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Power, Sound, Looks | Can I Have It All With a Cat-Back Exhaust System?

Cat-back exhausts start behind the catalytic converter. We explain the performance benefits, and important factors to know when making a final product decision.

It's an age-old question that many have asked. Will an aftermarket exhaust be worth the expense? While they definitely can be, an important question to ask yourself is do you care more about the deeper sound they're designed to produce, or the added performance gained from being less restrictive? As car enthusiasts, we've become accustomed to associating the sound of a car with its exhaust. After all, doesn't everyone have a childhood memory or two of a car and the particular sound it made?

Types Of Exhaust Systems

There are different classifications of exhaust systems, named for how far they extend up to the front of your vehicle. "Cat back" refers to an exhaust system that comes with all pipework and a muffler(s) that replace everything starting just behind the catalytic converter. Cat-back systems are the most commonly chosen aftermarket exhaust system because they provide solid performance and sound gains without the great expense of purchasing a new catalytic converter. This style is best for those who prefer to work on their own vehicle because cat-backs come complete with clamps, a muffler, and mandrel bent piping to ensure even diameter and easy flow through all curves.

While most OEM exhaust systems incorporate a resonator that further cancels noise missed by the main muffler, cat-back systems eliminate this part to improve flow, performance, and sound. In this article, we'll guide you through the cat-back systems found in the Complete Performance Exhaust Systems section of our website in order to help you make a quicker and more informed purchase.

The Rumble

It has been a battle of the ages to make automotive exhaust sound like it should. Fewer bends and turns in the pipework will not only improve the sound but also increase performance. The process of mandrel bending has become a key to success in cat-back pipework bending, because the diameter of the bends is even - not pinched. This helps give you a throaty, not tinny, sound. When overall exhaust flow is increased, sound volume and quality improve as a whole. However, when choosing an exhaust or a type of sound you would like, it's best is to first check local laws. Noise pollution has become a sensitive legal matter in some areas, and police may choose to enforce laws against loud exhaust systems.

Larger-Diameter Pipes Are Better

Does size matter? Let's face it, bigger is usually better and many detailed studies have been made to show that the more freely exhaust flows, the better. The average exhaust system on most passenger vehicles has been designed to meet bare minimum standards set within the automotive industry and provide levels of quiet auto manufacturers believe 99% of their customers demand. As a result, OEM systems are rather restrictive. But in the performance world, a rule of thumb exists when it comes to diameter of exhaust pipes and performance modifications. As you tune your motor and add horsepower, you add larger exhaust pipes and freer-flowing mufflers in order get the full benefit of your gains.

Exhaust Pipes Diameter
Sound Tab
If you see this “Sound” tab, click on it to hear a pre-recorded audio track.

On specific product pages for all items we sell, you'll find a description of the amount of extra noise you can expect that exhaust system to produce (mild, moderate, moderate-aggressive, aggressive, etc.), and you'll find diameter measurements for pipes. These details may be right upfront in the product descriptions, or they may appear later once make, model, and engine choice have been entered.

Various Muffler Sounds
Pages on our website for Flowmaster and Magnaflow cat-back exhaust systems contain audio recordings of their specific mufflers.

For some products, you may see a "Sound" tab to click on - this will play an audio track of that muffler fitted to a pre-determined vehicle. We've also worked hard with manufacturers such as Flowmaster and Magnaflow to provide a more finely tuned listening experience, which cross-checks the best mufflers for you based on specific vehicle choice and level of sound aggressiveness desired. To hear these samples, enter our Flowmaster section, and our Magnaflow section.

Aluminized Steel vs. Stainless Steel

The majority of the performance cat-back systems we offer are made from stainless steel alloy blends that will never oxidize and corrode the way traditional steel can over time. Unless mentioned otherwise, it can be assumed any products being discussed in this article are stainless steel. For the customer seeking best value up front along with quality construction, you'll find a variety of aluminized steel cat-back systems.

Aluminized steel are made from traditional (not stainless) steel that's been fully coated on all sides with aluminum-silicon alloy. This process produces a strong metallurgical bond between the two metals which gives traditional steel a significant level of corrosion resistance. The underlying steel provides higher strength and rigidity than would be possible with all-aluminum construction, and the aluminum coating allows the whole system to reflect heat away more effectively. However, while the aluminum coating keeps pit corrosion from occurring in winter climates, aluminized steel can corrode if the aluminum layer is scraped or chipped away by rock hits, scrapes, or other impacts. Note that many cat-back systems may be available in both aluminized steel and stainless steel versions.

Choice Of Exhaust System Materials

Some examples of aluminized steel cat-back systems we offer are the Gibson Extreme Dual Exhaust System to enhance on-road performance of American and Japanese pickups/SUVs, the Gibson American Muscle Car Exhaust System for a handful of late-model American V8 performance cars, Flowmaster's Delta Force Exhaust System for classic Dodge & Plymouth muscle cars, the MBRP Black Series Exhaust System (with an all-black finish) for various 4x4s, the Gibson Supertruck system with dual rectangular openings for full-size American pickups, and Gibson's Dual Sport Exhaust System for 4x4s that sports a dual split-pipe design on the end of each pipe.

Gasoline-Engine Cat-Back Systems

'Straight Through' Mufflers

Straight through cat-back systems have mufflers of minimal size with fewer baffles. This creates a louder sound and a low amount of restriction.

