Not only do they look cool, sound cool, and give you more horsepower; exhaust headers are a sure bet to performance and impressive aesthetics under the hood of your car. But what advantages will you gain or loose by choosing one or another? All have their strengths and weaknesses, so here we’ll explain the four basic types, which include short tube, long tube, unequal length and equal length.
First are short or “shorty” headers, and they are exactly what you can imagine. Which is usually the length of the stock exhaust manifold. The advantage of using this version is the ease of installation. Normally just a replacement for the factory manifold, there are usually no modifications. Although utilizing a shorty header will let you pick up a few extra horses, they can be the lowest gains of all the versions.
Long tubes are a lengthened version from stock. On a V8 application, a long tube will extend past and underneath the floorboards of the vehicle. On a 4-cylinder application the header will extend and wrap under the motor or under the floorboards. The downfall with using a long tube is the connecting collector exhaust pipe will need to be replaced with a shorter version, or modified. Although this is more costly and time consuming to install, the horsepower advantage is well worth it.
Unequal length headers are available in both short and long tube. When the exhaust pipes are bent, there is no regard to length of each pipe before all meeting at the collector. Therefore exhaust from one cylinder may travel further or a shorter distance before reaching the collector. Which can rob you of performance and sound by not being “tuned,” with random cylinders performing better or scavenging air after the exhaust stroke.
A resolution to this situation is to use equal length headers, which are available in short and long style headers. But beware. Although you’ll be picking up a few extra horses by having a “tuned” exhaust, the installation can be a nightmare. This is due to the extra length of pipes wrapping around each other, and causing series spacing issues in most applications. But once installed, an equal length header would not look only wicked, but will result in the most horsepower and sound advantage.