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Your vehicle’s exhaust manifold directs exhaust away from the cylinder head and into the exhaust pipe. It is usually made of cast iron, giving it exceptional sturdiness and durability.

However, since cast iron is thick, it can make it difficult for exhaust gases to pass through. Additionally, with an exhaust manifold, the exhaust gases from each cylinder pass through the same structure, which inhibit their flow. The diminished flow of exhaust gases creates back pressure that lowers engine performance.

Thankfully, you can purchase an exhaust header to solve the problem. A header is considered an aftermarket exhaust manifold upgrade. It reduces back pressure by making it easier for the engine to push exhaust gases out of the cylinders.

If you’re thinking of giving your vehicle a performance upgrade, you might want to consider getting a new exhaust header.

automotive exhaust header
A header is an aftermarket exhaust manifold upgrade that reduces back pressure by making it easier for the engine to push exhaust gases out of the cylinders.

5 Best Headers

Choosing the right exhaust header can be challenging if you’re shopping for one for the first time. There are plenty of aftermarket brands that offer high-quality parts at different price points. To help make shopping for this part easier for you, here are some of the best exhaust headers that we recommend:

Flowtech F31117022FLT

Enhance your vehicle’s engine performance with Flowtech’s Lakester headers. These performance exhaust headers are designed to provide optimum exhaust flow, giving your vehicle the increased torque and horsepower it deserves.

If you’re looking for a header that could give you the perfect combination of performance and value, Flowtech F31117022FLT may be the best choice for you. Get a premium upgrade at a reasonable price with a Lakester header.

Flowtech Lakester header
Flowtech F31117022FLT performance exhaust headers are designed to provide optimum exhaust flow, giving your vehicle the increased torque and horsepower it deserves.

Features & Specifications:

  • Series: Flowtech Lakester
  • Header Style: Shorty
  • Design: 4-1
  • Primary Tube Diameter: 1 ⅝ in.
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Collector Diameter: 3 in.
  • Warranty: 90-day flowtech warranty
  • Collector Attachment Style: Flanged
  • Head Flange Thickness: ⅜ in. thick head flange
  • Inclusions: gasket/s and bolt/s
  • Material: Steel
  • Port Shape: Round
  • Primary Tube Gauge: 16 gauge
  • Product Fit: Universal

Compatible with: 2007-2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500; 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Classic; 2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500; 2007-2009 Chevrolet Tahoe; 2007-2013 GMC Sierra 1500; and more

Pacesetter P40701346

Pacesetter has been one of the leading manufacturers of performance headers since 1974. With the brand’s proven track record of producing high-quality exhaust systems, you could never go wrong investing in a Pacesetter header.

If you’re looking for a shorty header, you may want to check out the Pacesetter P40701346.

Pacesetter performance header
If you’re looking for a shorty header, you may want to check out the Pacesetter P40701346.

Features & Specifications:

  • Series: Pacesetter Performance
  • Header Style: Shorty
  • Design: 4-1
  • Primary Tube Diameter: 1 ⅝ in.
  • Finish: Painted Black
  • Collector Diameter: 2 ½ in.
  • Warranty: 3-year Pacesetter limited warranty
  • Collector Attachment Style: Flange
  • Head Flange Thickness: ⅜ in. Thick Head Flange
  • Inclusions: gaskets, hardware, bolts, studs, and illustrated instructions
  • Material: Mild Steel
  • Port Shape: Round
  • Primary Tube Gauge: 16 gauge

Compatible with: 2007-2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500; 2007-2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500; 2007-2013 Chevrolet Silverado 1500; 2007 GMC Sierra 1500 Classic; 2007-2009 GMC Yukon; 2012-2014 Chevrolet Tahoe; 2012-2014 Chevrolet Tahoe; and more

Kooks KCH2250H420

Kooks headers have been winning races for decades. Although there are more affordable brands on this list, the performance boost your vehicle is going to get from this header is worth every penny.

Kooks KCH220H420 is crafted with premium-quality stainless steel. Take note, however, that this particular header isn’t CARB (California Air Resources Board) legal.

Kooks stainless steel header
Kooks KCH220H420 is crafted with premium-quality stainless steel.

