Buying a car can be great fun, but no matter how good your new vehicle is, there is always room for improvement. Most car and truck manufacturers leave room for us normal people to improve, or ruin their products. That’s not to say the original vehicle isn’t good, but in that good old American fashion, we always want to better our situation, in this case, our cars.
One of the easiest and cheapest upgrades one can do is an exhaust system. Sadly, many people add exhausts to cars that don’t need them, like Dodge Neons. A performance exhaust can free up some of the power in your engine by allowing the gases to escape a bit easier. When the gases can escape, your engine runs smoother.
Anyway, when the exhaust flows better, the fuel and air exit the combustion chamber faster and new fuel and air can be burned to create more power.
This works well for certain cars, but for some, the only effect that a bigger exhaust has is more noise. Putting a performance exhaust on a 1.8-liter Honda Civic won’t help the power all the much, but it’ll make it sound like a fart can.
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On the other hand, a Ford Mustang with a new exhaust system will sound like an old school muscle car and will add a bit more horsepower, not that it needs it. The reason this happens is down to the volume of exhaust gas produced. With more gas comes more power. That being said, no exhaust is going to give you massive power gains, so if you want a serious boost then you should look elsewhere.
So, should you get a performance exhaust and how much power are you really getting by adding one?
Well, that depends. There isn’t much to gain by adding one to a smaller engine, but if you have already added an intake and performance headers than an exhaust is the obvious next step. However, adding an exhaust and an exhaust only is not a wise move. It just makes things loud and makes your car look very ridiculous.
The most beneficial way to use a performance exhaust is on a turbocharged engine. When the exhaust gas can flows through the turbocharger with the least resistance as possible, not only will you gain power, but you will also get a wider powerband. Not bad eh.
The turbocharger will spool up faster and will give the car more power at a lower engine rpm. If you want more power out of your Volkswagen GTI, a performance exhaust will work wonders.
Most people buy the exhaust for a better noise or a deeper rumble on big V8 motors. Some want their Toyota Celicas to sound like a Ferrari, while others want their Corvettes to sound deep and aggressive. Either way, the exhaust system will fit those needs.
What kind of different parts go on a performance aftermarket exhaust?
There are a few different areas of your exhaust system and each is very critical to making your car run. The first is the manifold. This is usually made out of aluminum, stainless steel, or cast iron. The system is responsible for air intake and is connected to the cylinder heads. They take each cylinder’s exhaust and combines it into one tube.
Going down the line we have the oxygen sensors. Most modern cars require you to have this little plug to measure the ratio of oxygen to harmful exhaust. The sensor takes that information and tells the car its reading, helping it to maximize power and fuel economy.
The next area of the exhaust is the catalytic converter. This contraption takes the harmful gases that are produced by the engine and makes them a bit less harmful. It is mounted between the exhaust manifold and the muffler, and some states require you to have one.
Next we have the cat back, which is located between the catalytic converter and the tail pipe. Most performance systems usually have a mandrel-bend in them that can streamline the exhaust exiting process, resulting in more power.
The muffler is the most famous part of the exhaust and it’s the one area that most people are familiar with. Your engine is very loud and it’s the mufflers job to quiet it down. Most use battles to bounce the exhaust around, reducing the energy and bringing the noise down a bit. Some will use fiberglass to quiet the engine.
Finally, we have the exhaust pipe. This is the final bit of the system and it’s usually made of stainless steel or aluminized steel. This helps the pipe last longer and it should be able to maintain a shine if you take care of your car.
What is the best type of exhaust system for my ride?
Catback exhaust systems are a popular choice for many import tuners and they are pretty basic. The system is a larger and more free-flowing pipe and muffler after the catalytic converter.
Test pipes, first of all, are illegal. Yet, they give some serious power gains. The system is basically a straight pipe where the catalytic converter used to be. You can use this type of system on racing cars or track only cars, but not on the street. Sorry.
Another factor to consider is the type of material the system is made out of. Most factory systems are made of mild steel. Sadly, that means they will get worse and worse over the years. A higher priced aftermarket system is made from stainless steel or aluminized steel, so it lasts longer and holds performance. Stainless steel systems can even last for the life of your car.
Remember to make sure to keep the exhaust size proportionate to the vehicle. If the system is too big, it can hurt the performance of your car, defeating the purpose of buying the exhaust in the first place.
Pros to an aftermarket exhaust – Exhaust systems will make your car look better if the exhaust is the proper size. In some cases you will notice a power gain, but that isn’t always the case. The free flow of exhaust out of the back of the car can make your engine run smoother as well. If you use your car on the track, the aftermarket exhaust can reduce weight. Add the weight reduction to the power increase and the system easily seems worth it.
Cons to an aftermarket exhaust – Some think these systems are too noisy and, in some cases, they are right. If a 5-inch exhaust is placed on a Chevrolet Cobalt it looks and sounds awful. The system can also be expensive and, if your car is a classic or an exotic, an aftermarket exhaust can hurt the value of your vehicle.