Improving your engine's performance is a never-ending task. Of course, as long as your car can get better and better, then why stop, right? If you're budget-conscious, however, prioritizing the more important car performance modification steps is vital, and you should realize that installing exhaust performance headers in your car should be topmost in your list. Why? In simple terms, headers remove anti-performance exhaust dirt in your car, making sure your engine's potential is maximized.
Along with a high performance cold air intake and high-flow air filter, headers reduce exhaust backpressure for air to flow more easily out of the engine. Headers work by providing each cylinder with its own mini exhaust pipe and piping exhaust pulses away from the cylinder head into a downstream exhaust collector, improving air intake and exhaust.
Headers come in different sizes and shapes with hundreds of applications to suit your particular car's needs. Top manufacturers produce their own headers in various configurations, specially tuning each to fit the type of engine it is intended for. So whether you have an imported or domestic vehicle of whatever brand, there's an exhaust header just for you! If you're obsessive-compulsive with your car's looks even with the under hood, then worry not as headers are also available in different finishes that complement that hidden part of your car.
- Headers are the most affordable and easiest to install engine performance upgrades in the market. They vary in shapes, coatings, and material. These characteristics enhance the advantages of car headers.
- Exhaust headers work like exhaust manifolds in that they both move exhaust away from engine cylinders and out through the rest of the exhaust system. However, headers are built to address the design problems of exhaust manifolds.
- You’ll know if there’s a problem with your header if you smell and hear unusual things from your engine compartment. Sudden and drastic drops to your vehicle’s engine and exhaust performance are also signs to look out for.
- You can find long-lasting and affordable headers here at CarParts.com. Prices range from $130 to $2,392, depending on your car’s year, make, and model. With the variety available, you’re also free to choose the layout and coating that suits your needs.
Most people will say that having performance upgrades done on their vehicle is a luxury. Headers improve your car’s exhaust performance. What’s more is that they’re quite easy to install and maintain, if you choose the right one for your vehicle. In fact, having car headers might save you dollars in gas money and in repairing your O2 sensors, exhaust valves, and your catalytic converter.
You might have a few other questions about headers--what are they and how are they different from exhaust manifolds. You’ll find the answers to those and more in this helpful guide below.
What are headers and how do they work?
Headers maximize your engine’s performance by providing each cylinder with its own mini-exhaust pipe. That means that the back pressure is reduced, air intake is increased, and the flow of exhaust is maximized.
Exhaust gases build up enough pressure in the manifold to create back pressure. Exhaust headers are built so that each cylinder gets an exhaust pipe of its own. Meanwhile, in the exhaust manifolds of four- or eight-cylinder engines, four cylinders use the same manifold. This makes it especially difficult for exhaust gases to exit and make their way through the catalytic converter and the muffler.
Headers come in different materials, sizes, shapes, and coatings. A car’s year, make, and model, as well as its engine capacity, is taken into account for each header design. Most header designs can either be classified into the 4 into 1 layout (or 3 into 1 if you have a V-6 engine) or the Tri-Y.
All four pipes of the 4 into 1 layout ends together in a single collector. On the other hand, the Tri-Y design pairs opposite cylinders according to their firing order into a short Y-shape structure. The Ys then meet in the collector. The Tri-Y layout maximizes the scavenging effect, or the rush of fresh air and fuel pulled in by exhaust gases rushing out of the cylinder.
Car headers also come in a variety of coatings that enhance their performance. Uncoated or natural headers don’t have protective coatings or finish, but the steel with which they’re made of have some level of rust-proofing. Uncoated headers can be customized with your high-temperature coating of choice. Uncoated headers are the most affordable headers out there.
Headers can also have chrome-plated or painted finishes. Chrome-plated and painted finishes are chosen mainly to match the other components under the hood. You’ll have to replace the chrome plating or repaint your headers once they’re tarnished or rusted. Meanwhile, ceramic-coated headers are good for regulating temperatures under the hood and for resisting corrosion.
A header doesn’t only provide better flow and louder engine sounds. It’s a practical upgrade to your car, especially if you want to get better engine performance. But if headers help draw out exhaust gases from your engine, how is it different from an exhaust manifold?
