Exhaust Manifolds vs Headers: Which is Best?

The exhaust manifold is more common on production vehicles than the header. Exhaust gases are collected in the manifolds from the ports in the engine's cylinder heads and routed to the rest of the exhaust system. Cast iron is typically used for exhaust manifolds. A single collector is located at the end of a manifold with short inlets of varying lengths. An inline or straight engine only has a single exhaust manifold, while a V-shaped or flat engine has two (one for each bank of cylinders). As original equipment, exhaust manifolds are almost always used by vehicle manufacturers because they are durable and relatively inexpensive to produce.

Car Headers: What Are They?

Following our discussion of exhaust manifolds, let's turn our attention to headers. What are they for?

In the same way that exhaust manifolds route exhaust gases from the engine to the exhaust system, headers do the same. Compared to exhaust manifolds, headers create less exhaust back pressure, making it easier for engines to breath. Stainless steel tubing is usually used for headers. Primary tubes in headers are long and equal in length, allowing exhaust gases to flow more freely than through exhaust manifolds. Although some high-performance vehicles come with headers from the factory, most are added as aftermarket upgrades to increase their performance.

Exhaust Manifold vs. Header

Despite serving the same basic purpose of directing exhaust gases from the engine to the exhaust system, exhaust manifolds and headers differ in significant ways. Here's what you need to know:

High-performance cars typically use headers, while regular production vehicles use exhaust manifolds. There are two main types of exhaust manifolds: thick cast-iron and thin-walled stainless steel. Exhaust manifolds are designed with short inlets (which may vary in length); headers are designed with a long primary tube of equal length. Heat shields are usually found on exhaust manifolds, but not on headers. The backpressure created by headers is less than that created by exhaust manifolds.

What is the Value of Headers?

As far as headers are concerned, they seem like a clever idea on paper. Adding a set to your vehicle is as simple as bolting it on! Your engine performs better and breathes better, right?

It's not as simple as that, unfortunately.

Power gains from headers are usually only noticeable on high-performance, souped-up engines. A set won't make any difference to your daily driver if it isn't modified. A set of headers can cause problems, such as an illuminated check engine light, on a late-model, computer-controlled car. Moreover, because most headers don't come with heat shields, they can create abnormally hot engine compartments, causing a variety of problems. There is also the fact that most aftermarket headers are illegal in some states. Before installing headers on your car, you'll want to do your research. Give us a call at 954-870-9040 and we will be able to assist you with any inquiries.

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