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What’s Hot In Exhaust?

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Mufflers and pipes are replacement parts that can be sold to anybody anytime. Though most mufflers and pipes are not replaced until they rot out or are dragging under a vehicle, others are candidates for replacement as soon as a new or used vehicle is purchased. We’re talking about performance mufflers and cat-back exhaust systems. These higher-profit components can be sold to enhance performance, fuel economy and upgrade the way a vehicle sounds.

Of course, not everybody is a potential customer for a performance muffler or exhaust system. Your average driver just wants a nice quiet ride that doesn’t upset the neighbors or drown out the stereo. For this customer, all you have to do is look up a direct fit or universal muffler that will work, along with any pipes, clamps, hangars and/or gaskets that may be needed and you can chalk up the sale.

On the other hand, if you have a customer who wants a more aggressive growl that lets everybody know his mean machine means business, you can recommend some type of performance muffler and/or exhaust system that’s within his budget. The more expensive performance systems will be stainless steel (or even titanium!), but aluminumized or coated steel mufflers and pipes also are available for those on a limited budget.

Though sound is usually the major selling point of a performance exhaust system, power and fuel economy gains are also included at no extra cost. What’s more, many performance mufflers don’t have to be excessively loud to deliver a significant reduction in power-robbing backpressure. Careful design of the baffles and roving inside the muffler can achieve more power with a minimal increase in decibels — or not, depending on what the customer wants.

A customer who is installing a cold air intake system on his engine to help it inhale more air also should think about what comes out the other end. Backpressure in the exhaust makes it harder for the engine to exhale, so opening up the exhaust with a free-flowing muffler helps overall engine breathing and power. It’s not unusual to realize gains of up to 15 to 25 or more horsepower on a V8 by replacing the stock muffler and exhaust with aftermarket performance parts. The actual power gains will vary depending on
how restrictive the stock parts are, as will any improvement in fuel economy (typically 0.5 to 1
or 2 mpg).

Installation is usually the same as with stock replacement parts, though some modifications may be necessary depending on how the system is configured. Street-driven vehicles must retain their catalytic converters to remain emissions legal, but anything goes for off-road or racing applications.

Speaking of racing, many race tracks now require race cars to be equipped with mufflers for noise abatement. The mufflers not only keep nearby neighbors happy but also help protect spectators and drivers from excessive decibels. Prolonged exposure to noise over 100 to 110 decibels can damage hearing.

Some law enforcement agencies will ticket motorists if their exhaust produces more than 95 decibels. So, recommend a performance muffler that keeps the noise to a safe and legal level if a customer wants a more satisfying sound than a stock replacement muffler can deliver.


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