10 Tips for Installing an Exhaust Upgrade

Exhaust Ram 1500 II

One of the easiest upgrades you can make to your pickup truck can also help deliver better power and improved fuel economy. In fact, if your truck is tall enough, you won't even have to put it up on jack stands to make the swap. What are we talking about? Upgrading the exhaust system.

Installing a new exhaust system on your pickup, depending on how complicated your truck is, can be done with simple tools in your driveway in as little as an hour. There are many companies that make better-sounding and better-looking pipes specifically for your pickup setup; however, there are several important things to keep in mind when making the upgrade.

To save you a little bit of time and money, we talked to a few of the companies that specialize in exhaust upgrades for pickups. Generally speaking, there are some great deals out there if you do the research, but more often the age-old adage "you get what you pay for" is applicable in this arena.

Here are several points to keep in mind when choosing the right exhaust system for your pickup.

1. Know the Law

Make sure you know the sound-level laws in your state and local area. Exhaust companies will let you know whether the product they've sold you is 50-state legal or only for special "off-road" use. In many cases, an exhaust company can tell you exactly how loud a particular replacement system will be in a new truck. Although you never know exactly what your pickup will sound like with a new system mounted, many companies offer sound clips on their websites to give you an idea.

2. Get a Full Kit With Instructions

All aftermarket exhaust system should include appropriately mandrel-bent tubing, connectors, hardware and instructions. Be sure to check that the company you're purchasing from has a customer-service phone number you can call with any questions if you're installing the kit yourself.

3. Know Your Engine

When making your decision, factor in the special technology your engine might have, like cylinder deactivation or turbocharging, and whether the company you're choosing understands those complexities to the extent that it has incorporated the features necessary to deal with it. These types of sophisticated multistage engines — typically designed to save fuel in different situations — make it difficult for most exhaust kits to make the exhaust notes throaty in all situations.

4. Cat-Back Systems

Most exhaust systems sold will be "cat-back" systems, meaning they will leave the factory catalytic convertor intact (usually required by law) and only change the exhaust tubing and muffler behind the catalytic convertor to improve flow and sound. Be careful when deciding to upgrade exhaust manifolds with headers or a freer-flowing catalytic convertor because your state emissions laws may have specific requirements.

5. Expect More Power

You can typically expect a small amount of extra performance from an upgraded exhaust system. Each kit is likely to tell you how much more horsepower and torque the new system provided during in-house testing. If you want to know for sure, find a reputable chassis dyno shop and run your truck before and after the installation. But be warned: Your butt is not likely to notice any performance difference. Depending on the application, a new system might provide anywhere from 1 to 5 percent gains.

Exhaust TE tubes II

6. Go Slowly

Most of the aftermarket exhaust upgrade kits will be in the form of a do-it-yourself kit that can be shipped anywhere in the country. Depending on how experienced you are with tools and working underneath a vehicle, give yourself a few hours to get it all done. And be sure to allow your vehicle to cool for at least a few hours before grabbing pipes and clamps. No driving straight from the auto parts store expecting to pull off the old unit right away.

7. A Word About Diesels

But what if you have a heavy-duty diesel pickup? When considering an exhaust upgrade for HD pickups with a turbo-diesel engine, your options are going to be limited. Older systems, ones that pre-date the stricter EPA emissions requirements, have some good options from several big-truck companies. But any diesel pickup built in the last few years will include large diesel particulate filters and sophisticated urea injection systems that are specifically designed to meet all federally mandated emissions levels. These systems also have to be able to deal with the diesel re-gen modes, sometimes sending emission temperatures above 1,000 degrees. Messing with any part of that factory system would make your pickup illegal to drive on public roads.

8. Check the Kit's Warranty

Most of the better exhaust systems will offer some kind of limited or lifetime warranties. Often those warranties will be specific about how you plan to use your vehicle, so read the fine print. Additionally, there could be a big difference in coverage depending on whether your system is 49-state or 50-state legal so, again, be sure to know your local laws. It also wouldn't hurt to know the laws in the states where you might be driving during your next vacation.

9. Do Routine Checks

Whether you're replacing a stock system with something with a little more growl or you want twin side pipes coming out behind each rear tire, understand that the undercarriage of your truck is tight on space and small details can become a big deal if issues like heat shields, wire routing and exposure to damage aren't dealt with and occasionally checked. Clamps can come lose, tubes can get pinched and rust can do terrible unseen damage.

