An In-depth Guide to Exhaust Systems

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Performance Exhaust Deep Dive Guide

The Jaguar F-PACE or Mustang Shelby GT350R fires its engine up and your knees melt. The vibrations rattle around in your chest, threatening to disrupt your heart’s natural rhythm. Guaranteed, it skipped a beat. If only your car sounded that good. 

There’s a common phrase: “out of the overflow of the engine, the exhaust sings”. Or something like that. What we’re sayin’ is, your car can have all the power in the world and still sound like a puppy stuck in a blanket. Is that the message you want your vehicle to deliver when you mash on the gas pedal? Doubtful. 

Luckily, you don’t have to lay down, give up, and accept that your car will always sound like a weenie. Aftermarket exhaust systems are manufactured for just about every make and model that carmakers put on the road today. From the tamest import subcompact sedan to the toughest heavy-duty pickup truck, exhaust kits are an accessory you to enhance your primary mode of transportation. 

But it doesn’t have to just be about the sound. If you’re looking to pick up a few extra ponies for your stocker, performance exhaust systems can do the trick. Dropping tenths from your quarter-mile time could be as simple as changing to performance exhaust instead of that insulation-filled coffee can the factory installed. 

Performance Exhaust System + Headers or Cat-Back Only?

Now, there’s a big difference between changing the way your car sounds – or even just replacing a rotted-out muffler – and boosting the way your car performs. A complete performance exhaust system would include everything from the headers all the way back to the shiny tailpipe finisher. The more common type of aftermarket exhaust is known as ‘cat-back exhaust’, which also helps with performance, but not as much as a complete overhaul would.

Full exhaust system

If you’re going for the big shooter, trying to win all the marbles, a complete performance exhaust system is the way to go. It’s also the most work to install because it includes most components from the manifolds and cats out to the back of your car. 

What’s Included in a Performance Exhaust 

A sexy, deep rumble and tire-peeling performance takes a lot of work to accomplish, and there are plenty of parts that go into it. A performance exhaust system includes all the exhaust piping, which is usually larger than the factory exhaust pipe your vehicle came with. The larger the diameter, the less backpressure the exhaust gases put on your engine. That’s a good thing, to a degree. 

The performance exhaust system should also come with the main catalytic converter – the center where hydrocarbons in the exhaust react with precious metals to superheat and burn off. Unless your car isn’t going to be Magnaflow muffler cross sectionused on the street anymore, you’re either going to need a kit with a catalytic converter included or to incorporate your factory cat. 

 

Obviously, a muffler and tailpipe are part of the package, too. The muffler is where the sound is tamed, and it’s where you have the most control over what your car will sound like when you’re done. 

The extra flow you get from replacing your factory system with performance exhaust really does depend on the model and what other modifications you pair it with. It could be minimal on its own, or even a 10% gain. There’s no argument, though, that it will definitely turn up the heat in terms of sound.

If you’re having a tough time finding a complete performance exhaust system for your make and model, there’s a good reason. Complete manifold-back or header-back performance exhaust systems involve changes to  emissions control components including oxygen sensor locations, catalytic converters, and EGR systems. It’s an exact science to get it just right on newer cars, otherwise you might be left with a Check Engine Light on your dash and you probably won’t pass a smog check. That’s why availability might be limited for certain applications. 

What Does Cat-Back Exhaust System Entail?

It sounds like it could be a very dark Fred Penner children’s song, but cat-back exhaust systems have nothing to do with cats coming back, the very next day – or at any time. It means that you’re replacing the exhaust system from the catalytic converter to the tailpipe. 

Exhaust System Component Diagram

Cat-back exhaust replacement starts after the catalytic converter and replaces everything from there to the tailpipe. You’ll be pulling off the factory exhaust finisher, tailpipe, muffler, and exhaust pipe, and installing new components from the aftermarket exhaust you’ve picked up. 

