Does Exhaust Pipe Size Affect How The Car Performs?

exhaust pipe

We all know the phrase “bigger is better,” but how true is that when we’re talking about exhaust pipes? After all, vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s possible to customize the exhaust system to best suit your goals and driving habits. We’ll break down the role of your exhaust system, what the different pipe sizes mean, and when bigger really is better (and when it’s not).

What Does the Exhaust System Do?

Your car’s exhaust system is made up of the catalytic converter, muffler, exhaust manifold and pipes. It’s designed to manage the airflow from the engine to the outside of the car, reducing noise and removing toxic chemicals — like lead and carbon dioxide — along the way. 

When the exhaust system is working correctly, you’ll experience a safe and quiet drive. The system’s also important for reducing pollutants and making sure your car is environmentally friendly.

Your vehicle’s factory-issue exhaust system is primarily designed with noise and pollution reduction in mind, but it also plays an important role when it comes to the engine’s performance. The muffler creates backpressure, which allows the engine and its combustion processes to work efficiently, and the pipes themselves manage the rate and velocity of the air that’s moving through the vehicle as it’s driving.

The pipes are what we want to focus on. Their diameter is responsible for something called flow velocity — basically, how quickly and easily gasses can travel from the engine to outside of the car. Simply put, more gasses equal more power. This typically means that bigger pipes are better for increased engine output, since it allows for fewer restrictions on the volume and speed of the gasses being emitted.

The Benefits of a Customized Exhaust System

Cars roll off the factory line with the same standard-issue exhaust systems. While these systems are great for everyday drivers, those who want to maximize the amount of power their car can achieve might find this one-size-fits-all option a little lacking. Luckily, you can get a custom exhaust to fit your performance goals. You can tailor the separate parts or have the entire system replaced.

For drivers looking for maximum benefits, customizing the exhaust pipes is a simple but effective option. After all, the pipes themselves play an important role in the engine’s flow velocity. Changing the sizes of the pipes in your vehicle’s exhaust system can have these benefits:

  • Increased performance. You’ll experience better horsepower and torque with pipes that allow increased airflow.
  • Improved appearance. Customized pipes give you the opportunity to make your car look impressive and flashy.
  • Improved sound. Like a louder ride? A customized exhaust system can do that for you, too.

Basically, if you’re hoping for better fuel efficiency, a more powerful engine and a better driving experience, then bigger exhaust pipes are a good choice. However, it’s also important to note that pipes that are too big can actually have the opposite effect — they won’t be able to create enough backpressure and will cause your engine to over-scavenge for oxygen, resulting in lower fuel efficiency and poorer performance.

Different Pipe Sizes and What They Do

Most exhaust systems are created with crush bend pipes, which have a decreased diameter in the bent sections that restricts airflow. If you’re looking to increase the size of the pipes, there are two aftermarket options that tend to be the best choices:

  • A cat-back system is a popular option that includes an improved mid-pipe, muffler and tailpipe in addition to wider pipes. The name refers to everything behind the catalytic converter.
  • A Mandrel-bend system is created with pipes that have an increased diameter throughout, with no narrowing in the bends.

Keep in mind that bigger pipes tend to mean that other parts of the exhaust system will need to be replaced, as well. The entire system is designed to work in tandem to remove the gasses from the vehicle, and something like a too-narrow tailpipe will just hinder the process.

When it comes to choosing the actual diameter of the larger pipes, you’ll need to consult with a custom exhaust expert. These mechanics will take into account your vehicle’s make and model, as well as your driving habits and goals, and will scale the pipes to the exact specifications needed. They’ll know how big you can go before you start seeing decreased performance.

Choosing The Right Exhaust Repair Shop

Of course, deciding to customize your car’s exhaust system is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking — and cutting corners to save money will only cost you even more in the long run. That’s why it’s so important to trust the work to an experienced custom exhaust shop. You’ll want to work with technicians who have the skills and knowledge to know exactly what your car needs.

The right custom exhaust shop will guide you through the entire process, so you can feel confident in the work being done. Find a shop where the staffers make you feel comfortable asking questions; you should be treated with transparency and respect regardless of your own expertise level. Good technicians will listen to your concerns and keep you in the loop through the entire process.

You’ll also want a custom exhaust shop that uses quality parts and has the tools and space necessary to machine the system themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have examples of past work and how long they’ve been in the custom exhaust system business. When you work with the right shop, you’ll be able to drive away feeling excited about your newly customized car.

When it comes to your vehicle’s exhaust pipes, size really does matter. Too small, and you’ll be missing out on improved performance and gas mileage; too big, and your engine will work much harder than it has to. Working with a custom exhaust shop to find the perfect size pipes for your car is just right; and your car will be better than ever.

Up Next: 3 Things To Know Before Visiting A Custom Muffler And Repair Shop

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