When it comes to aftermarket modifications for your cars, the results can be extremely varied. Some modifications can improve your engine performance, others can increase your fuel efficiency, and even more, can change the visual appearance of your ride making you stand out in a crowd.
Installing a header will not make your car louder in most cases when compared to the stock exhaust manifold, but it will adjust the sound of your exhaust to make it have a more “tinny” tone for resonators and a deeper tone for big tipped exhausts.
If you are wanting to make your car louder so you can turn heads when you cruise up and down the street, a header alone will not give you the volume you want. Instead, try adjusting the size of the muffler pipe itself.
Benefits and Risks of Using Headers
Even though installing an exhaust header is a very simple modification almost any car person can do on their own, there are both benefits and risks to consider before doing it yourself.
Different Styles of Headers
If you’re new to aftermarket modifications, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of items available.
With headers, it’s a bit more simple and is usually limited to the length more than anything. Let’s take a look at each!
1. Short or Shorty
These are a suitable choice for meeting emission regulations but won’t increase the performance of your engine any noticeable amount. There will be no volume increase.
2. Mid Pipe
These will meet some emission standards, but not all, and will add a bit of extra power to your engine, but not as much as a long tube will. There will be a slight volume increase.
3. Long or Performance
These are great for increasing your engine’s power and will be the only headers to actually increase the volume of your exhaust, but they will not be within any emissions regulations.
Benefits to Installing Headers
If you’re installing an aftermarket header, your main goal will likely be to increase the horsepower and torque in your vehicle when compared to the stock header.
Since a header changes how exhaust gasses are handled, this increase in engine performance is better seen in the long or large barrel tubes, but can still be felt in some mid pipes.
Additionally, while most headers won’t increase the volume of your exhaust, it will change the tone. This change in tone to your exhaust can make your favorite car purr.
If you’re specifically looking for a header to increase the volume of your vehicle, look for performance headers. These are made to focus on engine performance and not on sound reduction.
Disadvantages to Installing Headers
Installing your own aftermarket header can be done by individuals with moderate experience. It’s not something that always requires a certified mechanic, however, improper installation can cause exhaust to leak into the interior of the vehicle.
This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If in doubt, always have your header installed or at least inspected by a certified mechanic.
Additionally, since headers adjust how your vehicle processes exhaust gasses and require adjustments to the catalytic converter, you may be altering your emissions standard. In some areas of the United States specifically, this can be illegal or at the very least, bad for the environment.
Installing a Header Yourself
If you are very new to installing modifications on your vehicle, it may be safer to have a certified mechanic do your header installation.
However, if you are confident in your modding skills you can install your own header in an afternoon or over the weekend.
10 Easy Steps To Install A Header
- Lay out all of your components and hardware to ensure everything is there before you begin. If parts are missing or damaged, contact your supplier for replacements.
- Disconnect your battery, and unplug any electrical Co2 sensors. You don’t want to be tinkering with any part of your vehicle while the battery is still connected.
- Completely remove your exhaust from your manifold so you can install the header. This part will take the most time, and keep in mind these components can be quite heavy.
- Disconnect and remove any parts that are blocking access to the manifold. This may include spark plugs, alternators, or converters. Make note of where everything goes.
- Completely unbolt and remove the manifold from the vehicle. You may have to dig around the vehicle a bit to find all of the bolts securing the manifold in place.
- Check for any augments or replacements needed on studs and harnesses. Some performance headers may require augments to your studs for proper installation.
- Replace any removed parts and ensure everything is bolted in tightly. This includes replacing the alternator, all spark plugs, and every bolt you removed earlier.
- Reconnect your electrical Co2 and air sensors. If you had to disconnect any air boxes, sensors or other items in step 2, make sure you reconnect them now.
- Reconnect your battery terminal. This should always be the last thing you do. Make sure you are finished reconnecting other components before you reconnect the battery.
- Turn on the engine and give it a rev or two so you can enjoy that new sound! Keep in mind you will need to recheck the tightness of bolts regularly every week or two.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do headers change exhaust sound?
Depending on the size of the header and pipes in your exhaust system, the sound can change drastically.
Do headers make your car sound better?
A header can adjust the sound to be more “tinny” or deeper in base depending on which size you get. Some vehicles will “purr” while others may “growl”.
Do performance headers make your car louder?
Yes, performance headers are one of the few header types that will noticeably increase the volume of your idle and rev.
Can a header make your car faster?
The entire purpose of most headers is to increase the performance of your engine by handling how gasses are processed. This can increase your engine performance drastically.
Whether you opt for a short pipe or want to go with a full performance upgrade, installing an aftermarket header on your vehicle can drastically change how it processes exhaust gasses.
This in turn may affect your emissions ratings, as well as improve your engine performance.
Headers can be installed on your own or you can have them done by a certified mechanic. Regardless of how they are installed, you will soon be enjoying the different tone of sound and more power under the hood.