If we’re splitting feline hairs, then we’d concede that a cat back exhaust system does have some performance benefits, too. You crank up the horsepower and torque by letting your engine breathe better. Cat-back exhaust tacks on a few more hp, but it doesn’t alleviate the restriction coming through the exhaust manifold, or catalytic converters. 

Axle-back exhaust systems are also a common option on the market in aftermarket exhaust. It sounds like it’s from the old-school crowd before the time that emissions were really a consideration. Essentially, it’s a replacement muffler system with a short exhaust pipe section.

The benefit of an axle-back exhaust system is the easy installation. Usually, there are no special tools involved and takes an hour or less to get the job done, but that’s always dependent on how well you hold a wrench. 

Compared to cat-back exhaust systems, axle-back exhausts offer less kick. It’s like drinking decaf coffee compared with regular java – you get all the appearance without the extra bump. 

Which Exhaust is the Better Choice?

One thing to clarify: very few vehicles today NEED better performance. Modern vehicles have several times more pulling power off the line than they did in the eighties or earlier. The ‘69 Chevy Camaro’s base 230 cubic-inch engine pushed just 140hp. The 2020 Camaro’s base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter with 275 ponies. And it goes up from there. 

But the ‘VROOM’ sound it makes when you put pedal to metal? There’s still much room for improvement there, and catback exhaust systems or axle-back exhausts are apt to do the trick. 

Are you in the market to maximize your car’s performance? Or do you just want your daily driver to sound like it runs a 10-second quarter-mile on the weekend? A custom exhaust kit, an aftermarket exhaust system, or cat-back exhaust are available from the top industry names at AutoAnything. Check out your options right here.

MagnaFlow Exhaust System Options

MagnaFlow exhaust systems are proudly manufactured in Oceanside, California where every day is a car show. If you’re looking for that proud-Dad nod of approval, you’ll get it when you put this type of quality into your Magnaflow Exhaust Systemscar’s upgrades. Founded in 1981, few companies have stood the test of time like MagnaFlow. 

Depending on the model you drive, there are a few directions you can go with MagnaFlow performance exhaust systems: MagnaFlow mufflers, MagnaFlow cat-back exhaust, axle-back, and MagnaFlow custom exhaust parts. 

MagnaFlow Cat-Back Exhaust

By far, there are the most options for MagnaFlow aftermarket exhaust upgrades in the cat-back segment. Each kit is custom engineered for the specific model it will be installed on, right down to the engine size and trim level. 

MagnaFlow piping is all mandrel bent to prevent restrictions as much as possible, and welds are all overlapped to ensure they don’t crack under pressure. Really, they’re over-engineered, as MagnaFlow uses 409 stainless steel. And if you’re picky about where the exhaust pipe spits out its gases, many vehicles have options between side and rear output. 

Magnaflow Cat-Back Exhaust

It depends heavily on what you’re going to be using your car for to determine which system you’re going to use. Let’s take the Ford Mustang GT as an example. You can choose between: 

  • Cat-Back Street Series. The Street Series is a clamp-on system with dual exhaust tips that exit out the rear of the car. These aftermarket systems have a 4-inch tip diameter and 3-inch dual exhaust pipes from the catalytic converter. They rate the sound level as ‘moderate’ or a 4 out of 10, which means your neighbors might not notice when you roll into your driveway late at night. 
  • Cat-Back Competition Series. The Competition Series is more aggressive, there ain’t no question. Much of its design is the same as the Street Series aside from a reduced system weight, and somehow that’s made the exhaust significantly louder. With an 8 out of 10 sound level rating, your neighbors might glare out the window as you rumble by, day or night. For an extra devilish glare, burp the throttle in front of their house.

The cat-back exhaust systems MagnaFlow offers increase exhaust flow from your engine, resulting in a boost in performance. The biggest difference is certainly going to be how your car sounds when it’s all done, though.

