5 Exhaust System Features To Consider
Depending on who you talk to about an upgraded cat back exhaust, some will tell you it is absolutely necessary and others will tell you it isn’t necessary at all. As for me personally, I’m all about reducing back pressure. The easier it is to move air out, the easier it is to get air in… And then you can’t beat the added enjoyment you get from the improved sound, and I don’t think anyone will argue that. So what should you be looking for when picking an upgraded exhaust for your car?
There are several ways to go about finding an exhaust system for your vehicle. But some aspects of the cat back exhaust are more important than others and careful thought should be given when deciding what you want to put on your car. You are the one who has to live with it on a daily basis so make sure you are purchasing what you like!
You have to live with it! The first thing you should do when searching for an exhaust system is to hop on youtube and start listening to the audio. There are tons of these videos for tons of different cars and it is important to pick out something that sounds good to you.
Remember, when searching for a good sounding exhaust, opinions on the internet are not going to be helpful. What sounds amazing to one person will sound like crap to the next. I see this all too often. One guy will think Exhaust X is super loud and drones too much, and the next guy will say that it's too quiet and they can’t even hear it. So when it comes to figuring out what sounds the best, you are the only one who can answer that question. Put in some time and pick out a few you like and decide from there.
Another thing to think about when it comes to exhaust sound is drone. Drone is a term used to illustrate excessive noise during part throttle or cruising operation. Again, this is going to be pretty subjective, but there are youtube videos that will help with this. If possible, see if you can find somebody local who will take you for a ride so you can experience this first hand. A lot of higher quality exhaust systems are designed to tune this out with the use of accurately placed resonators so, be sure to keep that in mind.
A lot of people are sold on an exhaust upgrade option based on price. After all, pipes are pipes right? Wrong! What the pipes are made out of and how they are made is very important! Most higher quality exhaust systems and other exhaust components are made out of 304 stainless steel. This is a pretty normal standard as the exhaust system is closest to the road, and for those of us who live in areas with lots of moisture (especially snow), it is important to avoid lesser quality metals as they will be eaten up with rust and either be impossible to remove, or remove themselves in a short amount of time. If you live in a dry climate, you can get away with this, but if not, this is one area you should be very mindful of. 409 stainless steel is typically the next in line as far as quality. If you can't quite afford the 304 stainless versions, take a look at the 409. Another build characteristic to consider is the welding style. TIG welds are very clean and organized when done properly. MIG welds look a little bit more like taking a glue gun and mating the metal together. They can both be reliable but typically, TIG is a higher quality and cleaner construction.
Exhaust size is very important. And it depends very heavily on the car, specifically the engine. Naturally aspirated cars require smaller exhaust diameters while turbo cars will require bigger exhaust diameters.
The standard upgraded exhaust for most turbocharged cars is a 3” diameter. If you have a NA car, then you will be looking for something no bigger than 2.5” most of the time. If you have a turbo car and you settle for a smaller diameter exhaust, you are leaving power on the table. If you have an NA car, and you go for the biggest exhaust you can, then you are exchanging power for noise.
Fortunately, most exhaust systems made specifically for your car will have had the engineering done for you. They will be designed with an appropriate diameter in mind. Just keep in mind that it's important to get an exhaust that's suited for your goals. If you're taking a turbocharged car north of 500whp or more, chances are 3" is the absolute minimum you'll want to run and any bigger is better.
You can read more about this by checking out our blog on Exhaust Back Pressure!
This is one area where opinions on the internet have a place. But one thing to keep in mind is how issues or concerns are handled in the world of social media and auto forums. Pretty much everyone who has an issue will say something while everyone else who doesn’t have issues will never say a word.
That being said, it is still a good idea to look at reviews. You can almost ignore the opinions about how exhaust systems sound, but you should pay attention to the reviews that talk about fitment. Some lower quality systems do not have very good fitment and can be a bit difficult install. Higher quality systems are not immune to issues either though. Mistakes happen, but most manufacturers will stand by their products and take care of you if something should be wrong. With that said, make sure you get an exhaust from a company that will help you with any issues you may experience, not a place with no advertised phone number and an unresponsive email inbox, like some eBay companies.
A lot of people don’t think about weight when it comes to the exhaust system, but it is a great way to shed some unwanted pounds. Pretty much every aftermarket exhaust system will weigh less than the factory system due to the really large mufflers the OEM uses to keep noise levels low. However, most aftermarket systems also run larger diameter piping so it may not be as much as you might expect.
If weight is a priority for you, you will likely have to give up something in return. The lighter the system, the louder it will be, mainly due to less sound muffling. As mufflers get smaller and resonators disappear, the noise levels shoot up, but the weight drops off. So, if your priority is weight savings over noise levels this will be good for you. If you prefer a quieter, more comfortable ride, you will need to consider sacrificing some weight savings for a little bit more muffling. For those looking for some extreme weight savings, titanium exhausts are an excellent option to shed pounds without having to give up some sound dampening. Depending on your platform, you don't always have access to a bolt-on titanium exhaust.