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Does Headers Make Your Car Louder?

Does Headers Make Your Car Louder

Making your car sound louder isn’t just about getting more attention on the road.

Especially when it comes to racing, increasing the sonic output of your car is a visceral way to hear what your car is saying more clearly.

Does headers make your car louder? While there is a tonal difference when upgrading to an exhaust header from a stock manifold.

Headers alone won’t make your car sound louder in any meaningful way.

In what follows we’ll investigate how the exhaust system works.

We’ll follow that up by distinguishing between an exhaust manifold and exhaust headers.

Then we’ll consider some useful options for turning up the sound of your car.

The Exhaust System

A vehicle’s exhaust system is made of several components all working together with the singular goal of expelling exhaust gases from the engine.

In a standard production vehicle with no performance modifications or aftermarket parts installed.

Exhaust gases are collected from each cylinder and travel into the exhaust manifold which is bolted onto the engine.

From there the exhaust gases travel into the catalytic converter which is responsible for filtering out the harmful byproducts from the exhaust gases and burning them up.

Then the exhaust gases continue to flow through a resonator which dulls high-pitched noises along with the hums and buzzes that happen.

The gases continue to make their way to the muffler which works to further dampen the noise of the moving exhaust gases as they flow out of the tail pipe and into the atmosphere.

Not all cars, trucks and SUVs have resonators. But vehicles designed to give the occupants a plush ride – which includes a whisper quiet sound from the engine – will often use a resonator to compliment the muffler in sound deadening.

Exhaust Manifold

Although the terms exhaust header and exhaust manifold are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction.

Made of thick cast iron, most production vehicles come from the factory with an exhaust manifold.

They feature short inlets of varying lengths that come together in a single collector as they make their way to the rest of the exhaust system.

Auto manufacturers almost always use exhaust manifolds as original equipment even though they’re heavier because the design is durable and relatively inexpensive to produce.

Exhaust manifolds usually come with heat shields.

Engines in a V configuration like a V6 or flat configuration like a Porsche engine have two exhaust manifolds – one for each cylinder bank.

While inline or straight engines like an inline four or inline six engines have only one manifold.

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Exhaust Headers

Headers as part of an overall exhaust system overhaul can make your car louder. On their own, however, they don’t affect noise as much as performance.

Exhaust headers like exhaust manifolds are designed to route exhaust gases from each cylinder into the exhaust system.

While both are engineered for the same purpose. The key distinction is that headers create less back pressure than exhaust manifolds.

Replacing your stock exhaust manifold with headers is also great for weight savings.

As such, headers are more complicated in design and function than exhaust manifolds.

Headers are made up of a series of thin-walled stainless steel tubes with gradual bends that allow each cylinder its own means by which to exhaust gas.

This allows the engine to breath more easily.

But if your primary goal is to get more sound out of your ride. There are better ways than replacing the header, which we’ll dive into.

Cold Air Intake

Depending on what you’re looking for when it comes to increasing the sound of your car.

Installing a cold air intake is a great way to slightly tweak the sound of your engine.

My first car was a Volvo 240 GL. I bought it the day before my birthday during the summer. When school started in the fall, I noticed that acceleration was quicker.

And the car was more eager to go than during the middle of summer.

I quickly attributed that to the cooler weather.

A cold air intake system works by sucking in cooler air into the engine. The result? Improved performance which even includes a noticeable uptick in fuel economy.

A cold air intake system replaces the box air filter intake that come with your car.

While you can simply change out the stock filter for the often cone shaped cold air filter for less than $100 which will change the sound of your car.

For a few hundred dollars more, I would go ahead and get a complete cold air intake system for an even more impressive change in sound and performance.

Drill the Exhaust

I almost hesitate to suggest this option for getting more sound out of your ride for the mixed bag of results I often see, or rather, hear.

But if you’re desperate to change the way your car sounds and you like DIY projects, then this one’s for you.

Provided you already have the tools, it’s one of the cheapest ways to change the sound of your car.

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After hoisting your car up so you can get under it comfortably and safely. What you’ll need is a 3/8-inch bit and a power drill.

Then you’re going to drill in six holes into the exhaust pipe near the muffler and after the catalytic converter.

The increase in sound will come from the exhaust leak you created.

But not only may this not work if your car has a resonator. But the C02 sensor may throw up check engine lights.

And it will likely make it difficult for you to pass inspection if this is a car you still plan to use as a daily driver.

Muffler Delete

I don’t like this one either.

But it’s an option.

As previously mentioned, the muffler is the part of the exhaust system most responsible for cancelling quite a bit of the noise that your car would otherwise make.

By removing the muffler, you eliminate the part responsible for keeping your car oh so quiet.

Without a muffler, the sound vibration that happen as exhaust gases are expelled from the engine are no longer silenced.

Just like the example above, I don’t like this option either because it messes with your ability to pass emissions.

Plus, it’s illegal to drive around without a muffler in most states.

As long as the resonator is still intact, some states may allow you to get away with a muffler delete.

Yes, your car will be louder with this solution. But it won’t be the greatest sound to ever come out of an internal combustion engine.

And in the long run, it likely won’t be what you had in mind when you wanted to make your car sound louder.

Hold tight, though.

There are more sonorous options that won’t put your car at risk of getting impounded.

Resonator Exhaust Tips

After installing a cold air intake, this was the second modification my brother made to his Honda Civic to get more sound out of it.

The combination proved to be a quick (low budget) success. And a way better option than cutting off your muffler.

Resonator exhaust tips are legal in pretty much every state. And there’s less work involved to install them than the options for making your car sound louder that we’ve mentioned.

All you do is screw the resonator exhaust tip(s) onto the end of your tail pipe. The hollow chamber causes the exhaust gases to vibrate and produce more sound.

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But while this was a quick win for my brother in his quest for more sound. It wasn’t a permanent solution.

Yes, you get more sound. But depending on how much louder you want your car to be.

Simply screwing on resonator exhaust tips may not be enough to impress anyone at the race track.

Performance Muffler

If you’re serious about increasing the sound of your car, you’ll eventually turn down this path.

You won’t regret it. My brother didn’t. I didn’t. Since this sound still involves a muffler, some sound still gets suppressed.

But my how the overall tone of your exhaust changes.

What I like about a performance muffler is that it helps your car to be more aurally communicative without sounding obnoxious while running errands or on your way to work or school.

Performance mufflers feature fewer plates for sound deadening with a mostly hollow construction compared to stock mufflers.

And they’re not that expensive, relatively speaking.

But unless you’re proficient at welding you’ll likely need a shop that can install it for you, which can cost between $75 and $200 in labor.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a solid solution for increasing the sound of your car.

Not all performance mufflers are legal in every state, however. So, that’s definitely something to look into.

Straight Pipe Exhaust

Now, if you’re looking for a no holds barred way to make your vehicle sound louder. This is the way ultimate way to go.

A straight pipe exhaust is just that – a straight pipe.

It gets rid of all the components that restrict sound from the engine as exhaust gases make their way to the tail pipe – no catalytic converter; no resonator (if applicable); no muffler.

There might even be some tuning involved since you’re changing the way exhaust gases move through the exhaust system which can throw of the fuel-to-air ratio.

Unless you’re strictly limiting your car to the track. I’m not a huge fan of this option if you plan on using your vehicle on the street.

While you do have the right to modify your car any way you wish within the limits of the law.

It’s important also to mind your fellow motorists, not to mention folks enjoying their quiet time in their homes who may not share your passion for a louder car.