How To Choose an Aftermarket Exhaust System

A while back, we conducted a course in Exhaust Anatomy 101 to provide a beginner’s look at aftermarket exhaust systems. Now that you’ve brushed up on the basics, we’ll show you what makes an aftermarket exhaust system such a popular upgrade and provide tips on how to choose the system that’s best for your vehicle.

Exhaust Configuration: Single vs. Dual Exhaust Systems

Another important consideration in picking an exhaust system is configuration. Common setups include single, dual, dual crossover, and dual exit.

The single exhaust system is the most common setup. This design features a single set of exhaust components, including a muffler with exhaust tip that typically exits behind the axle of the vehicle. Aftermarket single exhaust systems will provide a significant performance upgrade over stock thanks to larger pipe diameters and less restrictive mandrel bends. Plus, they’re usually less expensive and lighter weight than true dual-rear exhaust systems.

Dual exit exhaust systems are basically a twist on single exhausts. These systems utilize the same configuration as a single exhaust system—one headpipe, converter, and muffler—but have two exhaust tips exiting from the muffler. There is no real performance advantage to this design, but some hot rodder prefer the added performance styling of the dual tips.

True dual exhaust systems are arguably the most popular exhaust systems in the hot rodding world. This design features two separate pipes that run from the headers all the way back to the exhaust tips, along with two catalytic converters (depending on the application and system) and two mufflers with their own exhaust tips. Many performance enthusiasts prefer this design because of its sporty look, the distinctive growl of the dual mufflers, and the high-flow capabilities of two separate exhaust passages for each bank of engine cylinders.

The one main disadvantage of a dual exhaust system is potential pressure imbalance between the two sets of exhaust components. Uneven backpressure can cause one bank of engine cylinders to back up and make less horsepower than the other bank. Dual crossover systems incorporate a special “crossover” to eliminate this problem. This crossover pipe allows exhaust gases to flow freely between the two sets of pipe, balancing out the exhaust flow and eliminating excess backpressure on one side. The dual crossover exhaust system is generally regarded as the best performing exhaust but, in many cases, requires some extra modifications for proper fit.

Depending on the manufacturer, there are other less common exhaust configurations available, including single muffler dual-rear exhausts and side exit exhausts. 

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