Kid Turbo - Catback Exhaust
Be proud to be loud!
Today I want to talk about a subject that's near and dear to my heart: performance cat-back exhaust systems. To be honest, it's not that I love aftermarket exhausts so much-it's just that stock exhausts suck! Actually, they blow (hehehehehe). If you've read my exhaust header article, then you know that stock exhaust systems are designed by "The Man" to conform to bureaucratically inspired emissions and noise control standards, and to keep the number of dead presidents the consumer has to pay for the car at a minimum. As I learned many years ago on my first hot date, emissions control can be a good thing. However, a well-engineered aftermarket performance cat-back exhaust system will provide improved performance over stock, without causing environmental damage worthy of a made-for-TV disaster movie.
Experience has taught me that automotive performance is a lot like a late-night binge at a cheap Mexican restaurant: what gets inhaled eventually has to be blown out the tail. Now that your car is efficiently sucking in air through an aftermarket intake system and shooting it out into a performance header, it's time to get serious about the rest of your respiratory system.
I'll admit that exhaust system designers don't have an easy job. They have to clean up the pollutants left over from the combustion process, quiet down thousands of explosions per minute to a soft purr, and expel the exhaust gases at the back of the car. Add to this cost constraints, environmental regulations, structural considerations, and ground clearance issues, and what you end up with is a tightly twisted series of skinny pipes that impede exhaust flow instead of facilitating it. The problem is that your exhaust system is then choking your motor! Let's help it out by installing a free-flowing aftermarket performance exhaust system.
By exhaust system I mean specifically cat-backs-aftermarket exhaust systems that consist of a muffler, pipes, and tips - everything aft of the catalytic converter (cat). Many manufacturers make top-quality cat-backs for just about every application possible. If they don't make one for your ride yet, rest assured they're working on it! The trickiest part of buying a cat-back may be matching it to the rest of your engine. Cat-backs are "tuned" according to specific applications, and have different designs geared toward their intended purpose.
For example, a cat-back system for a naturally aspirated car typically has pipes with a diameter of 2.25" to 2.5", and comes with a resonator and a muffler. The resonator is a type of pre-muffler that helps smooth out the exhaust tone as it travels through the piping to the muffler, where the exhaust exits the system. It helps keep the exhaust from sounding like a swarm of bees in a coffee can! If your car is turbocharged is has different requirements for maximum power production. Backpressure is the enemy of efficient power production in forced induction applications. You'll want to look at systems with pipes in the 2.5" to 3" range to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Exhaust systems come in stainless steel, mild steel, or aluminum. Stainless is pretty cool-it's sort of lightweight and guaranteed not to rust on you. Many stainless systems are mirror polished to give your ride a show-quality look in addition to upgraded performance. If you live in a wet or snowy climate, stainless steel is practically a must. Mild steel and aluminum, although less expensive than stainless, won't be as resistant to corrosion. This may lead to problems down the road.
If you're the type A personality, hipper-than-thou, alpha male type, you might want to consider a titanium exhaust system. Oh, how I love these! Ultra light weight, awesome performance, and insanely good looks. However, they might make your wallet burst into flames, as they come in around $200 to $300 more than top-quality stainless systems. But if you want the best of the best, titanium is for you.
When shopping for your cat-back, take into consideration your plans for future mods as well as everything you've already installed. If you see nitrous bottles or forced induction in your future, go with the larger diameter exhaust now to save yourself from double spending. If you plan on lowering your ride in the future, make sure your new exhaust system won't cause any clearance problems (think speed bumps). Also, be sure the system you buy meets your state's requirements for sound and emission control. You don't want any hassles when it comes time for an inspection, and you definitely don't want Officer Friendly to add fifty bucks to your speeding ticket for excessive noise!
Installation is pretty straightforward-it's just plumbing, after all. Cat-back exhaust systems will supply you with the hardware (nuts, bolts, and gaskets) to bolt it together. A car lift is the optimal way to maneuver underneath the car, but not many tuners have one in their garage! Typically, you only need to get the rear of the car up in the air enough to get the job done; just don't forget to support your ride with some quality jack stands. NEVER work under your ride supported only by a floor jack! Installation is basically unbolting your old exhaust system and replacing it with your new cat-back. If your new performance exhaust is properly designed, it should use all the stock mounting points and exhaust hangers. If you have an aftermarket rear bumper, things can get a bit hairy, though you may need to adjust or change the location of the exhaust tip to fit your bumper.
As for performance gains, you can expect to see 4 to 8 peak horsepower, depending on application and other mods that you may have. You'll also enjoy a deep, smooth sound coming out of the muffler. If you've chosen wisely, your new exhaust system will work well with any future mods you install.
Take a look around the site to narrow your options and get a feel for what the cost will be. Of course, if you have any questions about which cat-back is right for your ride, you can give the friendly Tuner Pros at Sport Compact Only a call at 888-766-0022 or hook up with a live chat for advice on what will be best for your ride. They'll help you find the right combination of performance, looks, sound, and price.
Until next time... peace out!