No matter how new and how good your vehicle is, there’s always room for improvement, simply because car manufacturers are looking to cut production costs left and right in order to make their products more affordable and competitive on the market. One of the areas where most manufacturers do a lot of corner-cutting is the exhaust system. Most stock exhaust systems are made to be functional and nothing more, which is why, gearheads like me and probably you since you’re reading this article, are looking at all the different aftermarket performance car exhausts available.
Aftermarket performance car exhausts free up a fair amount of power in your engine by allowing the exhaust gases, which are a result of the combustion process, to escape easier and faster. Once the exhaust gases escape, your engine will run smoother, simply because the fuel and air will exist the combustion chamber faster, and it will be replenished with new fuel and fresh air that can be burned to produce more power. This works great for most cars, but for some, the only change you’ll notice is more noise. For instance, putting a performance exhaust on a 1.8L Civic won’t improve its power output much, but it will make it sound more aggressive.
On the other hand, A Holden Commodore with a brand new performance exhaust system will sound like an American muscle car, and it will gain a bit more horsepower. The reason this is the case for the Commodore but not the Civic is the volume of exhaust gas produced. More gas equals more power, and more gas means that the exhaust system will need more space to let it escape, otherwise, you’ll experience backpressure, which will rob you of some power. In fact, the size of the exhaust system, and the pipes, specifically, is one of the main and most notable differences between stock and aftermarket car exhausts.
The difference in performance is especially noticeable in turbocharged engines. When the exhaust gases flow through the turbocharger with little to no resistance, not only will you get more power, you’ll also get a wider powerband. As a result, the turbocharger will spool up quicker, providing your vehicle with more power at lower engine rotations per minute (RPM). So if you want to get more power out of your turbocharged vehicle, a performance aftermarket exhaust system will work wonders for you.
But in order to get a better understanding of how performance exhausts improve your vehicle’s performance, you need to know the different parts that exhaust systems are comprised of, and how each and every one of those parts play a role in making your vehicle run. The first part is the manifold, also known as extractor or exhaust header. This part is typically made of stainless steel, aluminium or cast iron, and it’s responsible for the air intake. The headers or manifolds are connected to the engine’s cylinder heads, and they take the exhaust out of them and combine it into one, big tube.
After the manifolds, your vehicle has oxygen sensors which measure the ratio of oxygen to harmful exhausts. These sensors provide the results of their readings to the engine control unit, thus helping it optimise the power output and fuel economy. Then comes the catalytic converter. The converter plays one of the most crucial roles in your vehicle – it converts the harmful gases released by the engine into less harmful gases. Catalytic converters are located between the muffler and manifold, and almost every state and county requires you to have one.
Then, the catalytic converter is connected to the muffler through a range of pipes. Most aftermarket performance car exhausts will have mandrel-bent pipes that streamline the gas-exiting process, which results in more power. Further, aftermarket performance exhaust pipes are made of durable stainless or aluminised steel, which make the entire system look great, and also have corrosion-resistant properties, making them last longer than stock exhaust pipes. Then comes the muffler, which is arguably one of the most known exhaust parts and it’s the one most people are familiar with. Your engine, by nature, is very loud, and it’s the muffler’s job to quiet it down. Most mufflers use battles to bounce the exhaust gases around, thus reducing their energy and as a result, bringing the noise down. Some mufflers use fiberglass to do the same.
Finally, there’s the exhaust tailpipe, which is the final part of the system and is usually made of aluminised or stainless steel. The tailpipes usually end with an exhaust tip, which can come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and forms to make your vehicle look more unique. Exhaust tips also come in a variety of finishes, such as chrome, black, carbon fiber, stainless steel and titanium, just to name a few. Buying an aftermarket tip is also a popular upgrade that many car owners do, as it’s an affordable way to give your vehicle a different, stand-out look.