MagnaFlow Axle-Back Exhaust

Magnaflow Axle Back ExhaustMagnaFlow’s axle-back exhaust systems are similar to the cat-back systems they offer – high-quality 409 stainless steel components, overlapped welds, and mandrel-bent pipes, for example. The kits are just a little smaller, but there may also be additional options. 

The 2011 Mustang GT we’ve looked at already has three axle-back exhaust options: 

  • Street Series. The axle-back system is clamped on also, just rear of the axle. Finished in stainless steel and with a moderate sound level, it is designed for a balanced interior and exterior sound. 
  • Competition Series. You can have a similar aggressive exhaust note as the Competition Series cat-back system but with less work and lower cost. The axle-back Competition Series has quad-split tailpipe that looks great and installs in less than an hour. 
  • Race Series. Essentially a straight pipe out the back of your car, the Race Series guarantees to burst your eardrums and rattle your molars loose. Calling it ‘aggressive-sounding’ is putting it mildly. It’s lighter as it obviously has less material in its manufacturing. Expect the neighbors to call the cops on you once in a while. 

MagnaFlow Mufflers

Now, if you’re working on a tight budget or you just need to replace your rusty muffler, MagnaFlow has oodles of options to fit. 

Since most of your choices are MagnaFlow universal mufflers, you’ll need to know a couple of things in order to find the right fitment. You’ll need to know the inlet and outlet pipe diameters, whether your muffler is round or oval, and how long the muffler body is. Simple stuff, but oh so important. 

  • Street Series Stainless Steel Magnaflow Mufflers are uniquely designed for powerful import engines. The 400-series stainless steel is polished to a mirror finish, are low-restriction, and have a modest-yet-assertive exhaust note. They’re available in a variety of inlet and outlet sizes and have both a single- and a dual-tip design to choose from.  
  • MagnaFlow Performance Mufflers are among the most common replacement muffler choices on the market. They’re expertly finished with clean, smooth welds on stainless steel and offer options for any type of vehicle, even minivans. The mild exhaust note doesn’t oversell your performance but still sounds sexy. Various shapes and sizes in a range of inlet and outlet configurations assures you’ll find one that fits your vehicle. 
  • MagnaFlow Glass Pack Mufflers are for the hot rod in your life. ThatMagnaflow Glass Pack Mufflers classic car rumble comes courtesy of Rockwool packing in the straight-through tube with very little backpressure. Each one is manufactured from aluminized steel and precision-welded. There are 4 inlet/outlet choices ranging from 2-inch to 3-inch diameters, and several sizes in each style. 
  • MagnaFlow XL Turbo Mufflers are perfect for factory replacements. They’re intended to deliver a balanced combination of ‘maximum power with minimum resonance’. AKA, they won’t make your neighborhood children run for cover. Manufactured from stainless steel and with various styles and sizes, you’ll find a direct replacement in this model. 
  • MagnaFlow Race Series Mufflers unleash your car’s full potential while still keeping the sound to a relatively reasonable level. This isn’t the muffler you’d use on your grocery-getter, but your track-ready coupe would love it. With a polished stainless steel case and smooth welds, it’s a good-looking piece for the race director to stare at during pit inspections. 

MagnaFlow Custom Exhaust Components

Aside from exhaust systems, MagnaFlow manufactures exhaust components to repair common issues you may have, as well as custom exhaust solutions. 

That includes a MagnaFlow direct-fit catalytic converter replacement for many popular current and past models that bolt up directly. They’re made Magnaflow Exhaust Headersof 16-gauge steel and high-quality honeycomb cores that adhere to your local regulations. 

Also available in their tickle trunk are Magnaflow Performance Headers for some popular models. These mandrel-bent tubes smooth out exhaust flow and have been heat-treated with a high-temp titanium ceramic coating to resist warping and corrosion. They include all the required hardware to install, not to mention the ports for factory sensors. Gotta pass that smog test, right?

