A cat-back system starts at the catalytic converter and replaces the pipes, mufflers, and tailpipes on your vehicle. It frees up some horsepower and can add torque to the motor as well. These systems are a common starting place for street-driven performance cars.
A header-back system starts at the headers or manifolds on the vehicle and replaces the entire exhaust system with new pipes, converters, mufflers, and tailpipes. Often these systems use larger diameter pipes and free-flowing mufflers to get a significant increase in power.
A full custom system offers the best increase in performance for your car. The system uses a larger diameter pipe and high-flow mufflers, and the pipes are bent to fit perfectly on your vehicle. Often the pipes are coated to reduce heat, and the bends are made on a machine that creates extremely smooth turns for the gases inside the exhaust system.
A standard exhaust system and tail piece is often replaced with a performance exhaust system and custom tail piece for the following reasons:
There is a general misconception about what the correct size of a performance exhaust system should be though. Many people that enhance their vehicles themselves often use the biggest size pipe and tailpiece available as it looks more dramatic and intimidating. The fact of the matter is that installing an oversized exhaust system could lead to various problems with your vehicle’s performance.
One area that you will notice an improvement in is the fuel economy of your car. The best increase will be in vehicles with full performance exhausts, but even cat-back systems can help. The free-flowing exhaust allows the gases to flow out of the engine faster and easier. While the gains may not be earth-shattering, every little bit can help when you are talking about fuel economy.
While it may not be a benefit to everyone, the deeper tone and the more aggressive sound from the exhaust are often very appealing to the car owner. When you are selecting mufflers for the system, you can find highflow models with low tones that sound nice when the car is accelerating hard. Keep in mind that muffler shops will not build a custom system with mufflers that are not legal for the streets, so there may be some limitations in this area.
Custom coatings are often used to reduce heat under the car, protect the exhaust, and make the exhaust system look good. For show cars, stainless steel pipes are sometimes used, and the pipes are polished to a bright shine. These pipes are not typical on street cars, but they could be installed on one if you would like that.