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Understanding Car Headers and Their Impact on Performance

Last Updated On Wed Apr 24 2024

The car modification world is vast: there are so many exclusive acronyms, jargon and terms that sometimes it sounds like the enthusiasts are speaking a different language. One word that often surfaces is headers. You may have heard that they enhance airflow, but that’s about it… what else do they do? How much do they cost? Are they worth it? And how do they compare to their counterpart, the exhaust manifold? 

What Are Headers on a Car?

Your car's exhaust is a completely functioning system composed of multiple sections, and it has a stock exhaust manifold attached directly to the engine, responsible for eliminating gases from it. 

Unlike stock exhaust manifolds, performance headers are a set of exhaust pipes that individually connect to each engine cylinder. These pipes merge into a collector, ensuring equal spacing of exhaust gases from each cylinder. This seemingly subtle difference in design has a profound impact on flow dynamics and back pressure. 

Headers are long, slender steel tubes with smooth, gradual bends that connect individually to each engine cylinder. Those pipes then merge into a collector, which ensures equal space for exhaust gases from each cylinder. This may seem like a small detail, but such a tiny difference has a huge impact on flow dynamics and back engine pressure. 

Headers are not the common exhaust option in the vehicles’ standard configuration, and the reason they’re so popular among car enthusiasts is simple: they are designed to enhance engine performance. 

By optimizing the exhaust flow, which is their main function, they redirect these gases from the engine to the exhaust system. It may seem like no big deal, but the traditional stock exhaust manifold sometimes restricts the flow and may even have uneven interior ports that cause back pressure and affect torque and horsepower. 

So, basically, headers contribute to efficient air circulation, improving engine performance. 

Also you can read: What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Fuel Regulator?

Headers vs. Exhaust Manifolds: Understanding the Difference

They have similar functions, but headers show better performance on the job. This has a lot to do with their structural differences. While stock exhaust manifolds are made of solid, thick cast iron and connect to cylinders, which provide excellent heat retention, they may affect performance because of uneven interior ports.

The header, on the other hand, is made from super thin individual stainless steel tubes that connect to each exhaust port, generating less engine backpressure. Their shape and function are performance-oriented, which is why they’re mostly added to high-performance engines that can handle a lot of customization. 

Headers Improve Flow Dynamics and Back Pressure

You may have heard of the "scavenging" effect when the rush of the exhaust gas leaving the cylinder helps to pull in a fresh air/fuel mixture. That only happens when the car has a well-designed set of headers. 

This process is crucial in assisting in the evacuation of any remaining gases from the cylinders, which helps the intake of new, fresh air. By reducing this back pressure, which is a common issue with standard manifolds, the headers contribute to increased power output and overall engine performance. 

Also you can read: My Car Won’t Go Into Gear When The Engine Is Running

Do Headers Add Horsepower?

Investing and installing headers is not the same as having a turbo or supercharger in the engine, but the impact will definitely be felt, too. 

The noticeable increase in engine torque can lead to up to a 5% jump in horsepower, significantly enhancing your car’s driving experience, especially in high-performance vehicles. 

Headers are not on the inexpensive side, but if you can afford it, they might be worth it.

Common Types of Exhaust Headers

There are two main types of exhaust headers: shorties and long tubes. Shorty headers resemble traditional stock exhaust manifolds, which offer a straightforward replacement – you won’t need any additional tuning or parts. They still offer a boost in horsepower, so they are a good choice for everyday drivers.

Long tube performance headers, on the other hand, need a mid-pipe to be installed, due to their extra length. These, however, offer impressive gains in torque and horsepower, particularly in the mid-low to mid-hight RPM range.

These long tubes are perfect for both everyday drives and track use. They need tuning to work and cannot be installed in turbocharged engines, however. 

Headers definitely optimize your vehicle’s performance, even though they might not be for everyone. Car enthusiasts are fans because it elevates their driving experience. If your concerns are simpler, invygo may be for you. You can subscribe to a car with us with insurance and maintenance included, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

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