What’s the MagnaFlow Warranty Coverage?

Aside from catalytic converters, MagnaFlow performance exhaust systems and components come with the best warranty possible. We’re talking about a Lifetime Warranty from the manufacturer themselves. It doesn’t cover appearance issues or physical damage, but virtually everything else that can go wrong is covered.

Catalytic converters have a 5-year/50,000-mile construction warranty and a 25,000-mile emissions warranty. 

Flowmaster Exhaust Systems

Another exhaust manufacturer that’s been around for a coon’s age is Flowmaster. As part of the Driven Performance car parts group that includes Holley, Hurst, and others, you know you’re going to find good-quality aftermarket exhaust components if they have Flowmaster stamped on them. 

For Flowmaster exhaust systems, your best bet is to sort through the options available based on one of five styles they make. They range from docile, sound-enhancing aftermarket exhaust systems to fire-breathing, race-bred systems that won’t be tamed for street use. 

Force II

Flowmaster Sound Chart

Maybe your family car doesn’t sound that hot, but you can’t tick off your spouse by going all Monster Garage on it. The Flowmaster Force II exhaust system gives you gains in performance and an upgraded exhaust sound without causing World War III on the homefront. 

For most makes and models, the Flowmaster Force II is available in several styles. You can opt for an axle-back system, a cat-back exhaust system, or what they call a crossmember-back system. Most components are manufactured with 409S stainless steel for long-lasting performance that looks great (for anyone who sees your undercarriage), and the tailpipe is polished 304 stainless steel. For easy installation, Force II systems utilize the factory exhaust hangers. 

In the Force II systems, the Flowmaster mufflers in use are 70 Series with welded baffles, designed to last an extremely long time. What’s unique is that they’re black rather than polished stainless, adding a rugged look and a bit of contrast. 

dBX Flowmaster

If you’re looking for more growl on the outside but still want the baby to do nappy-time in the cabin, the dBX Flowmaster series could be right for you. Flowmaster dBx seriesThis series is touted for its deep, mellow exhaust note while maximizing performance. 

They make the dBX Flowmaster exhaust systems specifically for small-displacement four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, and for domestic and import models. It’s a limited line at the moment, so unless you have a Jetta, Tacoma, Dodge Dart, or Miata, you’ll need to keep looking. 

The dBX Flowmaster series is strictly a cat-back exhaust system for these models. It includes 16-gauge stainless steel tubing, hangers and hardware, and a stainless steel dBX Performance muffler. 

FlowFX 

If you’re getting serious about a thunderous sound when you burp the throttle and a head-turning bark when you peel away from the stoplight, but you don’t want to dip into college funds to do so, the FlowFX series is a great jumping-off point. Most of the performance vehicles from the past decade or so are supported by these aftermarket exhaust components. 

Depending on the model you drive, there may be one of three options for your car, truck, or SUV. An axle-back system, a cat-back exhaust, and a direct-fit muffler are available in the FlowFX offerings. What you need to Flowmaster FlowFXweigh are three factors: how serious are you about sound, performance, and budget?

What you don’t have to worry about is quality. Every FlowFX system has mandrel-bent exhaust tubing made of 409S stainless steel and ceramic-coated 304 stainless steel exhaust tips. Some models have the choice between side-exiting and rear-exiting exhaust tips, or a single or dual exhaust outlet system. And ‘FlowFX’ is proudly embossed on the muffler to show off your awesome exhaust.

One special component you’ll find in the FlowFX series is a new FlowFX Active dual-mode muffler. It has a wireless actuator valve on the Power Chamber that lets you dump your exhaust through a muffler bypass for an extremely aggressive sound. Yeah, you’ll be the truck everyone refers to as Jekyll and Hyde. 

American Thunder

By far, the most popular series from Flowmaster is American Thunder. They say that it’s the original Flowmaster sound, although there have definitely been modifications and improvements over the years. 

