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Choosing the Right Headers
By Jim Smart/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Estimated Time300 minutes
300 minutes
Mid-length Header - This is the compromise between long-tube and shorty: The mid-length header with a flange collector. As you might expect, it’s a compromise in terms of power and efficiency, yet it offers improved fit.
Mid Length Header with a Flange Collector
Tri-Y Long-tube Headers - These consist of primary tubes right off the cylinder head, secondary tubes, and an expansion chamber or collector. They’re called Tri-Y headers because you have three “Ys”—two at the cylinder head and one that’s a combination of the two.
Tri-Y Long-tube Headers
Known as Equal-Length Shorty Headers - This bundle of spaghetti inspires improved exhaust tuning, but creates some fitment challenges. In truth, equal-length headers aren’t very effective on the street through mufflers. They’re more effective at high rpm through an open exhaust.
Equal-Length Shorty Headers
Step Headers  - These are the latest “next big thing” in header design, though they’re effective only at high rpm and not very productive considering what they cost. Step headers employ different pipe sizes as we travel away from the flange.
Step Headers
Step Header - It theoretically yields a flatter torque curve across rpms. Although this theory may have worked for some, it hasn’t been successful for the masses. In other words, unless you are an avid racer, don’t waste your money.
Step Headers May Yield Flatter Torque Curve
Tri-Y Header  - This one yields outstanding quality for the money with a ceramic coating, and solid welding and bending. Flange thickness isn’t what we see with high-end headers.
Tri-Y Header
Ball and Socket Collectors - Eliminate leaky gaskets and frustrating fitment issues.
Ball and Socket Collectors
Double W Headers - Are like Tri-Y headers for V-8s.
Double W Headers
Header Coating - This black ceramic coating wears well and fit is good.
Black Ceramic Coating
Primary Tube Size - Is everything to performance. These primary tubes are too large for a 289/302ci. Lost torque is the result.
Primary Tube Size
Ease of Installation - Another important aspect of header selection is ease of installation. This may sound picky, but how well does your wrench fit?
How Well Your Wrench Fits on the Header is Important
Balance Tube - Not only do you want compatible header collector and pipe size, you want a balance tube connecting both sides. An H-pipe or X-pipe gets the job done.
Balance Tube
Custom Headers - Although some of us have custom headers made, it is very expensive and necessary only for odd-duck and racing applications.
Customer Headers May be Unnecessary
Header Fasteners - One of the biggest complaints we hear with headers is blown gaskets and loose fasteners. Opt for good locking header fasteners when buying headers along with high quality gaskets and forget all about leaks.
Use Good Locking Header Fasteners
Some Factory Cast Iron Headers - Make excellent scavengers for those who don’t want the hassle of tubular headers.
Factory Cast Iron Headers
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