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For automotive enthusiasts whether seasoned or new to the game, performance upgrades are a big part of the overall ownership experience and are the main objective that leads many down the path of modification. If you have a dedicated track mule, a weekend garage queen, or your daily driver, the aftermarket performance world is deeply broad in virtually every quadrant of your vehicle.

On this topic of discussion, we dive into exhaust systems, as they are one of the most popular and rewarding first sets of modifications that can be performed on your vehicle. This would mainly be attributed to the result of the power and the sound. Whether if your vehicle is turbocharged or naturally aspirated, a quality aftermarket exhaust system is guaranteed to improve the performance of your vehicle. This is mainly achieved through smooth radius bends that are combined with a larger piping diameter. These two elements will drastically reduce any exhaust turbulence and back-pressure to allow your engine to exhale those exhaust gases more freely.

Generally, factory exhaust systems have been engineered to be compliant with several national guidelines in terms of sound or emissions. Usually, the exhaust manifold is made using a heavy cast material while the rest of the exhaust piping is made using heavy mild steel. On many factory exhaust system designs, the bends can be corrugated, and the piping diameter is also smaller. All of which can disrupt the exhaust flow, and leaves so much more for improvement. And because of these reasons, virtually most top-brand aftermarket performance companies will have quality aftermarket exhaust options to improve the performance and the sound of your vehicle. With that being said, not all exhaust systems are built the same obviously, but there are many things to be considered before making an exhaust purchase.


WHAT ARE YOUR HORSEPOWER GOALS?


  • Most, if not all, aftermarket performance exhaust systems will come with a larger piping diameter.

  • Exhaust systems with a larger piping diameter will flow more efficiently. Generally, a 3 to 3.5-inch exhaust system can flow up to 800 WHP while 4-inch exhaust systems can flow enough for 4-digit territory.

  • Exhaust systems with minimal bends in the design will flow more efficiently.


  • WHAT IS RESONATED VS NON-RESONATED?

  • Resonators are built into the exhaust piping to further muffle the sound and reduce the exhaust frequency for a quieter option. Whereas, non-resonated version cat-back exhaust systems will be louder and have a more aggressive tone.

  • Generally, there are no performance-effecting variances when comparing resonated vs non-resonated.

  • If you're the type that lives in an apartment complex or you have to leave for work really early in the morning, then the resonated version would be your best option.

  • Additionally, there are exhaust system options that will include a silencer to further suppress a loud muffler.

  • WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CAT-BACK, AXLE-BACK, AND TURBO-BACK SYSTEMS?

  • Axle-back systems virtually are muffler replacements. Axle-back systems are the simplest of all exhaust systems to install and can be performed using simple hand tools, and are also available in different variances.

  • Axle-back exhaust systems offer fewer performance gains when compared to cat-back systems and turbo-back systems, but are beneficial as they reduce weight by replacing your factory muffler, and they do offer better flow characteristics to improve the power and the performance.

  • Axle-back systems are available in a few variances such as muffler deletes for those of you who want a louder exhaust option while saving the most weight. These are also going to be the simplest exhaust modifications you can perform.

  • Cat-back systems are going to be your most popular and available exhaust option. This will include the muffler and a piping section that will connect all the way up to your catalytic converter.

  • Cat-back exhaust systems are widely available for those with forced induction setups, or naturally aspirated setups.

  • Cat-back exhaust systems offer rewarding performance gains that you can immediately feel as they will reduce turbo lag because of the reduced backpressure. The same can be said on naturally aspirated vehicles as most aftermarket cat-back systems for your naturally aspirated design will reduce the exhaust back pressure to provide more bottom-end torque.

  • Turbo-back exhaust systems are just that, they are a multi-piece unit that connects from the turbocharger, and travels all the way towards the back of the car and straight out of the muffler.

  • Turbo-back exhaust systems will combine a downpipe connecting to the turbocharger, and a cat-back system that will connect to the downpipe.

  • Turbo-back exhaust systems will be the most performance-beneficial exhaust systems as most factory downpipes are highly restrictive.

