Aftermarket headers are a great way to reduce back pressure in an engine’s exhaust system, but given how they twist and turn their way through the engine bay, there’s a lot to ask yourself when looking to upgrade.
The experts at Hedman Performance Group, who manufacture Hedman Hedders, have put together an extensive list of questions to consider before replacing the headers on any vehicle.
The first set is painfully obvious: Make sure you know the year, make and model of the car. Some models may share components, but assuming they don’t change between model years is a bad move.
Next, take a look at the engine. Is it the same one installed by the factory, or has it been swapped out? Has the engine been shifted from its stock position? What about the current headers: Are they stock? How do the exhaust ports and spark plugs look? Are the plugs straight or angled? If the headers are aftermarket, what are the exhaust port dimensions?
Before moving on, make sure your engine and transmission mounts are good. You may want to consider replacing them even if they look fine to ensure the headers fit correctly.
Next up, think about your transmission: Automatic or manual? Is it a “four on the floor” or “three on the tree” or some other scenario? What type of clutch do you have? Also, for truck fans out there, is it a two-wheel or four-wheel drive?
After that, it’s time to examine the suspension and steering systems. First off, does it have power steering? Does it have rack and pinion steering? Is the front clip original and is the car still at its factory ride height? Also, it’s important to know your steering ratio.
Other simple details: Does the car have its factory smog and emissions equipment? Do you have air conditioning?
It’s also worth noting that, if you live in some areas that performs emissions testing, it’s a good idea to check local laws to ensure the headers will be street-legal.
The final matter to consider is super simple: How do you intend to use the car? Is it going to be a grocery-getter, a racer or a show car? Are you going to keep it a trailer queen or drive it around? Will it be used in competition? If so, what kind? This decision will factor in when determining the proper tube size, length and even the finish.
In the end, do yourself a favor: Measure your engine bay to ensure the headers you’re eyeing will actually fit.
The above may seem like a lot to consider, but keep in mind that headers do run through important parts of the engine bay and, should you pursue the upgrade, should up your horsepower. Sometimes, the juice is worth the squeeze.