Flow for Go
Adding an aftermarket exhaust system can help increase fuel economy and release hidden horsepower – a win/win for the fleet owner
Traditionally, one of the time-honored ways to improve the power and performance of a car or truck has been to open up the breathing of the engine by adding a performance manifold, custom headers and a wide-open exhaust system.
This is all well and good if you are building a ’67 Camaro SS or a custom F-150 for drag racing; after all, spending big bucks for minimal gains is common in the competition world.
In the construction business world, however, hot-rod modifications are generally frowned upon because they are expensive and deliver a diminishing return of gains for number of dollars spent. Such upgrades just don’t pencil out.
Adding expensive engine performance modifications to a business vehicle that is rarely kept more than a few years is just not a practical consideration. But what if by making only one minor and cost-effective modification you could reap increases in both horsepower and fuel economy?
The Benefits of Cat-Back
Simply by swapping out the exhaust system behind a gas pickup’s catalytic converter with a performance aftermarket exhaust or diesel’s DPF, it is possible to gain up to 20 percent “lost” horsepower and increase fuel economy up to 5 percent depending upon vehicle and exhaust.
Although the swap-out is relatively easy (it can be done in less than an hour on most gas-powered pickups), this simple modification works because most exhaust systems are restrictive at the back end, which makes the engine work harder.
Generally, the cat-back system consists of the rear exhaust pipe from the catalytic converter, the muffler, resonator and sometimes the mid-pipe, X-pipe or Y-pipe.
Aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to be less constrictive than the stock exhaust, producing less back pressure so the engine can “breathe” a little easier. This, in turn, allows the engine to make more power.
How much additional horsepower and torque are freed up with the installation of a cat-back depends upon the design of the factory exhaust system and how restrictive the catalytic converter is. The more restrictive the design, the more benefits will be gained from the aftermarket exhaust.
Typically, horsepower and torque increases range from about 7 to 15 percent, a valuable power gain for anyone who hauls or tows equipment.
Since the engine is “breathing” more easily with the performance exhaust installed, it doesn’t take as much throttle to get the vehicle moving to a given speed, which in turn, reduces the amount of load on the engine, resulting in greater efficiency and increased overall fuel economy.
The big payoff
Fuel economy gains usually run between 3 and 7 percent, which may not seem like a lot. But when you drive that pickup 20,000 or 30,000 miles a year, the fuel savings can add up quickly.
With the cost of most exhaust systems ranging between $300 and $700 and fuel pricing closing in on $4 a gallon, it means the average installation of a cat-back system is completely amortized within three years, assuming your pickup averages 15mpg and it’s driven 15,000 miles per calendar year.
That payoff could be even faster if fuel costs continue to rise.
And here’s the sweet bit: The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the engine, the bigger the load, the greater the savings in fuel costs. (Now you know why companies such as UPS use aftermarket exhaust systems on all their delivery trucks.)
Other advantages to adding a cat-back exhaust system to your fleet are that unlike many other modifications, reprogramming of the CPU is not required and installing one on a new vehicle will not affect the vehicle’s factory warranty (See “Warranty Concerns” on page 15 in our February 2011 issue or check out https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/businesspersons-guide-federal-warranty-law)
As for the factory CPU, the computer will detect the change in exhaust flow and adjust accordingly within a couple of hundred miles, so other than purchase price, installation is the only other investment.
Because this modification is essentially a bolt-in change (on most vehicles), installation can easily be accomplished in the company service bay using hand tools. Even if you choose to have an installer do the work, you’ll only be billed for about two hours labor on average.
Although aftermarket exhausts provide more power and improved engine efficiency, they may not be an upgrade you should perform if you lease vehicles or keep them less than four years.
Here’s where a pad, pencil and a calculator will come in handy. Once you’ve decided upon a particular manufacturer (based upon performance/economy improvement claims and retail price), you’ll need to figure out your annual fuel costs, annual average miles driven, real fuel economy and the break-even point.
Just as there are many different brands and models of truck on the market, so too is it true with aftermarket exhaust systems.
Performance exhaust systems are available for virtually all new import and domestic truck models, both gasoline- and diesel-powered, so some shopping on your part will be needed to determine who offers exhaust systems to fit your vehicles and which systems offered supply the most gains.
To help you on your way, we’ve included a buyer’s listing of cat-back exhaust systems covering a few of the more popular aftermarket exhaust manufacturers.
Vehicle manufacturers switched to stainless steel exhaust systems starting in the early 1990s because the EPA demanded that all exhaust/emissions systems be warranted for a five-year/100,000-mile minimum.
The majority of automakers chose 409-grade stainless steel because of its superior resistance to corrosion and degradation to the acidic exhaust gases and external environmental factors.
Aftermarket stainless exhaust systems generally use a 300-Series stainless, which will not turn brown from exposure over time to atmosphere and will only slightly discolor from high heat.
The down side to this is 300-Series stainless doesn’t handle heat cycling quite as well as 400-Series, becoming brittle over time cycling from hot (operation) to cold (shutdown).
For heavy-duty applications where prolonged operation means higher exhaust temperatures, such as with turbo-diesels, 400-Series is usually the better choice since it can stand operating temperatures up to 2,000 degrees without degradation.
For contracting and landscape use, where the undercarriage may see scraping and the truck sees a lot of heavy use, we’d recommend going with 400-Series stainless exhaust systems instead of either aluminized steel or 300-series stainless, especially if you are in an area where road salts are used during winter.
PRODUCT SHOWCASE: Master of Flow
Not all manufacturers offer exhaust systems for all makes, models or fuel types. One company may specialize in diesel exhaust systems, another in gasoline-powered exhaust systems.
