If you’re looking to make your car sound and look sportier, the straight pipe exhaust system is what you need. This racing exhaust produces a loud and throaty sound that will stop passers-by in their tracks. A noise so loud your friends and neighbours will think that you’ve swapped your sedate street car for something far more expensive.
You might need to wear ear plugs but don’t worry too much. The growl of the exhaust notes when you put your foot down will make you forget you even had them in. If you want to hear what a straight pipe sounds like, fellow car enthusiasts at the MattyB727 YouTube channel posted a video of an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 with a straight pipe exhaust earlier this year.
Changing the exhaust system on your car isn’t easy or cheap so it’s important that you know the pros and cons of what you are letting yourself in for. But if you are curious about why some cars sound so outrageous or if you’ve always wanted to enhance your car’s racing credentials, read on.
First, we’ll answer some common questions about the straight pipe including what does straight piping mean, what is a straight pipe exhaust and how does a straight pipe exhaust work? Then we’ll go over the pros and cons of a straight pipe exhaust. At the end of this article, we’ll talk about how much a straight pipe exhaust costs and where you can buy a straight pipe exhaust.
Let’s get started.
What does straight piping mean?
Straight piping is simply the term people use when talking about swapping their standard car exhaust for a straight pipe exhaust.
What is a straight pipe exhaust?
For those who know the basics of a car exhaust already, straight piping is easy to understand. But if you need a quick refresher on exhaust systems, Motor Verso has a simple explanation here.
When you straight pipe your car, you simply drop the muffler and catalytic converter from the standard exhaust. The pipe exhausts, as you may have guessed, are also straight.
By avoiding the twists, turns and obstructions of a conventional exhaust, exhaust gases in the pipes can run freely from exhaust head to exhaust tip. This has a number of benefits as we’ll see below including for performance and fuel consumption.
How does a straight pipe exhaust work?
Even though the straight pipe can alter the character of your car so dramatically, the engineering is disarmingly simple.
The aim of a standard exhaust is to take away unpleasant waste exhaust gases from your engine to the air. The intention is usually to release the gases as far as possible away from the driver and the passengers. This means the exhaust tip is almost always at the rear of the car.
A catalytic converter in an ordinary exhaust system will transform harmful nitrous oxides into less harmful substances. A muffler (the large tin shaped object towards the end of the exhaust) will deaden the sounds through a series of passageways (baffles).
The straight pipe exhaust does away with all of these conventions. As the name suggests, straight pipes transfer the noise and gases in one clean swoop from engine to exhaust tip. The catalytic converter and muffler are removed meaning no obstructions to the flow of gases. This results in more noise and better engine performance. More on this below.
What are the benefits of a straight pipe exhaust?
So now you know how it works, you’ll want to decide whether you should set aside your hand-earned money to buy one. Motor Verso has listed the advantages of the set-up below.
1) Better performance
The second question people will usually ask is does a straight pipe increase horsepower and torque? Increased performance is probably the main reason, along with the incredible sound, that owners invest in a straight pipe exhaust. If your car’s going to sound like a racing car it should really move like one too shouldn’t it?
That’s exactly what the straight pipe exhaust does. By letting exhaust gases flow freely from exhaust head to exhaust tip, the pressure is reduced on the engine. This leads to better performance in the form of increased torque and horsepower. The straight pipe exhaust is used on race cars for a reason.
You can bring a part of the racetrack to your car too.
Be aware that modifications to your car’s performance don’t come cheap and changes to the exhaust system of your car will have a significant effect on how your engine works. Cars are finely tuned engineering masterpieces. The mechanics of individual components need to work together in harmony if you are to get the best out of your car. A mechanic or the exhaust pipe supplier should be able to advise you on the best straight pipe exhaust for your car.
2) Unique Sound
Many people thinking about purchasing a straight pipe exhaust will ask “is it noisy?” The answer is yes. Most definitely. It’s probably the main reason people decide to buy a straight pipe exhaust.
Petrol heads smile when they hear the roar of a well-tuned engine. Millions of them follow Formula One races and NASCAR for the same reason. Sure, the speeds in motor racing are spectacular and the competition is thrilling. But think of a race without the noise. The atmosphere would be ruined.
The sound from the exhaust brings the car to life. It reveals the car’s personality and the owner’s.
When you fit a straight pipe exhaust you give your car some serious engine noise. Your calm daily driver will be transformed into the wildest and most intense version of itself. The straight pipe exhaust lets out a pure engine sound. What you hear is at the same pitch as the noise that left the engine.
That alone is a privilege worth paying for. How many other car owners will ever hear the real sound of their car engine?
As soon as we mention the noise, people will also ask whether straight piping is legal. The answer is that it depends on where you live. Because all that noise and raw intensity will almost certainly raise a few eyebrows and could even alert the police.
Different jurisdictions have different laws against excessively high noises from motor vehicles. This includes the UK and different states in the US. Make sure you check with the authorities in your area before you invest in a straight pipe exhaust system. Otherwise your purchase could be sitting pretty in your drive but doing very little else.
3) Fuel Economy
If you remove the catalytic converter and muffler from your exhaust system you are going to save weight. Less weight means better performance and improved fuel economy. So even if the authorities are not too happy with the noise your newly modified vehicle is making, know that you could actually be benefiting the environment by racking up more hydrocarbons to the gallon.
The lack of the catalytic converter could mean your car fails local emissions control tests though. In which case you may instead decide to invest in a cat back exhaust. It’s basically a straight pipe exhaust fitted with a catalytic converter. It may not quite be a straight pipe exhaust but at least you can drive your car with your conscience intact.
You’re not spending all that money on a new exhaust system for no-one to see it are you? Of course not. When heads turn, you’ll be wanting to impress them with your car’s fresh new appearance. That’s benefit number four.
