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Today’s Science Lesson: How Headers Work

Posted in Cool Stuff, Featured, Horsepower, Science, Videos by Kurt Ernst | March 17th, 2011 | 4 Responses |

If you’ve ever turned wrenches on a car or a bike, chances are good that you’ve upgraded an exhaust system at one time or another. The cheap and easy way to do this is to replace the muffler, or (better yet) the exhaust system from the catalytic converter on back. The real horsepower gains come from replacing stock exhaust manifolds with headers, then replacing the entire exhaust system with a less restrictive one. Dyno data shows this to be an effective way to add horsepower to almost any vehicle, but do you know why this works? The video below shows how it works and even (briefly) explains why; think of it as science class for those of us with dirt under our fingernails.

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4 Responses

  1. Shahroz says:

    From what i know ( and i know very little) the back pressure only helps at lower rpms. However at higher rpms the smoother the flow the better. So therefore, you need to find the optimal diameter of the pipes for max power.

    is that how it works ?

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Shahroz, ask 10 people and you’re likely to get 10 different responses. Back in my motorcycle tuning days, conventional wisdom said that some backpressure was good, otherwise you’d sacrifice midrange power.

      Most Japanese car tuners now say that backpressure is a myth, and that the larger the exhaust diameter, the more horsepower you ultimately make.

      The truth, I suspect, is somewhere between these 2 extremes.

  2. FastCheapGo says:

    While this did prove having headers or installing headers is a very good idea. I felt it was middle school science at best. When i saw this i was looking forward to it in the hope it would be a guide that i could use to build my own. Tho at the minim i wished it gave me the info know how to select them when buying them.

    Tho then again i wish they had this kind of science when i was in middle school.

  3. Taylor says:

    Heeeyyyyyy, that’s pretty sneaky to slip some education in here.

    Pretty cool stuff though. Got to admit that I never knew how they worked, just that they did.