Exhaust TE muffler II

10. Take Your Time

Our last piece of advice is to take your time when choosing an exhaust kit. Search out a few chat rooms or YouTube videos and see what's been working for other drivers who have a truck like yours. Reach out to your local auto parts store or take a good look at exhaust company websites. For the most part, they've spent a lot of money to make it easy and simple to let you hear, watch and find the system with the right sound and look you're going for-some will even let you choose from several levels of performance, so you need to know what you want.

Need a place to start? Check out these exhaust system suppliers:

Banks Engineering: 800-601-8072

Borla Exhaust Systems: 877-462-6752

Corsa Performance: 800-486-0999

Flowmaster: 707-544-4761

Magnaflow Exhaust Products: 800-824-8664


Manufacturer photos; Cars.com photos by Tim Esterdahl


Exhaust TE-600x399 II



A big worry should be drone. It can be annoying in a car, but almost intolerable in a pickup when towing.

As with any complex fabrication with metal don't secure the fasteners until last. This is especially true with exhausts.

Tube bending is quite accurate, but you will generally find no two kits are identical.

Leave every nut and bolt loose, when you have installed the kit start from a point closest to the manifold and tighten all fittings, clamps, etc.

Also, follow the instructions.

Gibson had been the best for me, flowmasters were the worst.

Borla is great, but pricey.

I know a lot of people that also love Magnaflow

No experience on diesels with these manufacturers, all have just a generic 4-5" straight pipe, no mufflers. Which cost like $300 for the kit.

I put a complete Borla system on a truck back in 1990, it is still on that truck and working fine, you do get what you pay for.

I put this on my truck... Wanted to get rid of any exhaust that exits behind the rear tire or straight out the back which both options are not very good offroad. This mbrp dumps down in front of the axle and is tucked up high as not to interfere with off-roading. Another benefit was a significant sprung weight reduction over factory and other aftermarket exhaust. Mine is stainless so not much of durability concerns. Only Downfall is fairly loud.

On my last 4 trucks I've run the Heartthrob cat back exhaust systems.I like them better then all the others mentioned.If someone is interested they can go to their website and check them out.The first time I used their systems was on a brand new 97 Dodge Laramie SLT 4x4.I have been hooked on their sound ever since.

Some people don't mind the drone (mds or not and want a sound loud enough u can hear. That being said go with the flowmaster outlaw kit. Btw there are really only 2 types of mufflers. Chamber mufflers and mufflers with preforated center tubes. To put it in simple terms things like corsas, borlas, magnaflows, & dynomaxs are just fancy high quality glasspacks. What makes them different than glasspacks is that they use different acoustical packing like steel wool instead of fiberglass. These strait through mufflers are generally quiet until full throttle. They are usually louder outside as well. Thats why I go with a super 10 single chamber flowmaster. Cherry bomb went out of production but pep boys might have some left over cherry bomb extremes. Did I mention jones full boars and flowsound single chambers? The flowmaster 50 series hd is specifically designed for those who want a good chamber muffler sound without the drone from mds.

Now that I'm in my 40's I don't care to bother with exhausts and mods. But, Flowmaster has a great website site to help determine your muffler type and they do make "drone free" options and varying degrees of sound characteristics.

Personally, I'm happy with the subtle rumble from my GM. No drone, no excess noise but I sure know that 6.2 is there.

I think one thing that was not stated, but should since this is a truck site is the factor that adding an exhaust with larger diameter piping may decrease low rpm torque on an N/A engine. An engines exhaust is not a constant flow (especially at low rpm) and is actually a pulse that shoots out the exhaust. Basically, adding a larger diameter exhaust slows that pulse down making the engine have to work harder at low rpms just like how making a water hose larger will decrease the water flow versus a smaller hose. Yes it does add power, but at higher rpms where the exhaust pulse is more constant. This is fine if you are adding exhaust to a race care entered for high 5,000+ rpms, but for a truck that is meant to tow and needs as much power down low. The best thing to do on an truck N/A engine if you do not want to loose low end power is to get the same diameter size exhaust, but with a mode free flowing muffler.

Very good point ^^^.

There have been many people who have installed exhausts and then the dyno shows a drop in torque, which obviously is bad for a pickup truck.

