Exhaust Terminology


Manifold or header

Aftermarket exhaust manifold

In most production engines, the manifold is an assembly designed to collect the exhaust gas from two or more cylinders into one pipe. Manifolds are often made of cast iron in stock production cars, and may have material-saving design features such as to use the least metal, to occupy the least space necessary, or have the lowest production cost. These design restrictions often result in a design that is cost effective but that does not do the most efficient job of venting the gases from the engine. Inefficiencies generally occur due to the nature of the combustion engine and its cylinders. Since cylinders fire at different times, exhaust leaves them at different times, and pressure waves from gas emerging from one cylinder might not be completely vacated through the exhaust system when another comes. This creates a back pressure and restriction in the engine’s exhaust system that can restrict the engine’s true performance possibilities. In Australia, the pipe of the exhaust system which attaches to the exhaust manifold is called the ‘engine pipe’ and the pipe emitting gases to ambient air called the ‘tail pipe’.

A header (sometimes called set of extractors in Australia) is a manifold specifically designed for performance.[2] During design, engineers create a manifold without regard to weight or cost but instead for optimal flow of the exhaust gases. This design results in a header that is more efficient at scavenging the exhaust from the cylinders. Headers are generally circular steel tubing with bends and folds calculated to make the paths from each cylinder’s exhaust port to the common outlet all equal length, and joined at narrow angles to encourage pressure waves to flow through the outlet, and not back towards other cylinders. In a set of tuned headers the pipe lengths are carefully calculated to enhance exhaust flow in a particular engine revolutions per minute range.

Headers are generally made by aftermarket automotive companies, but sometimes can be bought from the high-performance parts department at car dealerships. Generally, most car performance enthusiasts buy aftermarket headers made by companies solely focused on producing reliable, cost-effective well-designed headers specifically for their car. Headers can also be custom designed by a custom shop. Due to the advanced materials that some aftermarket headers are made of, this can be expensive. Luckily, an exhaust system can be custom built for any car, and generally is not specific to the car’s motor or design except for needing to properly connect solidly to the engine. This is usually accomplished by correct sizing in the design stage, and selecting a proper gasket type and size for the engine.


The Header-back (or header back) is the part of the exhaust system from the outlet of the header to the final vent to open air — everything from the header back. Header-back systems are generally produced as aftermarket performance systems for cars without turbochargers.


The Turbo-back (or turbo back) is the part of the exhaust system from the outlet of a turbocharger to the final vent to open air. Turbo-back systems are generally produced as aftermarket performance systems for cars with turbochargers. Some turbo-back (and header-back) systems replace stock catalytic converters with others having less flow restriction.

With or without catalytic converter

Some systems (including in former time all systems) (sometimes nowadays called catless or de-cat) eliminate the catalytic converter. It is illegal and is a Federal Law in the United States and other countries to not have a catalytic converter if the vehicle is driven on public roads.[3] The main purpose of a catalytic converter on an automobile is to reduces harmful emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.[4]


Cat-back (also cat back and catback) refers to the portion of the exhaust system from the outlet of the catalytic converter to the final vent to open air. This generally includes the pipe from the converter to the muffler, the muffler, and the final length of pipe to open air.

Cat-back exhaust systems generally use larger diameter pipe than the stock system. The mufflers included in these kits are often glasspacks, to reduce back pressure. If the system is engineered more for show than functionality, it may be tuned to enhance the lower sounds that are lacking from high-RPM low-displacement engines.