Headers 101

Buck for buck, no other modification can match the efficiency than that of headers. Aftermarket headers are designed for maximum airflow and power. As you know, there are manifolds already bolted to the heads from the factory. They are very restrictive due to strict pollution control laws. Cat-back exhaust systems effortlessly compliment headers. When teamed together, they are a winning combination.

Headers 101

Headers (or mufflers) are usually the very first parts auto-enthusiasts purchase for their vehicle. Not only do they improve fuel economy, they can improve the overall sound of your vehicle. There are two types of headers: mid-tube and long-tube. Mid-tube header tubes stop midway down; hence mid-tube. Long-tube header tubes go all the way down; hence long-tube. Tube diameters are typically 1 1/2″ for V6s. Collectors are 3″ in diameter. Mid-tube headers are mainly designed for V6s while Long-tubes are designed for – you guessed it – V8s. Long-tubes can be made for V6s by custom fabricators but let’s stick to mid-tube headers for now.

This example picture is from my ’96 Pontiac Firebird. As you know, these models are equipped with the 3800 Series II engine (the non-supercharged version). These headers are made by PaceSetter. This version is the armor-coated version. The part number is 72C1209 for PaceSetter and PSM-72C1209 for Summit Racing Equipment. I used the paper gaskets that came with the parcel. Fortunately, I never encountered any problems with them. You may use your favorite aftermarket racing gasket if you wish.

Since there are so many brand names, prices will contrast. Prices can range from $320 to $400 or higher. It depends a lot on the brand. Headers normally come in either the painted and armor coated version. The armor coated version helps to tame engine temperatures. Even though you are charged extra for the coated version, it is highly recommended that you get that version. For beginners, make sure that you have ordered the correct application. Let’s say that you have a ’98 Camaro with the 3.8L engine package. Do not accidentally order the 3.4L version. They WILL NOT fit. Save yourself some heartache by sticking to the correct application. That’s just common sense. There is a list of manufacturers conveniently located at the end of this article for you.

As you can see on the graph, there is a considerable power gain. This example illustrates the gain via RPMs (rotations per minute). Install an aftermarket cat-back exhaust system such as Magnaflow for maximum performance. Headers allow the air to combust faster, consequently, producing more torque and horsepower. Although horsepower gains are minimal torque is significantly improved. Electronic automobiles are unique, namely that they require fine-tuning. You may notice the “check engine” light illuminate after installation. This is a very common issue for OBD II vehicles. Although this may not impair your vehicle, have the computer scanned by your local automotive shop. You should tune your PCM to get the most of this mod. A PCM is an on board computer module that each computer controlled vehicle needs. For more on PCMs, please refer to the PCM Tuning forum.

Final Notes About Headers

First, as stated earlier, there are gaskets that come with the parcel for you. People call these paper gaskets because they are flimsy and thin as paper. Although these gaskets could suffice, there are better high-performance gaskets one could purchase. These gaskets are especially made to tolerate high temperatures produced by the engine. Second, check your header bolts on a regular basis. This will prevent the headers from producing gratuitous noises (noisy rattles). Although it may be enticing at first, you do not want to run your vehicle aggressively. Give the headers a chance to “break in”. Third, installation typically cost anywhere from $375-$400. If I recall correctly, mine was $375.00. Prices vary from body style to body style.

Thank you for reading this article. PLEASE do not post something entitled “PaceSetter sucks!” or something to that effect. I’ve heard murmurs about PaceSetter being defective. If you have a defective part, it should be taken up with the company. All companies are big on customer service. They will help you out if they can. It’s bad for business to say that they suck. Headers are hand-built. Please don’t judge them based on one isolated incident. Besides, there are many other companies to choose parts from. I hope this article is enlightening. Separate your vehicle from the rest by getting headers. Not only do they look good, they sound good. This is one of the best solutions for those who want that “muscle” sound for their V6 engine.

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