NEVER install a CAI, or exhaust, or any combo of the above and expect power and fuel economy. It's NOT going to happen. More air in/out means more fuel in/out especially on a modern ECU vehicle. It's that simple.

@08fx4,22.5 mpg can be done with most v8's. I just did 1000 mile trip in my hemi Ram 4x4 and got 22 mpg hand calculated.

@ Dav

Yes, that droning sound is annoying, I used to like the idea of putting an exhaust system on a car/truck but ever since I drove a 95 Impala SS with flowmasters (more than a decade ago), it made an endless droning sound on the freeway that actually gave me headaches, that's when I stopped caring about the exhaust sounds on cars'trucks, if it's to resist corrosion and improve performance that's ok but if it's to make a loud annoying sound GTFO w/ that garbage.

Or if you live in a man state like Oklahoma, just rip all that EPA crap out and let your truck breathe like it should! No enforcement on the emissions crap here in great ole OK!

I use to have a 60 series Flowmaster until recently. I was off roading in the snow and water crossings that were deep. The weld inside the muffler broke from temp shock. Had about 75,000 miles on it. I put on a 50 series Flowmaster. Haven't towed with it yet to see if their is drone. I love the sound of Flowmaster on a Gen 3 Hemi. Eco Burst sounds like crap no matter what muffler you put on it. :-)

As with special air filters, these so called exhaust upgrades are fine if you want a better sound. If you really expect improved HP or torque or FE you will be disappointed.

Think about it: sheet metal tubing really does not cost much--ditto for mufflers. If GM or Ford could put a different size tube on your truck and easily make more power--they'd already be doing it. Same for gauze air filters.

If you like the hot rod sound by all means buy it! But don't get hurt feelings because you don't get a real upgrade in performance or FE.

@ papa jim

I think they do improve performance a little, I've understood that carmakers have to make exhausts to a certain quiet decibel level, thus making them more restrictive, the same goes for the air-filter and the accordion shaped tube that goes from air-box to the throttle body and that's where the aftermarket comes in with these products to make your vehicle "breathe better."

Through the years we've seen 3rd parties (magazines and tv car shows like Horsepower TV or GEARZ) do tests where they do see small improvements with these intake/exhaust mods, you also have to note that to get the most out of these mods you need to have your computer tuned.

I would think you would be more restrictive as to what you can do on a vehicle with a catalytic converter. I would be surprise that local and federal laws would allow you to put headers on an engine or d

I would think you would be more restrictive as to what you can do on a vehicle with a catalytic converter. I would be surprise that local and federal laws would allow you to put headers on an engine or d

11. Pick a kit that doesn't have an annoying drone at normal highway cruising rpms...

or do anything modifications in front of the catalytic converter. I could see being allowed to make changes in back of the converter. What would be the advantage of dual exhaust that have a single pipe running in front of the converter. I would think the advantage would be for two separate pipes running off each side of the engine and not off one side or have the pipe go from each side to one pipe before the converter. Seems like the free flow off of each side would be less restricted with two separate exhausts unless it is not legal (it would flow easier). Maybe I a speaking from knowledge before the catalytic converter but flowing from 2 pipes down to one and then expanding the pipes after the converter to two for a dual exhaust would not be as efficient.

I could see adding a lifetime exhaust system such as a completely stainless steel system for longevity. Wouldn't you get more performance by putting in a higher performance chip. A 1 to 5 percent gain in performance hardly seems worth the bother to change your exhaust system.

Jeff S,
I'm not sure but I think there are many vehicles that come standard with S/S exhausts and/or major exhaust components.

@hemiv8, at least if you put different mufflers on a Ecoboost you get to keep it. Put them on a ram and it gets recalled and bought back so there goes your mufflers.

Hi name is jake.

What do you guys recomend for a 4 cylinder engines exhaust?

Its a 1992 isuzu rodeo 2wd 2.6 5 speed.

*sigh* "The only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys." I don't know for sure where that quote came from, but this article and the commentary behind it prove that most men are just children at heart.

Yes, a new exhaust system can have some effect on the performance of your truck, but the article clearly points out that the effect is minimal; 1% to 5% at most, depending on the rig. A more open system does let the engine breathe better, but really only when you're running at high revs, giving you less back pressure than the factory stock system. But some engines require a certain amount of back pressure to produce maximum output. You have to pick the right system and picking one just for its sound is probably the most childish reason. Most newer trucks already have their exhaust systems set up for the best combination of performance and economy for the intended purpose.

