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What Will an Exhaust System Do for Your Car?

Matt Holliday was one of Crutchfield's ace car enthusiasts for several years. He brought a lifetime of knowledge and experience to our team. He has since left the company to join the family business and pursue other interests.

More from Matt Holliday

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Borla exhaust systems look great, sound terrific, and improve your car's performance.

Most car and truck manufacturers leave plenty of room for improvement when it comes to horsepower and torque. That's not to say that these vehicles are poorly made, but many companies will choose the least expensive alternative when it comes to items such as exhaust systems.

An aftermarket performance exhaust can free some of the power in your engine. These systems allow for a quicker, more efficient path for exhaust gases to escape. This means your engine "breathes" better, so spent fuel and air exit the combustion chambers faster. That means more fuel and air can be burned to create more power.

There are several other good reasons to add an aftermarket exhaust system. One of the most noticeable is the subtle, but distinctly aggressive, change in exhaust note. Many of the better systems are only slightly louder than your stock exhaust at idle, but they deepen to a low "growl" during acceleration.

There are two types of bends used in making exhaust systems, and the type used makes a difference in the way air flows. The typical factory-made systems, as well as some aftermarket systems, use a "crush-bend" technique. This type of process creates a crinkled area in the pipes, which decreases the diameter and slows the exhaust gases. A "mandrel bend," on the other hand, is smooth, so the pipe remains at a constant diameter through the bend. That means there's less resistance, so you get more efficient airflow and better performance.

Performance Parts

A "crush bend" creates the crinkled area seen above. This techique restricts airflow, which slows the exhaust gasses.

Performance Parts

Mandrel bends, like the ones seen on this Borla system, will give you the best performance and sound gains.

Another factor to consider is the material used to make the system. Most factory exhaust systems are made of mild steel, so they have a tendency to deteriorate over time. The better aftermarket systems are made using aluminized steel or stainless steel. Aluminized steel offers slightly better longevity than stock systems, while stainless systems are designed to last much longer — usually for the life of the car or truck.

When researching exhaust systems, it's important to think about how you use your vehicle. Most aftermarket systems add to your car or truck's appearance, with larger tips and highly polished mufflers that provide a more refined, aggressive look. There are also many aftermarket systems that look stock, but still provide performance gains.

The diameter of the pipes is another thing to keep in mind, especially if you're adding more aftermarket performance parts. Most cars and trucks benefit from slightly larger piping, but if you go too big, you can actually hurt your vehicle's performance. On the other hand, if you are adding a turbocharger or supercharger, you'll want to go much larger than your stock exhaust

Performance Parts

The Borla system's polished tips give this Honda Accord a more refined look

No matter what direction you choose, an aftermarket exhaust is sure to add to your car or truck's performance, appearance, and sound. Whether you're looking for more power, show-quality looks, or both, the right exhaust system can change your car or truck for the better.

  • cynthia from kingston

    Posted on 9/10/2015

    Can a better affter market exhaust system improve mieage

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/10/2015

    Cynthia, By itself, an exhaust upgrade won't improve gas mileage. But re-tuning the car for the new exhaust might.

  • Robert from Riddle or

    Posted on 9/28/2015

    2012 dodge avenger 2.4 L. I just put got rid of the suit case muffler and disconnected the battery and put it back together to restart the computer and it runs great. It has a nice deep tone and the mileage has improved some. I like it! lol

  • Kimberly Suhadolnik from Snohomish

    Posted on 10/21/2015

    I just want to rumble on down the road

  • John from Jamaica

    Posted on 11/17/2015

    i have Nissan pick-up truck, and am running a K24 Gas engine. I wonna put (2) 5' x 1 1/2" chrome tips under my chrome bumper. I need a little looks, and a little more power and sound. whats the best size pipe i should used?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/18/2015

    John, Sorry, Crutchfield no longer sells exhaust systems, nor can we sell gear outside the United States and Canada. You should check in with a local automotive performance parts store or two for better recommendations than I can give you.

  • Roy from North Tonawanda

    Posted on 3/28/2016

    After installing a performance muffler on my GMC pick up 5.3 in there any change that needs to be done.?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/30/2016

    Roy, I recommend taking your vehicle in to a qualified mechanic for an engine tune-up. After changing the exhaust system, settings like air/fuel ratio or idle speed may need adjustments.

  • Sergio from Rustenburg

    Posted on 1/24/2017

    My car had 3 silencers, got rid of one and I installed a smaller one at the back... It sounds great but didn't do much on performance, do u think I should change the whole exhaust system?...

  • Mike from Colton

    Posted on 10/4/2017

    To the people who are choosing to disconnect mufflers and exhaust components. You might think it sounds good or runs better, but I got news for you. Not only did you just de-tune your vehicle, but it sounds like crap. I don't know what it is, but it is some sort of trend here in southern California for kids to disconnect their exhaust system. It sounds terrible and it is not cool. It is annoying, they make all this noise and the car isn't going anywhere.

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