For gasoline-engine vehicles, we'll start with a best value on a full stainless steel cat-back system for full-size GM, Ford, Dodge, and Toyota pickups from Volant. If, instead, more power with greater exhaust rumble is what you seek, cat-back systems with "straight through" mufflers restrict the exhaust flow less. For straight through choices, we've got the stainless Ark Performance stainless N-II System for some Chevys and Asian performance cars like the Honda S2000, Hyundai Genesis, Mitsubishi Evolution, and Subaru's WRX.

Flowmaster Outlaw Cat-Back Exhaust System
The Flowmaster Outlaw Exhaust System.

Flowmaster's stainless steel Outlaw Exhaust System provides an aggressively loud noise for a limited number of domestic and Japanese V8 performance cars and trucks. DynoMax's Ultra Flo Cat Back Exhaust System comes with a pre-welded muffler section with fiberglass noise suppression that can handle applications up to 2,000-horsepower. If you've got an exotic sports car, we've got the Borla S-Type stainless steel system for certain Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini models among others. And if you're counting every ounce of weight on your car, we've even got a number of titanium cat-back systems from Agency Power.

Split Tailpipe Designs

If you prefer a "split rear" design where each exhaust pipe splits into two side-by-side pipes at its end, we've got a number of choices. For late-model Dodge Challengers and Ford Mustangs, MBRP's stainless Pro Series Cat-Back Race system is street legal and comes with a polished muffler and exhaust tips. For American and import performance cars, the ARK Performance split rear DT-S Exhaust System features extra chambers to quell excess vibrations that cause unwanted droning noise at higher rpms.

ARK Performance Split Rear DT-S System
The ARK Performance split rear DT-S system.

Magnaflow's split rear Sports Series Exhaust System offers aggressive noise increase, while their Touring Series Exhaust System offers a milder noise increase. If you've got a full-size GM, Ford, or Dodge pickup, see Gibson's Supertruck Exhaust System that's available in aluminized or stainless steel. And if your vehicle was equipped with one exhaust pipe, Gibson's Split Rear Exhaust System starts with one pipe leading out of the OEM catalytic converter and splits it into two pipes that end on opposite sides of the vehicle.


Lifted 4x4 Equipped With Specially DesignedCat-Back System
Audi Equipped With AFE Mach Force XP Exhaust System

For those who've modified their 4x4s with lifted, lowered, or air type suspension systems, we offer specially designed cat-back systems with more pipe curvature ahead of the rear axle. This allows a greater degree of up-down wheel travel over the trails, and it allows clearance for lowriding on reduced-height springs and airbag suspensions. Magnaflow's Off-Road Pro Series system is for American & Japanese trucks, and aFe's Mach Force XP system specializes in systems for American, German, and Japanese performance cars.

Custom Setups

For exhaust system builders that are fabricating their own systems, Magnaflow's stainless steel Custom Builder Diesel Exhaust system allows hand selection of pipework needed for full-size diesel trucks. Borla’s Exhaust System includes a selection of block off plates that allow you to adjust the exhaust flow to suit your own tastes. Use a plate with a larger hole for increased power and more aggressive sound, or insert a plate with a smaller hole when quieter operation is desired.

Truck Equipped With Tailpipe Angled Off To The Side

And finally, how about a cat-back system with the custom look of a tailpipe angled off to the side? We've got dB Sport's Polished Stainless Steel Exhaust System for full-size pickups & Jeeps, and Gibson's Swept Side Exhaust System for a wide range of 4x4s made by American and import brands.

Exhaust Exit Locations Table

Diesel Exhaust Systems

Dodge Ram Fullsize Truck Emblem

Beginning around 2010, virtually all vehicle manufacturers in the United States added specially developed catalytic converters to diesel exhaust systems in order to meet new emissions standards. For such vehicles, we offer diesel exhaust systems with larger pipes and mufflers to provide the same free-flowing benefits.

For starters, there's the black-finish aluminized steel MBRP Black Series Diesel Exhaust System with a more mellow sound for full-size Ford, GM, and Dodge pickups. If you like the way pipes look which exit at an angle at the rear corner of the vehicle, we've got side exit cat-back systems such as the Banks stainless steel Monster Sport Diesel Exhaust System, and the aluminized or stainless Gibson Swept Side system. And if you use your truck for competition events, we've got the MBRP SLM Series that deletes both the catalytic converter and the muffler.

If you're looking for a more complete exhaust system that runs from the diesel particulate filter back (known as "DPF-back"), check out the Magnaflow stainless steel Black Series exhaust. And if you've got a late-model Volkswagen Golf or Jetta TDI, you'll the Borla Diesel Cat-Back Exhaust System is designed to reduce flow and increase performance of these already-sporty cars.

Exhaust Tips

Exhaust Tips

Do flashy exhaust tips help performance? We wish they did, but unfortunately they do not. But that doesn't mean they don't add a lot. In fact, it's been said that exhaust tips are the equivalent of wearing a Sunday church suit every day. You will shine, you will look sharp and you will do everything possible to prevent dirt from marring your overall look. Exhaust tips dress up ugly-looking exhaust pipes with chrome or other finishes, and they are shaped as needed to fit the contours of your vehicle. Most exhaust tips are designed to slide on easily over your existing tailpipe, then secure in place with clamps provided in the kit. Some are meant to be welded on permanently, and those products available on our pages will state that fact clearly.

To help guide you through the selection of performance cat-back systems you may need, we have set up the Complete Performance Exhaust Systems section of our website to provide you with all the choices for your vehicle.

A new performance exhaust system gives you multiple benefits in one package: looks, sound, and performance. With our vehicle-specific kits, installation is straightforward. Whether your ride is new or old, car or truck, domestic or import, there's a system out there that will energize your entire powertrain!

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