Make it a point to visit company websites to see product availability or talk with your local performance shop/installer to find out what will work on your pickup.
Keep in mind that not all systems will be legal in all areas, due to federal and regional emissions rules. This is especially true in California, where anything that affects emissions must carry a CARB (California Air Resources Board) certificate to be street legal.
A little legwork up front, however, can result in a work pickup that not only sounds great, but also delivers more power and enhanced fuel economy. And what business owner doesn’t like that?
aFe Mach Force XP DPF-Delete
The aFe Mach Force XP DPF-Delete turbo-back exhaust system eliminates the use of the restrictive diesel particulate filter (DPF) for maximum performance and extreme mileage gains. aFe claims this free-flowing 4-inch, mandrel-bent 409 stainless steel exhaust system outflows the factory exhaust by 300cfm. The Mach Force XP weighs just 74 pounds, which is 85 pounds lighter than the OE system. It also requires the use of a controller with a DPF-delete function. Fits 2011 Ford Power Stroke V8-6.7L Turbo Diesel and other applications. Because the DPF-delete does not meet 50-state emissions rules, aFe sells this kit only for race, off-road or ranch use. MSRP: $724. afepower.com or (951) 493-7155.
ANSA Automotive offers both single and dual-exhaust systems in turbo-back and DPF-back configurations for diesel pickups. Their newest offering is the Silverline 5-inch Aluminized Performance Exhaust System that opens up the exhausts on Chevrolet/GMC Duramax, Ford Powerstroke and Dodge Cummins Diesel pickups. The turbo-back kits come complete with necessary clamps and installation hardware and, for a limited time only, will include a 5-inch polished 304 stainless steel tip. ANSA also just added the Silverline 4-inch aluminized exhaust system for the earlier model 1994-1997 Ford Powertroke diesels. That addition means the smaller Silverline exhaust systems are now available for virtually all popular diesel pickups. SilverlineExhaust.com or (800)-841-9166.
Founded in 1993, ATS Diesel offers complete power upgrade kits for Dodge, Ford and GM diesel-powered trucks. ATS guarantees their exhaust system upgrades lower back-pressure and exhaust gas temperatures, improving power and economy. ATS 4-inch 409 stainless PulseFlow Exhaust Systems feature a “straight through” design. Dual-wound, triple-mesh fiber components allow for maximum performance, which can drop EGTs as much as 200°F over the stock exhaust, with a 10 to 30+ hp gain. The Single cat-back exhaust system shown here fits 2003.5 and up Ford 6.0L Powerstrokes. MSRP: $529. atsdiesel.com or (866) 209-3695.
Banks Power Monster exhaust systems for gas and diesel trucks deliver a great sound and perfect fitment because they use the OE hangers to maintain proper clearance from all under vehicle components. Banks claims the polished straight-through Monster Muffler, mandrel-bent intermediate pipe(s) and tailpipe nearly triple the exhaust flow, cut backpressure up to 98 percent, lower exhaust gas temps and deliver more power to the ground. Polished-stainless straight-through mufflers (most apps) are sound-tested to produce a rich, authoritative note and eliminate the drone. A variety of configurations (including single tips, split-duals and side-duals) gives you options to find the look that best suits your truck. MSRP: $300 to $1,300, depending upon model and vehicle. bankspower.com or (800) 601-8072.
BD Diesel Performance
BD stainless steel X-Hale exhaust systems are available in single- and dual-outlet configurations for newer Dodge, Ford and GM diesel applications. All X-Hale exhaust systems are designed for easy, bolt-in swap out and feature 4-inch seamless, mandrel-bent tubing, a 6-inch, polished stainless steel muffler and polished stainless steel tip(s) and deliver noticeable power and economy gains. In addition, the company offers aluminized steel systems for 1994-2008 trucks. MSRP: $500-$850. dieselperformance.com or (800) 887-5030.
Corsa Performance is a full-line exhaust-system company offering complete systems for Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, GM, Nissan and Toyota full-size pickups – both gasoline and diesel. Their systems are manufactured from stainless steel, and are engineered to offer the maximum performance gains possible out of a 50-state system. For example, their cat-back exhaust for 2011 Ford Super Duty F-250 and F-350 vehicles promises a 32-percent improvement in exhaust flow over stock with their single side-exit system and a 27-percent flow improvement in dual side-exit systems, which results in significant power improvement. Installation hardware and an illustrated installation guide are included, as is a limited lifetime warranty for bolt-on exhaust systems. MSRP: $700-$1,500 depending upon application. corsaperf.com or (800) 486-0999.
One of the top names in the aftermarket exhaust industry, Flowmaster, became well-known when it developed a line of racing mufflers for sprint racing. Since then, the company has broadened its product line to include cars, motorhomes and pickups. Currently, Flowmaster offers product for Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, GM 1500 series and Nissan Titan. All products use 409 stainless steel, mandrel-bent tubing and come with all necessary hangers, installation instructions and the backing of a 10-year limited warranty. Dyno testing of the products assures that performance and economy gains are real. MSRP: $515 -$1,100 depending upon application. flowmastermufflers.com or (800) 544-4761.
MagnaFlow Performance Exhaust’s engineers have developed a cat-back exhaust option for the 2004-‘10 4.6L/5.4L Ford F150. This system utilizes 3” mandrel-bent tubing and MagnaFlow’s uniquely designed 5x8x18” polished stainless steel muffler. The system finishes with 4” polished stainless steel tip. MagnaFlow’s dyno testing yields a healthy increase in hp and torque. To hear high quality sound clips of MagnaFlow’s exhaust systems for Ford trucks or get more information, visit magnaflow.com; 949-858-5900.