The straight pipe exhaust comes in many different forms. From full-shine chrome to variegated shades of blue and red. Double pipes might add the extra sporting element you’re looking for. Or perhaps you’ll choose quad exhausts if you really want to leave a mark.
The straight pipe exhaust will add to the sports car design that you’re after and make your car enthusiast friends wish they had your taste. The go-faster stripes and spoilers others may invest in will pale in comparison to the racing image that your straight pipe exhaust will conjure up.
So these are some of the benefits of the straight pipe exhaust. But what about the negatives? You need weigh these up too before you come to a decision.
What are the negatives of a straight pipe exhaust?
Modern cars use catalytic converters to turn harmful by-products of the internal combustion process into safer compounds. Substances such as nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide are turned into nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. This is better for us because it means less pollution and cleaner air to breathe.
Before catalytic converters were readily used, automobiles contributed to dense air pollution in major cities. London was brought to a standstill in December 1952 because the smog was so thick. In more recent time, Volkswagen has been fined for misleading emissions statistics as Motor Verso reported in 2015.
Stricter emissions standards have to led to a significant reduction in emissions. The latest European Union regulations permit just 0.06g/km of nitrous oxides emissions for petrol cars. Compare this to 0.97g/km in 1992.
The straight pipe exhaust has no catalytic converter and so you’ll likely not pass an emissions control test and you could be prevented from driving your car. The cat back exhaust system we mentioned earlier will include a catalytic converter. It might also have a muffler delete (simply a muffler removed from the exhaust) in order to maintain the racing sound you’re after.
2) Too much noise
That’s right. Noise, as well as being one of the key advantages, can also be a major drawback. The RAC in the UK explains that an excessively loud exhaust could land you with a £50 on-the-spot fine. The Government in the UK also warns that it is illegal to modify the exhaust system after it has passed environmental and safety standards. Laws are no less stringent across the pond with noisy cars illegal in states such as California.
Most people don’t want to hear a Formula One car roaring down their quiet suburban road. Even if you and I quite like the idea. Of course, if you have a racetrack down the road, you could experience the thrill of racing on the smoother bends and tarmac of the course.
Here you’ll likely face no problems pushing the accelerator fully down to the floor and letting the exhaust notes rip.
Some straight pipe devotees will ask whether they should fit a by-pass system. A by-pass system allows you to switch from conventional exhaust to straight pipe exhaust. That means you’d be able to drive from home to the racetrack in your car. This does, of course, create more expense. But you might argue that it’s more practical.
And the added gadgetry is also rather nifty. Something Q might add to a James Bond car.
3) Expensive to Buy and Install
Not good. Expense in the negative category, I hear you say. How much does a straight pipe exhaust cost? They vary in price. Some websites quote sums of around $1000 and higher. This alone is enough to put off all but the true enthusiast.
While the initial investment may require deep pockets, you can’t rely on recouping your money when you come to sell the car either. The upgrade you thought suited your car so well and gave it that unique sporting edge may not suit everyone. Particularly if it can’t be driven on a public road.
This means that you may find it difficult to sell your car and you could actually lose money on your original investment. There may be no market for the modifications you’ve made. If you do want to sell it, you may find yourself writing out yet another cheque to your local garage to remove the straight pipe and attach a conventional exhaust system.
Other considerations around Straight Pipe Exhaust s
Even if you do decide to go for one, there are some other practical factors to take into account too. We’ve answered a few of the remaining questions you may have below before making your decision.
Where do I buy one?
There are plenty of customs exhaust shops that will help you to identify and source what you need. A quick search on Google gave me a number of garages within a 20-mile radius claiming to work with straight pipe exhausts.
Ring the shop first before you decide to buy from them. It’s a good way of getting a feel for the people who work there and the type of company it is. If the staff who speak to you sound stressed and bothered, don’t expect the service to improve after you’ve decided to go with them.
Also look at the outfit they’re running – perhaps by driving past or searching on Google Street View. If the shop is in a grubby part of town or looks run down, you’d probably best avoid it. Why go for a supplier or fitter that can’t afford to look after their premises?
For such an important modification to your car, you want to make sure you get the best you can. It will pay dividends in the long run.
How do I fit it to my car?
Don’t. Unless you know what you’re doing, you’re best leaving it to the professionals. Fitting a straight pipe exhaust is specialist work involving welding so you have to be handy with a torch. You also need to understand at least the basics of how a car engine and exhaust system work.
Exhaust pipes are fundamental to the good functioning of your vehicle. They are not just an aesthetic add-on although they can also enhance your vehicle’s appearance.
Straight Pipe Exhaust Conclusion
The straight pipe exhaust will undoubtedly make you stand out from the crowd. You can be certain that there will be very few drivers out there with an exhaust system quite like yours. The noise and the sight will be entirely different from the more mundane exhaust pipes fitted to the majority of other street cars.
Is it worth it?
But your decision to fit a straight pipe exhaust will only prove to be a sound investment if you are actually able to make use of it. The absence of a catalytic converter and a muffler may mean that you are prevented from using your car anywhere other than on the racetrack and even the tracks may have sound limits. That’s not much good if you still intend to use the car to go to the shops or to go to work. So if you are using it on the road, just be careful where you use it at full throttle and prepare to pay a fine if you get caught.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind the additional expense, a by-pass switch could enable to benefit from two exhaust systems – the conventional and the straight-pipe. It also means that you won’t frighten your neighbours every time you reverse out of your drive. A cat back exhaust system could also allow you to pass an emission control test.
The customised appearance of polished chrome pipes under the rear of your car will have a particular appeal. It will turn the heads of passers-by but it could also do the same for your local policeman. In conclusion, we’d say: choose wisely.