Most trucks are quite powerful — that’s probably why you own one. Trucks are made to haul and tow thousands of pounds, and to do so without difficulty, so they need lots of power. Yet despite their powerful engines, most manufacturers equip their new vehicles with a relatively quiet exhaust system. If you think your truck ought to sound as powerful as it is, or if you’d like to reduce some of the constrictions in your truck’s exhaust, then you’re probably considering adding or changing your factory exhaust system.
Fortunately, the factory exhaust system is efficient and doesn’t require much modification for you to improve it. The first component in your exhaust system is the exhaust manifold – a part that directs exhaust from individual cylinders into one or two main exhaust pipes. Most exhaust manifolds are pretty efficient and don’t require replacement, but if you decide you’d like to replace this part, then you’re going to look at a set of headers. A good set of headers will offer a ceramic coating as well as factory mounting points for sensors. Again, most of the time the factory exhaust manifold is just fine.
The next components the exhaust gases travel thru are the catalytic converters. There’s really no benefit to changing or modifying these, and taking them off is a bad idea. Today’s modern catalytic converter is very efficient and legally required, so it makes sense to leave it alone. You would only consider replacing the factory catalytic if you were adding an extremely powerful engine upgrade, like a turbocharger or supercharger.
After the catalytic converters, the exhaust gases cool somewhat and enter the muffler. Again, the factory exhaust system is pretty good and the standard mufflers aren’t very restrictive. Replacing them usually won’t result in a significant hp or torque gain…3-5 hp and 5-10 ft-lbs of torque on average. However, after market mufflers will make your truck sound much better. The rumble you’ll hear with after market mufflers is exciting, and well worth the cost. After leaving the mufflers, the exhaust will exit out of the tailpipe. Tailpipe tips are a popular add-on, but they’re decorative only and have no impact on your exhaust system’s performance.
Since changing the factory muffler will have the biggest effect on your exhaust system, they’re the most logical component to replace. When you’re looking at after market mufflers, here are some things to consider:
First, do you want to hear the exhaust ALL the time? In other words, when you drive down the highway, is a little exhaust drone OK? If not, make sure you choose a muffler that’s not described as being loud. Check the web and ask your local muffler shop for advice on finding a good muffler. Many muffler manufacturers are even putting sound clips on their websites now.
Second, do you want something that people can slightly hear when you drive by, or do you want something so loud that the neighbors know exactly what time you leave for work every morning? Words like “racing” or “glasspack” usually indicate exceptionally loud mufflers, so watch out for those terms unless you want a lot of attention.
Another important choice when considering a new muffler is single or dual exhaust. Remember, most factory exhaust systems are pretty good. If your truck came from the factory with a single exhaust, it will work just fine and give good performance with a single after market exhaust system. Dual exhaust systems are more money, but they look and sound and single exhaust systems. If you decide to go with a dual exhaust, make sure that your installer works around your trailer hitch and/or leaves room for one in case you want to add it on later.
Finally, what exhaust system material is best? It’s a decision that should be based on geography. If you live anywhere near the corrosive effects of saltwater, stainless steel is the smart choice. While it’s more expensive up-front, it will last much longer than galvanized or aluminized steel in these climates. People living in dry climates really don’t need to purchase stainless steel — if rust attacks their system, it will be years before anything is damaged.