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Types of Materials an Exhaust System Can Be Made From (Pros & Cons)

Updated: Jan 9

Exhaust systems are a crucial component of vehicles, as they are responsible for directing exhaust gases away from the vehicle and its occupants. These exhaust systems can be made from a variety of materials, each with their own unique properties and characteristics.


In this article, we'll discuss the different types of materials an exhaust system can be made from, as well as the pros and cons the materials.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Steel

One common material used in exhaust systems is steel. Steel is a durable and strong metal that is able to withstand the high temperatures and pressures generated by the exhaust gases. It is also relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for manufacturers.


Steel can withstand heat of around 540 ℃ for a short time.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using steel in exhaust systems compared to other materials.


  • Strength and durability. Steel is able to withstand the high temperatures and pressures generated by the exhaust gases, making it a reliable and long-lasting material for this application.

  • Affordability. Another advantage of steel is its affordability. Steel is generally less expensive than other materials such as stainless steel or aluminum, making it a cost-effective choice for manufacturers.

  • Easy to work with. Steel is easy to work with and can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes. This makes it a versatile material that can be used in a wide range of exhaust system designs.


The durability, affordability, and versatility of steel make it a popular choice for exhaust systems. These advantages make it a reliable and cost-effective material for this application.


Disadvantages

While there are several advantages to using steel in exhaust systems, there are also some disadvantages to consider.


  • Can rust easily. Steel is not as corrosion-resistant as some other materials. Over time, the high temperatures and chemical reactions of the exhaust gases can cause steel to rust and corrode, which can lead to exhaust leaks and other issues.

  • Heavy. Steel is relatively heavy compared to other materials. This added weight can negatively impact the vehicle's fuel efficiency and performance. In addition, the added weight can put additional strain on the vehicle's suspension and other components.


Although some steel exhausts are zinc coated or hot dipped in aluminium, which helps in corrosion prevention, a mild steel exhaust will simply be more exposed to the elements and will rust.

While steel has some advantages as a material for exhaust systems, its potential for corrosion and added weight are disadvantages to consider. These factors may make other materials, such as stainless steel or aluminum, a better choice for some applications.


an exhaust system on a car made of steel

Stainless Steel

Another material commonly used in exhaust systems is stainless steel. This type of steel offers even greater durability and corrosion resistance, making it a good choice for high-performance vehicles or vehicles that are frequently exposed to harsh weather conditions.


Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant alloy metal manufactured from iron and 10-20% chromium. There are many grades of stainless steel, grade 409 is the most common.


Stainless steel with a chromium content of 18% can withstand heat of around 870 ℃.

Advantages

Stainless steel is a better version of generic steel while still being more affordable than more exotic materials.


  • Durability. Stainless steel is used in exhaust systems due to its increased durability and corrosion resistance compared to other materials. While usually not as strong as generic steel, its still very strong.

  • Corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is able to withstand the high temperatures and chemical reactions of the exhaust gases without rusting or corroding, making it a long-lasting and reliable material for this application.

  • Lighter weight. Stainless steel is lighter than generic steel, which can help improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency and performance. In addition, the reduced weight can put less strain on the vehicle's suspension and other components.

  • Affordable compared to other materials. Stainless steel is a relatively affordable material compared to other options such as aluminium or titanium. This makes it a cost-effective choice for manufacturers while still providing the benefits of increased durability and corrosion resistance.


The increased durability, corrosion resistance, and weight-saving properties of stainless steel make it a popular choice for exhaust systems. These advantages make it a reliable and cost-effective material for this application.


Disadvantages

While there are several advantages to using stainless steel in exhaust systems, there are also some disadvantages to consider.


  • Not as strong as generic steel. Stainless steel is very strong but may not be as strong as other materials such as generic steel. This can make it less suitable for applications where extreme strength and durability are required.

  • Not completely resistant to corrosion. Stainless steel is not completely resistant to corrosion. While it is more resistant than regular steel, it can still corrode over time if exposed to certain conditions. This can reduce its effectiveness in some situations.

  • More expensive. It is still relatively affordable but is still more expensive than regular steel.


While stainless steel has some advantages as a material for exhaust systems, its potential for reduced strength and heat resistance are disadvantages to consider.


an exhaust system made of stainless steel

Aluminium

Aluminium is another material that is sometimes used in exhaust systems. It is lighter than steel, which can help improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency. However, it is not as strong or durable, so it is typically used in combination with other materials to provide the necessary strength and durability.


Aluminium can withstand heat of around 600 ℃.

Advantages

Aluminium is sometimes used in exhaust systems where weight reduction is sought after.


  • Lightweight. One of the main advantages of using aluminium in exhaust systems is its light weight. Aluminum is much