Am I going to give advice? No. Too many of you wouldn't believe it and the rest simply wouldn't care. Just remember, any modification you do can and will have an effect on the engine, and not necessarily a good one. When the Suzuki Samurai/Geo Tracker (later Chevy Tracker) came out, people discovered they could gain something like 20 horsepower by changing the exhaust. What they didn't realize until later is that the increased horsepower caused the engine to throw its main bearings--the block itself not built for that added power. The restrictive exhaust had been placed there intentionally to protect the engine. What you do to your trucks could have equally devastating effects.

@Jeff S: "Seems like the free flow off of each side would be less restricted with two separate exhausts..."

You have to keep in mind that the back pressure needs to be equal across all cylinders to maintain a balanced load on the crankshaft, believe it or not. The resonance of the exhaust from each cylinder has to be perfectly balanced too, which is why some header systems look like a tangle of snakes in which each and every pipe is the same length. There is tuning and their is Tuning, and you will be surprised by how much effect even a tiny change can have on the overall performance--when done right. When done wrong, you can do far more harm than good.

@PapaJim: "As with special air filters, these so called exhaust upgrades are fine if you want a better sound. If you really expect improved HP or torque or FE you will be disappointed. ... But don't get hurt feelings because you don't get a real upgrade in performance or FE."

To a large extent you are right; you're not going to see massive improvements through either of these nor both collectively. But you will see some. In some cases the intake and exhaust are intentionally restrictive to de-tune the engine perhaps to meet some other regulation or to leave options open for later upgrades. Certain brands' "magic dust" comes to mind when ads come out about improved towing capacity, etc.

From personal experience, I've found that a less restrictive intake can definitely improve acceleration and economy (depending on which you're actually trying for) while a less restrictive exhaust lets the engine wind up a little tighter for more top end (and maybe a blown bottom end--meaning thrown rods, etc.)

A simple filter change to a more free-flowing type has consistently given me 10% to 20% better fuel economy with a little more bottom-end torque. Actual horsepower realized might have been about 5 horses on a 200-horse engine. On the other hand, a car rated for a mere 27mpg highway consistently gave me 32 mpg highway. Granted, an aerodynamic car and not a truck, but even with a Saturn Vue with a much smaller engine averaged that same 32mpg highway with a far more blunt nose and boxed-off rear, EPA rated at 28mpg. So it does have a noticeable effect, just not a spectacular one.


Ford adding second supplier for F-150 frames.

Metalsa, the company that builds steel frames for the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, is still having trouble providing enough frames to supply the two factories that build the pickup. The snafu is preventing Ford from selling as many of the country's best-selling truck as it could, and eating into profits - even though the bottom line is still breaking company records. According to The Wall Street Journal, Ford has picked Michigan company Tower International as a second frame supplier and expects to have inventory up to a proper level at the beginning of Q4 of this year.


1 Tip for Installing an Exhaust Upgrade

1.) Don't.

Chuck Cheese Breaking news Camaro smokes Ford ruststang!


@Johnny Doe Boy

Your Big Block 427cid Camaro Z/28.Rs Finish Fifth, Sixth At Road America. Only a Loser Bozo Chevy guy would be happy with finishing 5th & 6th in a race. LOL

I See Ford won both races in Nascar this Weekend at Watkins Glen.

Chuck Cheese Ford ruststang Finished 7th and 35th at Road America BAHAHA!

Ford needed two top dog Nascar car drivers to win in the Xfinity Series Bahaha!!! Then only won in the Sprint Cup Series cause a Chevy ran out of gas on the last strait stretch!

@Johnny Doe Boy

Not my fault that the Chevy's don't get the same good gas mileage as the Ford's. Happy Harvick should have carried an extra Jerry Can in the trunk of that no. 4 Chevy. LOL

Chuck Cheese Kid Joey came to pit road later, so he was good on gas plus had newer tires. LOL! Ford with newer better tires couldn't past a Chevy that was 3 laps short on fuel with worse tires, but made it to the last strait stretch! BAHAHAHA!

@Johnny Doe Boy,

Cry me a river with your Chevy Whinning & excuses. LOL

Chuck Cheese Kid I aint whining just rubbing your Ford rustain nose you are always chattering about on a truck site in the dirt! LMMAO!!!!!

