What Are Headers On A Car?

What Are Headers On A Car

Car headers are similar to exhaust manifolds and are an aftermarket accessory that you can install on your car to increase its performance.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at what a header is and what they do. We’ll give you a better idea of when you should look into headers and why you would want one.

Generally, you would find them popular among racers and modders, as they aren’t sold with your vehicle unless you buy a high-performance car.

What Is A Car Header?

A car header is a component you would buy and install on your car. They’re made of long, thin steel tubes that bend to connect to the engine’s cylinders.

They’re generally cool-looking bolt-on accessories that can help improve the performance of your car’s engine. 

You would get a car header to improve the exhaust flow from your engine and into the exhaust system (see also ‘What Is A Downpipe?‘). It works in a similar manner to the exhaust manifold, but it has a completely different structure.

You’ll find car headers generally replace the reason you have a manifold.

Typically, headers are more popular for fans of car modding and anyone who wants to have more horsepower (see also ‘How Much HP Does A Cold Air Intake Add?‘).

But we’ll explain more about that later; first, let’s go into some more detail about how car headers work. 

How Do Headers Work?

Car headers are installed to eliminate the back pressure that is made in the exhaust manifold. A header is used instead of using one pipe shared by all cylinders.

Instead, with a header, all cylinders have their own exhaust pipe to connect to a larger pipe called the collector.

Each pipe is bent to ensure they’re all an equal length so that the gasses from the exhaust are distributed evenly to the collector.

Usually, you would find that gasses from the exhaust leave the cylinder and go into the exhaust manifold. Regardless of the engine’s number of cylinders, all use the same manifold.

As the exhaust gasses from a single cylinder increase more pressure inside the manifold, it can prove to be a major source of back pressure.

What Types Of Headers Are There?

Most cars use four types of headers: 

  • Long-tube
  • Shorty
  • Lakester
  • Tri-Y

The long-tube headers are used for vehicles that have low-end and mid-range torque.

Long-tube headers consist of four main tubes that connect to an eight-cylinder engine to merge into a single collector. 

Shorty headers are suitable for vehicles that have an upper range of revolutions per minute.

You’ll find that they join into one exhaust pipe at a shorter distance when compared to long-tube headers and are quieter too.

Lakester headers are popular with older cars and are named for their use in dry lake racing. They tend to have short main tubes that link to the connector.

Tri-Y headers are for vehicles that have a low-end torque, as they generate more horsepower than the other designs.

They are shaped into a Y, allowing the exhaust from one tube to collect air from the other tube and collect it.

Of course, these are only the four main types of headers you would find. Nowadays, there are many more also available on the market. 

Why Would You Install A Header On Your Car?

Typically, you would install a header to improve the exhaust flow from your engine. They increase your horsepower and can also improve the sound of your car.

Why Would You Install A Header On Your Car?

However, the main benefit is that they will remove the back pressure from your car’s exhaust system, which can happen when you have an exhaust manifold. 

Of course, you need to know that you get the correct car header too. If you choose the wrong type of header, you could end up with more noise.

It would also alter the air-to-fuel ratio and damage the engine’s components.

Keep in mind that headers are expensive too. While they can improve the appearance and performance of your car, a part can cost more than $1000.

They can also increase the emissions of your car. You’ll find more fuel burned, and if you have strict emission regulations in your area, you could be in trouble with your test. 

When Should You Get A Car Header?

Admittedly, if you have any old regular car that has an average performance, you won’t benefit much from getting a header.

Instead, you’ll just be making your car less fuel efficient, and it will cost you more in the long run.

However, if you have a high-performance vehicle and are into modding your vehicles, you might see that a header is a benefit.

Ideally, it’s a better option for drag racers or those who race on a track, as you’ll get extra horsepower than if you didn’t have a header. 

Headers Or Exhaust Manifolds

Most people do get confused between headers and exhaust manifolds, as they’re used for similar purposes.

Most stock components are called manifolds, while any aftermarket parts are known as headers.

While they may have the same purpose, they have a completely different structure.

Exhaust manifolds are made of a thick, solid cast iron material that connects to all cylinders. However, the header is made from lighter, thinner steel connecting to all exhaust ports.

Most manufacturers use exhaust manifolds because they’re cheaper and better at retaining heat.

Companies will only install a header when they want to make a high-performance model. 

Final Thoughts

Headers are a popular choice among modding enthusiasts and racers as they can increase the amount of horsepower you can get.

However, they shouldn’t be confused with exhaust manifolds. While headers look great, you’ll find that they’re less fuel-efficient and don’t mean much to the average driver.

Hopefully, with the help of this article, you have a better idea and understanding of how headers work.

While they may be similar to exhaust manifolds, they’re structurally different and often work better.

So, if you want more horsepower, consider adding headers to your car in order to improve your performance if you want to mod it.

Dave Oliver

Dave Oliver is a seasoned car modification expert with over twenty years of experience in the field. His knowledge spans from restoring vintage models to implementing the latest customization technologies. He brings his passion and expertise to life through informative and engaging articles.

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