This is the kit you should look at if you want to enjoy the deep exhaust rumble inside the cabin as much as you subject passersby to the symphonic Flowmaster American Thundernoise. It’s all-around aggressive. Not only does American Thunder live up to its name audibly, it delivers performance gains at the same time. 

American Thunder exhaust systems exhale deeply from free-flowing oversized 16-gauge ducting that’s all mandrel-bent, either out of stainless steel or aluminized steel. It’s fed out of 304 stainless steel tailpipe tips. Depending on your setup, you’ll get either one or two Super 40 Series mufflers ceramic-coated black with a guttural growl that strikes fear into the hearts of those who hear it. 

Options for American Thunder Flowmaster performance exhaust systems include one or two tailpipes and side or rear exits, if your vehicle allows it, of course. It’s available as a cat-back exhaust, axle-back exhaust, or header-back exhaust system. 

American Thunder mufflers alone are also available for direct replacement.

Outlaw Series

Are you serious about racing, or are you serious about sounding like you race? You’re such an Outlaw, and that’s the Flowmaster kit that’s right for you. The Flowmaster Outlaw series is designed for the baddest asses (did that come out right?) on the road that crank the volume to 13 and rip off the knob. 

Outlaw series exhaust systems described in one word: LOUD. But they’re Flowmaster Outlaw Exhaustalso the best way to squeeze every drop of power from the ethanol you pump into the tank on a semi-daily basis. 

Every pipe included in the kit is stainless steel and mandrel bent. It flows through Super 10 Series mufflers before exiting either to the rear or the side, and the kit commonly includes parts to do either-or. Many of the Outlaw Series components including mufflers and exhaust tips are black ceramic-coated for long-lasting performance and a sleek look. 

Whether you’re looking at an axle-back system, a cat-back exhaust system, or exhaust muffler alone, the Outlaw series is a great place to check when it has to be obnoxiously loud and free-flowing. 

What Warranty Does Flowmaster Offer?

Flowmaster exhaust systems are competitively priced, yet backed very well. Stainless steel systems have a Lifetime warranty against defects while aluminized steel components are covered under a three-year warranty. 

Borla Exhaust Systems

Borla ExhaustTim the Toolman Taylor had TV viewers thinking that Borla exhaust was a made-up name. It’s not. Borla exhaust is one of the most recognized names in performance exhaust systems and is the originator of the term ‘Cat Back’ long before it was cool. 

Borla is also known for quality in that they use austenitic T304 stainless steel which they claim is superior to both 409S stainless and aluminized steel. 

Borla exhaust systems are all mandrel-bent and welded for absolute strength and smooth flow. That goes for all four grades of performance exhaust systems they offer.

Touring Series

For a few extra decibels from the tailpipe and a deeper growl than your stock exhaust, Borla exhaust systems serve up the Touring Series. It can be Borla Touring Seriesas much as 43 pounds lighter than your factory exhaust, and you may even burn less fuel because of the changeover. 

The Touring Series is available in either a cat-back exhaust system or an axle-back system. If you opt for the fuller kit, the cat-back exhaust, it comes with a crossover pipe that equalizes exhaust pressure side to side and enhances flow. They use factory mounting points and are designed to be bolt-on rather than cut-and-weld, for easy installation. Clamps are a patented Accuseal design.

ATAK Series

The Borla exhaust ATAK Series is another unique system to dogear. It’s a clever acronym – Acoustically-Tuned Applied Kinetics – that’s designed to be the loudest exhaust in the street-legal exhaust lineup from Borla. 

And who doesn’t love the cheeky variation on the aggressive ‘attack’ terminology? 

They literally shape the sound waves coming through the mufflers to get loud, and it’s customized for every model. ATAK Series aftermarket exhaust systems are available in both cat-back and axle-back designs, and for a wide range of makes and models using the same high-grade materials as all their other products – T304 aircraft-grade stainless. 

