The exhaust system plays an important role in the function of gas-powered cars and trucks. When an engine's cylinders ignite the fuel-air mixture, it creates exhaust gasses as a byproduct. These gasses typically contain carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxygen and a few other gasses. However, not all automotive exhaust systems are the same. Generally speaking, cars either have an exhaust manifold or exhaust headers. So, what's the difference between them, and which one is best?
Most automakers install and use exhaust manifolds in their vehicles. Typically consisting of cast iron, it's designed to funnel exhaust gasses from the engine to the catalytic converter and then out through the tailpipe. They are usually made with thick walls to withstand the high pressure and high heat of exhaust gasses.
Exhaust manifolds are relatively cheap and easy to install, making them a popular choice among budget-conscious car owners. However, they don't offer anything in terms of performance, which is why some car owners prefer exhaust headers instead.
Exhaust headers performs the same operation as exhaust manifolds -- funneling exhaust gasses from the engine to the tailpipe -- but they differ in a few ways. First and foremost, headers are typically aftermarket parts, meaning third-party companies produce them, not automakers. Secondly, exhaust headers are designed with an emphasis on performance, allowing for increased horsepower and improving efficiency.
Because of their thick walls, exhaust manifolds have limited space through which exhaust gasses can flow. Therefore, they tend to create back pressure, which reduces the engine's performance and efficiency. Exhaust headers, on the other hand, are designed with individual tube for each of the engine's cylinders. This eliminates the possibility of back pressure while subsequently improving performance and efficiency.
You might be wondering how much of a performance difference you'll notice by upgrading your exhaust manifold to exhaust headers. Well, there's no easy answer to this question, as countless factors play a role. With that said, however, most drivers will experience a noticeable improvement in their engine's performance and efficiency after replacing their exhaust manifold with headers. It's a smart investment that's beneficial for all cars and trucks.
To recap, both exhaust manifolds and exhaust headers are designed to move exhaust gasses from the engine to the tailpipe. However, manifolds are typically cheaper and lack the performance of their header counterparts. If you're looking to improve your vehicle's performance, stick with exhaust headers instead.