  • Turbo-back exhaust systems will need a tune most of the time, but offer the largest gains in both horsepower and torque.


  • TITANIUM VS STEEL?

  • Most exhaust systems are going to be made of 304 stainless steel construction or a very similar material because stainless steel can withstand the elements of daily use while providing years and up to a lifetime of use.

  • Titanium will be substantially more expensive when compared to stainless steel. However, titanium in some examples will weigh half of the weight of your stainless steel counterpart.

  • Because titanium will be your lightest option, it can be more subject to damage. Although titanium is known to be a very strong material, it is thinner when compared to stainless steel so, for those of you with lowered vehicles, you have that risk of damaging that very expensive exhaust.

  • Titanium is also known to have a very distinctive sound when compared to stainless steel. It can be described as "tin-like" or even raspy. It all comes down to your personal preference. If you want your vehicle to sound like an all-out race car, then you can't go wrong with titanium.


  • ON THAT NOTE, WHAT ABOUT SOUND?

    Most if not all aftermarket exhaust systems will increase the sound of your vehicle. But make no mistake it is for the better. However, there are many different options. And technology advances as newer car technology has entered the exhaust systems of yesterday's vehicles. Meaning, that now, there are exhaust systems with electronic valving that can provide you with a variety of exhaust sound levels to your liking. Note that not all aftermarket manufacturers offer this electronic valving technology just yet, so be mindful if a lower noise is a part of your criteria. As mentioned earlier, some exhaust systems are designed with or without a resonator. And some exhaust systems will come equipped with a silencer. It all boils down to your personal preference. Remember, the larger the piping diameter the louder it will be. Also by general rule, the louder the exhaust the more gains and performance-oriented it will be. Most aftermarket exhaust systems will have a 75mm piping diameter while some aggressive units will have a 4-inch and larger piping diameter setups for extreme boost and horsepower applications. If you have a race car or live in an area where exhaust systems are a little lenient, go all out. But if you want to be a good neighbor, then perhaps choose something with a resonator and a silencer, because if you go to a weekend track event you could at least remove the silencer easily.


    AWE Track to Touring Exhaust

    Invidia Titanium Catback

    GrimmSpeed Resonated Cat Back


    WHAT'S THE INSTALLATION LIKE?

    Depends on how mechanically inclined you are. Axle-back systems are going to be the simplest to install. Cat-backs can also be installed using your basic tools and a can of penetrating lubricant such as WD-40 or PB Blaster. Downpipes are going to be the most difficult because this exhaust component will experience the most heat when compared to the axle-back and cat-back systems. The hardware on the downpipe will experience perpetual heat cycles which over time, can cause the hardware to warp. It is fairly common for some to break off the bolts holding the downpipe on so just take your time. Allow the penetrating lube to soak on the hardware for a while, and be patient. Otherwise, a basic set of sockets and open-ended wrenches and a weekend afternoon can be a great learning experience for novice wrenchers who want to learn how to start modifying their vehicle.


    WHERE DO I START? WHAT BRANDS SHOULD I CONSIDER?

    RallySport Direct has all of the exhaust systems. And not just any brands, all brands we carry are quality brands. You can find a great selection of exhaust-exclusive companies such as Invidia, Borla, Magnaflow, or Nameless Performance. But other performance companies such as COBB Tuning, Tomei, or AWE Tuning carry many excellent examples as well. There are several other variables you should consider that include tip finishes as well as tip layout in terms of single or dual exit.


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    Because of all of these reasons, exhaust systems are arguably one of the best performance modifications you can perform on your vehicle due to the increase in both power and sound, but there is such a large aftermarket support and offering for the right exhaust system that best suits your vehicle and power goals. Note that exhaust components are not limited to axle-backs, cat-backs, and turbo-backs. Exhaust systems always begin at the exhaust manifold. Also known as headers, exhaust manifolds. However, this is for another time and discussion for when you're ready to start getting into a new level of performance upgrades for your vehicle.