Exhaust manifolds vs headers
Exhaust manifolds and headers have the same function—to move exhaust away from the cylinder heads and out through the back of the vehicle. Because of the similarities in their function, people say that headers are aftermarket exhaust manifolds. Normally, vehicle manufacturers wouldn’t equip cars with high-performance headers on the get-go, but some do. That’s where most of their similarity ends.
The materials they’re made of, their shapes, and even their coatings determine how exhaust manifolds and headers get the same job done differently.
Exhaust manifolds come in one piece and are made from heavy-duty solid cast iron. They’re attached to your engine and collect the exhaust that comes out of it. In that aspect, it works very much like a funnel that siphons out the exhaust. Because exhaust manifolds are made of cast iron, they’re durable and better adapted to heat. Also, cast iron tends to produce less noise, and that’s a plus factor for many.
The downside to exhaust manifolds is that because of their thick and rough walls, exhaust flow is limited. Not to mention, the unequal length of each cylinder in exhaust manifolds leads to a build-up of back pressure that keeps exhaust gases from being cleared efficiently.
On the other hand, exhaust headers are made from smooth traditional or stainless steel. Because headers have smooth surfaces, they facilitate exhaust to flow more efficiently. In addition, the tubes that make up the headers have the same length. This decreases back pressure and makes them all the more efficient. These design upgrades address the roughness and uneven tubing problem most exhaust manifolds have.
A disadvantage of car headers is that their walls are too thin, which makes them too loud. However, some car owners don’t view that as a disadvantage. In fact, many take it as a welcome feature that enhances their driving experience.
How to spot a bad header
If you already have a header installed, you’ll want to keep it in top shape all the time. Not only because it boosts your car’s performance, but also because it’s your car’s first line of defense against dangerous gases. If theheader breaks down, not only does your engine’s performance decrease but the entire exhaust system will be affected, as well. How do you know if it’s time for an exhaust header repair? These are the signs you have to look out for.
Excessive engine noise
Exhaust may leak out from your header if it comes loose or is damaged. You’ll know there’s an exhaust leak if you hear hissing or tapping noises from your engine. These sounds should clearly be audible when you accelerate or when you do a cold start.
Exhaust smells and unusual noises from the engine compartment
Unusual smells can also come from your engine compartment if exhaust leaks out from your header. The heat from a failing header or even an exhaust manifold can cause nearby wiring and plastic components to melt. These smells can be accompanied by faint smoke which is a serious safety hazard.
Significant decrease in fuel efficiency and power
Engine performance issues can be expected when your header is failing. If your vehicle’s power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency drop suddenly, you’ll need to replace your header. Do this before the issue spreads to the rest of your engine and exhaust system.
If you experience any of these signs as you’re using your exhaust header, you’ll need a better and more durable replacement. Repairing damaged headers may be a tricky business, as it depends on how the components under your hood is positioned. However, with the right tools and a good replacement header, you can definitely solve the problem right away and in the comfort of your own garage.
How much is an OE header replacement?
CarParts.com has the best selection of OEM replacement headers that are sure to last but won’t go over your budget. Use our vehicle selector tool and enter your vehicle’s correct year, model, so you can go over headers that fit your car perfectly. Headers can cost anywhere from $130 to $2,392, depending on the design, finish, and hardware included.
Important Facts You Need to Know About Headers
Boost up your ride's performance with a top-grade Header or Exhaust Header/ The industry has a wide variety of quality headers to help you out.
If you want more power from your vehicle, you don't have to install a new engine. One area in your vehicle you could modify easily is the exhaust system. By swapping your vehicle's stock exhaust manifold with a well-designed header, you can prevent backpressure from affecting the stock engine's performance.
Backpressure occurs when the pistons can't properly expel gaseous waste from a combustion cylinder due to pressure in the exhaust manifold. The pistons' doubled efforts result in significant power loss. This problem can be avoided entirely if you install a good set of headers in your vehicle. It can be bolted to each of the engine's fuel combustion cylinders. As each cylinder fires and emits exhaust gases, the header leads the emissions to a large central collector. This way, exhaust gases are kept out of the combustion cylinders, and backpressure is reduced. The engine produces increased power, letting you accelerate more quickly on the road.