@Johnny Doe Boy.

Not my style to pick on Chevy & Ram truck guys. LOL

"Search out a few chat rooms "

I strongly disagree with this... by and large, internet chatrooms are dominated by teenagers wishing they could trick out Dad's truck or worse, have actually done these mods for their own trucks.

For example, ANY flowmaster muffler will drone on a 6.0L GM, and it will drone bad, but just google Flowmaster LQ4 or something similar and you will find volumes of forum posts of people giving doctoral thesis defenses for how their flowmaster super 44 dumped before the rear axle doesnt drone one bit. Or that their straight pipes on a bone stock TBO 305 doesnt sound like two rednecks having a farting competition while having a gang bang with their cousins.

Another good example is headers, if you search an online forum asking for advice about headers you will find people who swear up and down about how they got massive improvements with "shorty" headers, or worse, will convince you to plunk down nearly $1000 on a set of full length headers and promis repeatedly that it doesnt have exhaust leaks are ticking sounds, or massive spike in underhood temps.

How do I know this? I almost ruined a perfectly fine 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 by following the advice of people on internet forums. Flowmasters drone like a mother****er and headers, no matter how expensive or well made, have trouble sealing at the cylinder head, so they whistle and tick, and provide almost no discernible gains on a stock un-programmed truck. As an added bonus if you run an open element air filter your performance is actually harmed because the increased underhood temps cause your IAT to go way up which robs power.

You want bang for the buck? Buy a universal muffler that matches your trucks existing pipe diameters for inlet and outlet, and have a competent shop splice it in to your stock pipes. Fourwheeler magazine did a test a few years ago and found that 90% of gains came from changing just the muffler and adding a stock replacement high flow airfilter.

Turns out, the engineers who design these trucks actually know what they are doing.... whodathunkit

You're welcome.

Not my style to pick on Chevy & Ram truck guys. LOL

Posted by: Chuck Taylor | Aug 11, 2015 12:46:42 PM

Yeah Chuck Cheese Kid eveybOdy here knows you are to dumb to do that right LMAO!

Interesting article but it appears that most people would gain marginal benefits at best. I will stick to strict maintenance schedule keeping my vehicles tuned, air filter clean, regular oil changes, tires properly inflated, and running fuel system cleaner in my gas tank once a month. I had a car years ago that I had headers put on, never again loud with little performance improvement. I will trust those who designed the engine for how it should run.

@hemiv8, at least if you put different mufflers on a Ecoboost you get to keep it. Put them on a ram and it gets recalled and bought back so there goes your mufflers.

Posted by: Truckcrazy | Aug 11, 2015 4:22:28 AM

Maybe you can get an APP for a louder V8 rumble in your Eco Burst. LMAO!

At least I would still have my truck and not have to worry about it being recalled and bought back. That's bad when you know your truck is a POS and the company wants it back for your safety! What a sorry company and a sorry truck that ram is there hemiv8!!! HARDY HAR HAR!!!!!!!!!

It would be useless for ecobust owners to install aftermarket exhausts on their trucks, they would sound crappier than they already do!

If they don't already come with the fake motor sounds, they should DEMAND that furdmoco include a CD that has V8 noises recorded on it, for them to play while they drive.

At least they still have there truck. It wasn't recalled and bought back for being junk. Ford wins and hemiv8 loses again!!!!!!!!,,



Stay thirsty.

@hemiv8,, how do you survive being so stupid?? You've taken all the stupid cake!

You keep posting old stuff shemalev6. Look up ignorance in the dictionary and there's your picture.

@Trucknuts, Look in the mirror. lol

Is 2011 current enough. Ford Recalls F series for fire. Two trucks burn on the assembly line. Is 2015 current enough F series Recalled for Fire!

Here is 2012= 2012 Ford F-150 fires still unexplained.

Here is 2016= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy1UZfzICi4

This is just the F series. Just Google Ford Fires to catch up on other Flaming Ford models.

@ShemaleV8, but none of them were bought back now were they? I don't have to google the Chrysler fires as they are in the news daily it seems. All those millions in fines and having to buy back your junk you didn't recall when the knowledge was there. Just like GM. You are fixed on fires, so it will help you out tremendously if you are stupid enough to not have full coverage insurance on your vehicles you drive. Did that once before didn't you. They say you can't fix STUPID so from the looks of things on your part they were right!

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