S-Type Series

For that sweet, sweet sound of hot exhaust blasting into the atmosphere, the S-Type ratchets up the volume on the outside, and without the drone on the Borla S-type mufflerinside. The straight-through exhaust flow boosts the volume and gives your engine the ability to exhale…loudly. 

Like all Borla kits, the S-Type Series kits are designed to be bolt-in rather than cut-in, making for quick and easy installations. Choose your S-Type Series Borla cat back exhaust wisely, though, because you’ll have variations out the wazoo. Select polished stainless tips or black chrome, single or split rear exit, or single or dual tailpipes. 

Multicore Series

Want to optimize performance with a Borla exhaust system but can’t justify ear-piercing racket? The Multicore Series takes the performance of the S-Type and lowers the volume to a tolerable level. Don’t worry, you’ll get the same race-bred attitude and growl but you won’t be setting off car alarms in a 100-yard radius. 

What’s the Warranty on Borla Exhaust?

Borla mufflers and exhaust systems carry the next best thing to a lifetime warranty – a Million Mile Warranty. Unless you plan to drive all day every day for the next dozen years or so, you aren’t going to be mile-ing out your Borla warranty any time soon. 

Corsa Exhaust Systems

Sometimes, you want it to sound like you’re driving a muscle car on the outside while you enjoy the quiet interior of your compact coupe. Corsa exhaust systems are best known for their no-drone performance through Reflective Sound Cancellation, or RSC Technology. You know what that drone is like, right? The constant tone that drives you to insanity.

These expert exhaust makers know what they’re doing – they use premium grade stainless steel on all systems. 

You’ll find Corsa performance exhaust systems in a few different configurations, much like the competition. Axle-back exhaust systems are among the most popular although the choice between axle-back and cat-back exhaust is a tough call. Corsa mufflers are also available on their own for all the sound and slight performance bump without the high cost.  

Depending on your vehicle, you have three different series to choose from. At the core, Corsa exhaust systems vary mainly in their sound.

Corsa Sport Exhaust 

By far, the most popular choice for Corsa performance systems is the Sport Series. These systems are tuned to have a high-performance vehicle sound when you want it. At idle, there’s a definite rumble that will draw some attention from people nearby. When you accelerate, the growly tone from your exhaust pipe is bound to make you drool a time or two. But when you’re cruising, it’s designed to be innocuous; just another car headed down the freeway. 

Corsa Touring Series

Corsa Touring ExhaustThe Touring Series helps you fly under the radar a little better while still getting some of the snarl you want when you punch it. It’s just slightly louder than your stock exhaust system when you’re accelerating and idling with that loping noise that’s so sexy. Again, at highway speeds, you might forget you swapped out the factory exhaust. 

Corsa Xtreme Series

When brash is the word you want to describe your car’s sound, the Corsa Xtreme Series would be up your alley. Like a glass-pack muffler, you get the deep, harsh idle that’s almost too much… but not quite. When you lay into the accelerator, it’s roughly equivalent to that time you started the engine without a muffler installed, but with much better tone. At high RPMs, the Xtreme Series is still loud, but without any drone inside the cabin. 

What’s the Warranty from Corsa?

No doubt, Corsa is sure you’ll be happy with your new cat-back exhaust system for a very long time. They back all their Corsa mufflers and exhaust systems with a Lifetime Warranty against manufacturer’s defects. Of course, that doesn’t apply to cosmetic issues or physical damage.

The Takeaway

If you’re the type that needs their car to sound awesome, and you absolutely have to wring every drop of horsepower and torque from your powertrain, a performance exhaust system from AutoAnything should be on your short list. Whether you choose a Corsa cat-back exhaust, a Borla header-back performance exhaust system, a Flowmaster axle-back exhaust system, or any of the products from MagnaFlow, you’ll get the performance and sound you’re searching for. And wouldn’t you know it – it’s all available right here on AutoAnything.   



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