So, if you feel that your vehicle's engine doesn't perform at its best, check the exhaust system. Equip the exhaust system with a high-quality header to reduce backpressure and enhance the volumetric efficiency in your vehicle. Give your ride a higher performance level with a new set of headers today.
Heads up on Headers: How to Buy
Not sure if you're going to get headers for your car? Well, we'd like to give you a heads up on headers to help you come up with a decision.
Why you should get new headers
- Get to improve fuel economy. Your engine ceases to run efficiently if its components, such as the exhaust, are busted. With the exhaust manifold damaged, it can clog up the cylinders and kill your miles per gallon.
Tip: Purchase headers with steel construction. This will make your motor running more efficiently. This kind of header will also take off a few pounds from your car's weight.
- Run on amplified exhaust tone. If you're tired of your old exhaust tone, you can definitely alter it just by upgrading your headers. Break the silence on the street and install new performance headers on your exhaust system.
Tip: For sports use, you can get sports headers, which give off a sound perfect for the racetrack. If it's for city use, then you might want to purchase quieter headers to avoid being a nuisance on the road. But, you can always choose to stand out. So, feel free to choose the sound your headers give.
- Reduce the weight of the vehicle. Heavy cars force the engines to work more quickly. However, not only does it slow you down, but it also wastes fuel.
Tip: For lighter weight, purchase headers made of steel.
- Get more horsepower and torque. The spent gases that occur during combustion are pushed out of the cylinder and to the exhaust manifold, which when clogged up can cause your engine to waste energy.
Tip: Horsepower depends on the engine. Usually, you add 5 to 20 percent horsepower with headers. If you buy tubing a size too big or get the incorrect length, your engine can end up losing horsepower.
Dare to stand out
Aside from the aforementioned reasons why you should buy new headers, it also improves the overall look of your vehicle.
- Ceramic: If you want to get a NASCAR look, get one in this finish. This is the usual choice of experts.
- Nickel chrome/stainless steel: If your objective is just to capture attention on the road, then headers made from these materials will give your motor a dramatic look.
- Matching finish: If you want to match your headers and engine compartment, purchase new ones that will complement the color.
These are just tips to help you out with your decision on buying new headers. The choice is always in your hands. Good luck!
How to Deal with Headers: A DIY Guide
Upgrading your headers can bring evident changes in performance to your vehicle. Your car would be able to regulate engine temperature to prevent it from overheating and provide efficient engine performance. Headers need to be replaced or upgraded if they become worn out; otherwise, these can develop exhaust leaks. Here's a step-by-step process to help you out to successfully change your headers to new ones.
Difficulty level: Hard
What you'll need:
- 2 jack stands
- Floor jack
- Open-ended wrenches
- Socket set and ratchet
- Wire brush
- Torque wrench
- New gasket
- New headers
Step 1: Lift the hood and take out any parts that are blocking the headers. Take note that this will vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
Step 2: Separate the headers where they are locked to the downpipe or the exhaust system. This will also depend on your car's make and model. Usually, there are three bolts holding the headers to the downpipe; otherwise, these may slide into the rest of the exhaust.
Step 3: Take out the bolts that hold the headers to the engine by using the correct socket and extensions, as well as open-ended wrenches to be able to reach the bolts. Slip the headers out of the engine bay.
Step 4: Using the degreaser and wire brush, clean up the area where the headers mount. Make sure to clear the surface from oil, residue, and old gasket material. Put a new gasket onto the mounting surface. Lock the gasket to the engine using small pieces of tape on both ends to prevent it from moving while you install headers.
Step 5: Place the new headers into position on the motor. Loosely thread in a bolt on either to secure them in place. Put in all the bolts and tighten them using a torque wrench according the manufacturer's suggested settings.
Step 6: Connect the downpipe or the exhaust system to the back of the headers. Put back the engine cross-member if it was removed. Reinstall the fuel and manifold system parts that were taken out. Start the motor and inspect for vacuum leaks in the headers. Tighten the bolts after the car is driven to operating temperature and check if they are still tight. And you're done!
With these steps, you can surely get your job done in no time. Good luck!