicle releases into the air. Because of this, removing your catalytic converter is illegal under federal law. If you’re a little worried about replacing it yourself, consider the services of a local mechanic (although it may be quite expensive). The bottom line is that it’s illegal to drive without one, and if you suspect your cat isn’t working properly, it should be replaced. Fortunately for enthusiasts, there are indeed upgrade options, although they may not be worth it for all. Some states do have specific restrictions for any cat upgrade, so be sure to check your local laws to avoid heavy fines or worse penalties. Do you live in a state with more lenient catalytic converter laws? You may be in luck. A high flow cat will allow for the more efficient flow of exhaust gases. Removing these restrictions that impede performance means good news for you, with a major caveat. If your car is stock and you’re not looking to upgrade your engine in a major way (say, 20-30% more power than stock), then a catalytic converter upgrade probably won’t be worth it for you, as the power increases will be marginal at best. If you’ve put major work into your engine, a catalytic converter will definitely be of benefit to you. CAT-BACK As the name implies, a “cat-back” exhaust system refers to the piping running from the outlet (rear end) of the catalytic converter to the exhaust tips. When referring to a cat-back, this usually means the entire system encompassing piping to the converter and muffler. Due to their larger diameter pipes and more free-flowing mufflers, they are far less restrictive than exhaust systems stock from the factory. This translates to several performance benefits, chiefly among them increased power. You may also be happy to note that cat-backs frequently lead to a better sounding engine note and increased fuel economy. A cat-back exhaust system is a relatively simple upgrade that produces desirable results for enthusiasts. For the money you spend, the value makes these exhaust systems an upgrade most would be keen to install. And there are a lot of options on the market too. Consider popular brands like Borla, Flowmaster, and Gibson. THE FULL PACKAGE These are just some of the exhaust systems you can upgrade among many more. Together, these components combine to make a package any enthusiast would be happy to drive. The exhaust market is massive, so have fun with it and explore all the options you can. No matter how you upgrade, be sure that your new exhaust system puts a smile on your face.
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