The easiest way to get more power from your engine is to let it breathe better, increasing intake and exhaust flow. Factory exhaust systems are compromises, with noise reduction usually a priority over performance. Installing a performance exhaust system is the first step, but if you want to go further, consider a set of headers. Headers mount in place of the exhaust manifolds, and have individual tubes that all meet in a larger tube called a collector.

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Most stock exhaust manifolds are designed with more attention paid to engine compartment fit than exhaust flow. They’re restrictive because all of the exhaust pulses dump into a small space. In contrast, an exhaust header has individual tubes so each exhaust pulse can flow freely from the exhaust port. And after exiting the port, it flows into a larger space because headers have larger diameter tubes that are usually mandrel bent for gradual radius bends.

Besides less restriction, some headers can also increase performance because of the “scavenging” effect. When an exhaust gas pulse exits a header tube into the collector, a negative pressure wave is created that travels back up the header tube to the exhaust port during valve overlap. This negative pressure helps pull any remaining exhaust gas from the cylinder and also helps draw the incoming intake charge into the cylinder. This is very beneficial to engine performance but the tubes must be long enough for it to be effective during a useable rpm range.

Headers come in a number of configurations, including short tube, or “shorty”, and long tube, also called full length. In general, it’s usually easier to achieve the aforementioned scavenging effect with long tube headers, but there are also shorty headers with equal length tubes. Long tube headers require that the exhaust pipes be cut and flanges attached that will connect with the header collector. The tubes on short tube headers generally fit more easily in the engine compartment and some are designed to connect to the existing exhaust pipe flanges, so no cutting or welding is necessary.

On most headers all 4 pipes end together in the collector, but there are also so-called “tri-y” headers. On a tri-y header, the opposite cylinders in the firing order are paired in a short “Y”, and then the Ys combine in the collector. Today, most headers are constructed from stainless steel, or heavy-duty plain steel that’s been chrome plated or ceramic coated for durability. Stainless steel headers will not rust but they may turn blue near the head flange. Ceramic coatings are durable and can withstand higher temperatures.

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Guides & Articles

  • Performance Exhaust Systems
    Are Headers Worth The Performance Improvement?
    Engines have often been compared to air pumps, because the engine that’s most efficient in terms of economy and power is the one that can get air in and out of its cylinders the easiest. That’s why most performance modifications like conical air filters, cold air intake systems, headers, and cat-back exhaust systems are aimed at making the intake and exhaust systems less restrictive. These parts increase the flow of air into the engine and ease the flow of exhaust gas out of the engine. Among these components, headers may be the most difficult to install. In this article, we’ll discuss what headers do, their different types, and how much performance they can add to your car.

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Average rating:  4.5  4.6 - 67 reviews
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BTP Manifold Heat Spacer
Researched the part as part of upgrading my valve covers on my 86 Gt Mustang, and this kit was recommended. I used it with any issues, and made working on the valve covers much easier. Very good product for its cost.
PPosted by Paul (Helotes, TX) /
1985 Ford Mustang
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