Features & Specifications:

  • Header Style: Long Tube
  • Primary Tube Diameter: 1 ⅞ in.
  • Finish: Natural
  • Collector Diameter: 3 in.
  • Warranty: Kooks Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Emissions: 47-state legal – (Cannot ship to CA, NY, ME)
  • Head Flange Thickness: ⅜ in. Thick Head Flange
  • Inclusions: O2 extensions, gaskets, studs and/or bolts
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Primary Tube Gauge: 18 gauge

Compatible with: 2010-2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS; 2012-2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

aFe 48-46101

aFe headers are made with state-of-the-art technology and design. aFe exhaust system components are flow-bench tested, so you can be sure that their headers are top-quality. 

If none of the options above fit your preference, you may want to check out the aFe A1548-44001.

aFe 48 46101 header
aFe headers are made with state-of-the-art technology and design.

 Features & Specifications:

  • Series: aFe Power Twisted Steel
  • Header Style: Shorty
  • Primary Tube Diameter: 1.625 in.
  • Finish: Natural
  • Warranty: 2-year aFe Limited Warranty
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Compatible with: 2005 Nissan Pathfinder; 2005-2008 Nissan Frontier; 2005-2009 Nissan Xterra; 2006-2012 Nissan Pathfinder; 2011-2012 Nissan Xterra; and more.

Borla B2517217

Borla headers are built to make your vehicle look and sound better. They are made of high-quality stainless steel, so you can be sure that they are durable and corrosion-resistant. Give your vehicle extra horsepower and torque by getting a new Borla header.

borla stainless steel header
Give your vehicle extra horsepower and torque by getting a new Borla header.

Features & Specifications:

  • Header Style: Shorty
  • Design: 4-1
  • Primary Tube Diameter: 1 63 in.
  • Finish: Natural
  • Collector Diameter: 2 ¼ in.
  • Warranty: Million-mile Borla Limited Warranty
  • Collector Attachment Style: Flange
  • Head Flange Thickness: 0.38 Thick Head Flange
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Port Shape: Round
  • Primary Rube Gauge: 16 gauge

Compatible with: 2001-2008 Subaru Legacy GT; 2001-2009 Subaru Legacy GT Limited; 2003 Subaru Legacy L SE; 2002-2005 Subaru Impreza WRX; 2006-2007 Subaru Impreza WRX TR; 2008-2009 Subaru Impreza Sport; and more

What to Consider When Looking For Headers

To help you look for the right header for your vehicle, here are some things to consider when shopping for one:

Is It Legal in Your State?

Before deciding on getting this upgrade for your vehicle, you should check which types of headers are compliant with your state’s traffic and air regulatory laws. This is important because in some states, some exhaust upgrades like long tube car headers are not street legal.

Shorty vs. Long Tube

Shorty exhaust headers are shorter than long tube ones, but they are longer compared to factory exhaust manifolds. They are recommended for turbo-boosted engines. If you’re going to use your vehicle for daily driving, a shorty tube is a good choice.

Long tube variants, on the other hand, are ideal for track cars and vehicles that are often in the higher RPM range.

Remember to read up on these things first before deciding on an exhaust manifold upgrade. If you’re unsure about anything, ask for professional advice from a mechanic.

car headers
Before deciding on an exhaust manifold upgrade, consider these things first: size and configuration, material, and coating. Plus, make sure it’s compliant with your state’s traffic and air regulatory laws.

Size & Configuration

Aside from the header style, another thing to consider is the diameter of the pipes that connect to the exhaust port. There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right pipe diameter, such as the engine size, horsepower, type of vehicle, and more. It is very important to make sure that the header you are buying is compatible with your year, make, and model.

Material

Aftermarket headers are usually made using steel or stainless steel. Generally, mild steel headers are more affordable than other types of stainless steel headers. If you’re after durability regardless of the price, go for headers made of strong and high-quality stainless steel.

Coating

A ceramic coating on exhaust headers provides them with an added thermal barrier. This helps maintain the temperature inside the primaries at an ideally low level, allowing denser intake charges and increased horsepower.

If you’re looking for more affordable options, there are also a lot of high-quality headers with a natural or painted finish.

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