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In the terminology part, we already became acquainted with this term. The header-back systems replace everything from the header collector to the tailpipes. By way of a header-back system, you can enlarge the diameter of your entire exhaust system. In doing so, you will enable your exhaust system to cater for a greater flow of exhaust gasses (in respect to volume). Installing a header-back system is expensive and tougher to install, compared to the cat-back or axle-back systems because you will be replacing nearly the entire exhaust system.
Another term we acquainted ourselves with earlier, is the cat-back system. This system will replace exhaust components from the catalytic converter all the way to the back, including the muffler and tailpipe. Depending on the make and model, they may come with a mid-pipe, X-pipe, H-pipe or a Y-pipe. Many vehicle owners prefer the cat-back systems, and mostly because it is a relatively simple modification, it gives good power gains and better efficiency due to freer exhaust flow. It also gives an aggressive exhaust sound (that is still in tune with emission laws) because of the retained catalytic converter.
You may recall that we mentioned that there is a difference between a diesel and a petrol exhaust, and that the difference lies in the fact that the exhaust system of a petrol vehicle uses a catalytic converter, while the diesel exhaust requires a diesel particulate filter (DPF). Therefore, instead of using the term “cat-back”, we use the term “filter back”, because we cannot work from a catalytic converter backwards, we rather work from the diesel particulate filter backwards.
This system only includes components from the rear axle to the exhaust tip. It does not include an intermediate pipe and it is not so difficult to install. The axle-back can also deliver a performance sound as in the case of the cat-back. For vehicles with front wheel drive, the cat-back would start near the area where your axle would be, right in between your rear tyres.
High-performance systems are more efficient and more expensive than all the systems mentioned thus far. Specialized companies produce these aftermarket products, and aside from being more efficient at removing and filtering gases, they can substantially alter the sound and the look of a vehicle, as well as boost its performance.
Apart from the placement of the tailpipe and the different types of exhaust systems, there are some other factors that you may take into consideration when considering a new exhaust system, or just understanding your vehicle’s current system.
It is important to know that the material used to make an exhaust system, also plays a defining role. An exhaust system made from mild steel is cheaper than a stainless steel one, but it will rust or corrode much faster. A stainless steel system will resists corrosion, but it will cost you more.
Take note of the fact that a mandrel bent exhaust have bends in the exhaust that are smooth and do not neck down. A press bent exhaust, has so-called dents in the bends that causes a disruption in flow. This is not very conducive for power production.
Now that we are better acquainted with exhaust related terminologies and with the different types of exhaust systems available from which to choose, it is now time to say a few words on exhaust maintenance. Maintenance? Do you really need to do exhaust maintenance? The exhaust system is an essential part of your vehicle but it rarely gets the attention it deserves. If you care about your fuel efficiency, the environment and your safety, then you would want to keep the exhaust system in a good working condition. Here are a few headers on how to do exactly this:
Frequently inspect your exhaust system to ensure there are no holes and/or cracks in the system. This is an important safety feature because you would not want harmful fumes to enter the vehicle’s interior, now would you?
Check the manifold, headers and gaskets for any cracks or holes. If any of these are present, it will surely cause exhaust leaks that will affect safety, performance and cause unnecessary noise.
It is important to realise that cracks, damaged wires or blocked intakes can cause incorrect fuel/air mixture adjustments. With the passing of time, oxygen sensors may wear out and become less accurate. If this happens, your vehicle will surely show poor fuel economy.
Catalytic converters are not exempt from damage. They can overheat and even clog up, and if you add some dents and corrosion to the mixture, you could be sure of a catalytic converter that will cause a loss of power, a rough idling, air pollution, heat from the floor, a sulphur smell and excessive noise.
Hangers, clamps and brackets ensure that the exhaust system stays snugly in its place. Any excessive rust or broken clamps, brackets, hangers and bolts, may cause the exhaust components to hang dangerously low. This is a safety issue, not only for yourself but for other road users too.
You usually just get into your vehicle, start the engine, and drive off. I mean, it makes little sense to start your vehicle and then get out and walk to the back and stare at the exhaust tailpipe… Well, maybe that is not such a senseless idea. Do yourself a favour, see what comes out of the tailpipe after you started your vehicle and leave it to idle. Water! Yes, this is a by-product of combustion and the catalytic converter, but this will evaporate if you drive for a reasonable distance. Short trips (let us be economical and say trips less than 20 minutes long) can considerably shorten the lifespan of your exhaust system. When you shut your engine down, the water vapour in the pipes will condense and turn back into liquid. On a short trip, the water never has a chance to get hot enough to evaporate; it will just stay in the system and peacefully do its job as nature intended whenever it gets into contact with metal – and that is to rusts away the pipes. If you have no other option than to drive for short distances, strongly consider replacing your system with stainless steel. It is hard to prevent your exhaust system from rusting, so the better the quality of stainless steel used, the more likely your exhaust is to hold up for much longer.
Back to your tailpipe again, and please, do not do the following while your exhaust is still hot. Take a finger and give it a whirl inside the tailpipe. The chance that your finger will be full of black soot is highly likely. So what happens? The gasses released through your exhaust system, are among others carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. All of these contain carbon, and on its way out of the system, it fuses to the insides of your exhaust, turning it black in the process. An excessive build-up of carbon can hamper the release of exhaust fumes and negatively affect your vehicle’s performance and efficiency. Yes, before you ask, you can indeed cleanse the inside of it, that is, as far as you can reach into the tailpipe. To do this, you will need to apply a degreaser to the inside and outside of the exhaust tip to loosen the caked-on carbon deposits and rust. Reach into the back of the tailpipe as far you can and use a dry old cloth for this purpose. Leave the degreaser to soak, as recommended in the instructions of the product, and then scrub the degreaser off in small circular motions with the use of steel wool. Repeat this process if there is an excessive build-up of soot.
Did you ever think that a seemingly simple system, such as the exhaust system, could be so complex? At Steves Auto Clinic, we specialise in vehicle maintenance, and we always do our best to keep our readers, customers and every other vehicle owner, up to date with maintenance hints and advice. Apart from that, we also have branches countrywide, filled with specialised equipment, highly qualified mechanics, and very friendly staff that are ready and willing to assist you with any vehicle related issue. If you want something checked, fixed, diagnosed or enhanced, then you are at the right place, just visit your nearest Steves Auto Clinic.