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Different Types of Exhaust Systems (Explained)

Updated: Jan 9

Exhaust systems are an important part of a car's overall performance. They are responsible for controlling the flow of gases from the engine to the atmosphere. In doing so, they help to reduce noise and emissions, and can even improve a car's horsepower and fuel efficiency.

There are several different types of exhaust systems available, each with its own unique features and benefits. In this article, we will explore the different types of exhaust systems and discuss which one might be the best fit for your car.


Table of Contents:

mechanic working on an exhaust system under a vehicle

Stock Exhaust System

The most common type of exhaust system is the "stock" or "factory" exhaust. This is the system that comes installed on a car when it is purchased from the dealership.

Stock exhausts are designed to meet the minimum noise and emission standards set by the government, but they are not typically optimized for performance.

Types of Exhaust Systems

Aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to improve upon the performance of a stock exhaust.

These systems are made by companies other than the car's manufacturer, and are available in a wide range of styles and configurations.

  • Cat-back exhausts. These systems replace the section of the exhaust system that is located behind the catalytic converter. They are a popular choice because they are relatively easy to install and can provide a noticeable improvement in performance.

  • Axle-back exhausts. These systems replace the section of the exhaust that is located between the rear axle and the muffler. Like cat-back systems, they are easy to install and can provide a boost in performance.

  • Turbo-back exhausts. These systems replace the entire exhaust system, from the turbocharger all the way to the tailpipe. They are the most comprehensive type of aftermarket exhaust, and can provide the greatest performance gains.

  • Header-back exhausts. These systems replace the exhaust headers (the tubes that connect the exhaust manifold to the rest of the exhaust system) and the section of the exhaust that is located behind the headers. They are designed to improve exhaust flow and increase horsepower.

When choosing an exhaust system for your car, it's important to consider factors such as the type of engine, the car's intended use (e.g. daily driving, racing, etc.), and your budget.

In general, a cat-back or axle-back system is a good choice for most vehicles, as it provides a good balance of performance and affordability. If you want to maximise horsepower and performance, a turbo-back or header-back system might be a better choice.

No matter which type of exhaust system you choose, it's important to have it installed by a trained professional. Improper installation can lead to exhaust leaks, reduced performance, and even safety hazards.

With the right exhaust system and professional installation, you can enjoy improved performance and a more enjoyable driving experience.

Design of Aftermarket Exhausts

You will also find variations within aftermarket exhaust systems, such as the following.

  • Pipe diameter. Some may use a larger diameter pipe than the stock exhaust, this will improve exhaust gas flow, reducing back pressure and improving performance.

  • Sound reducing components. Some may have mufflers and resonators added to change the sound, and some may have no sound reducing components, making them very loud.

  • Catalytic converter. Some exhausts may have the factory catalytic converter, some may include a sports catalytic converter, and some may be a complete decat exhaust system (meaning it does not have a catalytic converter).

  • Particulate filters. Some exhaust systems may include their own or a stock particulate filter, some may have no particulate filters or more free-flowing versions of them.

If the exhaust system has no catalytic converter it is known as a decat exhaust system, if the exhaust has non sound reducing parts and is also a decat it is known as a straight through exhaust system (straight pipe exhaust).


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