What Performance Headers Do
Performance headers are an aftermarket addition designed to increase horsepower generated by your engine. Typically this style of header is added to a high performance motor, though they can be added to most any engines, and they replace your engine manifold, which can rob you of power. Headers provide each cylinder with its own exhaust pipe. This prevents back pressure, which is common with the use of an exhaust manifold. So how does this help your overall engine performance?
Conventional exhaust systems allow the gas that is exhausted by the cylinders to be forced through the exhaust manifold, then out through the exhaust pipe. This generates a fair amount of backpressure that pushes back against the cylinders. When this happens the cylinders have to work extra hard leading to a decrease in efficiency. Once an exhaust header is installed it provides each cylinder with its own independent miniature exhaust pipe. From the cylinders the gas is moved independently to a larger chamber where it is exhausted from the car through an exhaust pipe. These pipes are usually bent to allow the pressure to arrive in this large chamber all at the same time. This also may lead to an increase in exhaust sound and even require a larger exhaust pipe.
When the vehicle fires the gas and pressure generated by each cylinder is moved through the pipes without generating backpressure. This allows each cylinder to fire in a more efficient manner and subsequently increases power and torque to the engine. In many cases the exhaust headers can also be set up so that as the pressure leaves one chamber it actually pulls on the next cylinder in the line, using the power generated to actually decrease the amount of energy required to move each subsequent cylinder. This also increases horsepower and decreases the amount of work each cylinder is required to perform.
The question may arise as to why automobile manufacturers continue to use exhaust manifolds instead of performance headers. Manufacturers are forced to strike a balance between cost, power and automobile efficiency. This relegates performance headers to an aftermarket option. In general there are two types of headers, low and high performance.
Low performance headers are used to increase power and acceleration while under a heavy load. High performance headers are used to increase overall horsepower and generate more speed. There are a wide variety of manufacturers that make aftermarket performance headers. When choosing one it is important to buy the header that is specifically designed for your vehicle, as improper installation can lead to exhaust leaks which are extremely dangerous.
By swapping out your exhaust manifold for high performance headers you can increase your overall horsepower and torque while maximizing your engines efficiency. Comparing your newly modified vehicle against one with standard features, you should notice an increase in overall performance.