What Are Exhaust Headers and Header Bolts?

Having a better understanding of exhaust headers is important to ensure your engine performance is not compromised. Additionally, it helps prevent exhaust leaks and exhaust gasket failure, which could cost you quite a lot in repairs.  

How an Engine Without an Exhaust Header Works

A normal vehicle's engine has four to eight cylinders and each has an exhaust outlet. These outlets join a common exhaust pipe through an exhaust manifold. All the engine's cylinders dump exhaust through the exhaust outlets in one common place, the manifold, and it gets routed out through the exhaust pipe.  

The engine works in four strokes, that is, intake, compression, power and exhaust. The engine takes in a fuel/air mixture. After this mixture is burnt, compression and expansion results. The expansion causes the cylinders to be pushed up. When the cylinders are pressed, power is generated.  

In a normal engine, power is lost through backpressure. Backpressure results from the build-up of exhaust in one manifold, which causes pistons to work extra hard and use some of the power generated to route the exhaust out through the exhaust pipe.

High-performance vehicles need to avoid this power loss to get the most out of the engine. They require most of the power generated to run efficiently, and if some of it is lost, they will not perform as expected. Exhaust headers are the answer to the loss of power through backpressure.

Exhaust Headers

Exhaust headers are mostly purchased by drivers who use high-performance vehicles, especially racers. They are not usually present in stock vehicles, which means they are aftermarket accessories.

Exhaust headers eliminate the need for a common manifold and instead each cylinder pushes its own exhaust out to the common exhaust pipe. There is no build-up of exhaust, hence no backpressure. The power is, therefore, not wasted. They need to be well bolted to the engine using quality header bolts.

Header Bolts

Quality header bolts are needed for the header to stay in place. They should offer a consistent grip to seal the cylinder head, exhaust gasket and header flange together. If you get poor quality bolts, the grip will loosen and you will have yourself a costly disaster. It is important to let an exhaust header specialist do the header installation and also inform you of what header bolts to use.

You may also be required to regularly have the header bolts checked and tightened.