An exhaust system is usually tubing used to guide reaction exhaust gases away from a controlled combustion inside an engine or stove. The entire system conveys burnt gases from the engine and includes one or more exhaust pipes. Depending on the overall system design, the exhaust gas may flow through one or more of:
- Cylinder head and exhaust manifold
- A turbocharger to increase engine power.
- A catalytic converter to reduce air pollution.
- A muffler (North America) / silencer (Europe), to reduce noise.
Design criteria Edit
An exhaust pipe must be carefully designed to carry toxic and/or noxious gases away from the users of the machine. Indoor generators and furnaces can quickly fill an enclosed space with carbon monoxide or other poisonous exhaust gases if they are not properly vented to the outdoors. Also, the gases from most types of machine are very hot; the pipe must be heat-resistant, and it must not pass through or near anything which can burn or can be damaged by heat. A chimney serves as an exhaust pipe in a stationary structure. For the internal combustion engine it is important to have the Exhaust System "Tuned" (refer to tuned pipe) for optimal efficiency.
In many trucks / lorries all or most of the exhaust system is visible. Often in such trucks the silencer is surrounded by a perforated metal sheath to avoid people getting burnt touching the hot silencer. This sheath may be chrome plated as a display feature. Part of the pipe between the engine and the silencer is often flexible metal industrial ducting, as in the image in the section "Terminology". Sometimes a large diesel exhaust pipe is vertical, to blow the hot noxious gas well away from people; in such cases the end of the exhaust pipe often has a hinged metal flap to stop debris and birds and rainwater from falling inside. Sometimes this exhaust pipes have some flex connector attached with it. This helps in minimising the vibration from the engine to be transferred into the exhaust system.
Manifold or headerEdit
In most production engines, the manifold is an assembly designed to collect the exhaust gas from two or more cylinders into one pipe. Manifolds are often made of cast iron in stock production cars, and may have material-saving design features such as to use the least metal, to occupy the least space necessary, or have the lowest production cost. These design restrictions often result in a design that is cost effective but that does not do the most efficient job of venting the gases from the engine. Inefficiencies generally occur due to the nature of the combustion engine and its cylinders. Since cylinders fire at different times, exhaust leaves them at different times, and pressure waves from gas emerging from one cylinder might not be completely vacated through the exhaust system when another comes. This creates a back pressure and restriction in the engine's exhaust system that can restrict the engine's true performance possibilities.
A header (sometimes called extractor in Australia) is a manifold specifically designed for performance. During design, engineers create a manifold without regard to weight or cost but instead for optimal flow of the exhaust gases. This design results in a header that is more efficient at scavenging the exhaust from the cylinders. Headers are generally circular steel tubing with bends and folds calculated to make the paths from each cylinder's exhaust port to the common outlet all equal length, and joined at narrow angles to encourage pressure waves to flow through the outlet, and not back towards other cylinders. In a set of tuned headers the pipe lengths are carefully calculated to enhance exhaust flow in a particular engine revolutions per minute range.
Headers are generally made by aftermarket automotive companies, but sometimes can be bought from the high-performance parts department at car dealerships. Generally, most car performance enthusiasts buy aftermarket headers made by companies solely focused on producing reliable, cost-effective well-designed headers specifically for their car. Headers can also be custom designed by a custom shop. Due to the advanced materials that some aftermarket headers are made of, this can be expensive. Luckily, an exhaust system can be custom built for any car, and generally is not specific to the car's motor or design except for needing to properly connect solidly to the engine. This is usually accomplished by correct sizing in the design stage, and selecting a proper gasket type and size for the engine.
Header-back (or header back) is to the part of the exhaust system from the outlet of the header to the final vent to open air — everything from the header back. Header-back systems are generally produced as aftermarket performance systems for cars without turbochargers.
Turbo-back (or turbo back) is to the part of the exhaust system from the outlet of a turbocharger to the final vent to open air. Turbo-back systems are generally produced as aftermarket performance systems for cars with turbochargers. Some turbo-back (and header-back) systems replace stock catalytic converters with others having less flow restriction.
With or without catalytic converterEdit
Some systems (including in former time all systems) (sometimes nowadays called catless) eliminate the catalytic converter. This is illegal in some places if the vehicle is driven on public roads.
Cat-back (also cat back and catback) refers to the portion of the exhaust system from the outlet of the catalytic converter to the final vent to open air. This generally includes the pipe from the converter to the muffler, the muffler, and the final length of pipe to open air.
Cat-back exhaust systems are a very popular aftermarket performance enhancement. They generally use larger diameter pipe than the stock system. Good systems will have mandrel-bent turns that allow the exhaust gas to exit with as little back pressure as possible. The mufflers included in these kits are often glasspacks, again to reduce back pressure. If the system is engineered more for show than functionality, it may be tuned to enhance the lower sounds that are lacking from high-RPM low-displacement engines.
Tailpipe and tipEdit
With trucks, sometimes the silencer is crossways under the front of the cab and its tailpipe blows sideways to the offside (right in UK, left in USA looking from the back of the car). The side of a passenger car on which the exhaust exits beneath the rear bumper usually indicates the market for which the vehicle was designed, i.e. Japanese (and some older British) vehicles have exhausts on the right so they are furthest from the curb in countries which drive on the left, while European vehicles have exhausts on the left. The petrol filler flap is normally on the opposite side to the exhaust tailpipe for reasons of packaging (keeping the filler pipe away from the hot exhaust) but also to position it closest to the curb.
The end of the final length of exhaust pipe where it vents to open air, generally the only visible part, often ends with just a straight or angled cut, but may include a fancy tip. The tip is usually chromed, and is often of larger pipe than the rest of the exhaust system. This produces a final reduction in pressure, as well as prevents rusting of the tips, and can be used to enhance the appearance of the car. These are the least expensive parts of the system.
In the late 1950s in the United States manufacturers had a fashion in car styling to form the rear bumper with a hole at each end through which the exhaust would pass. Two outlets symbolized V-8 power, and only the most expensive cars (Cadillac, Lincoln, Imperial, Packard) were fitted with this design. One justification for this was that luxury cars in those days had such a long rear overhang that the exhaust pipe scraped the ground when the car traversed ramps. The fashion disappeared after customers noted that the rear end of the car, being a low-pressure area, collected soot from the exhaust and its acidic content ate into the chrome-plated rear bumper.
When a bus, truck or tractor or excavator has a vertical exhaust pipe (called stacks or pipes behind the cab), sometimes the end is curved, or has a hinged cover flap which the gas flow blows out of the way, to try to prevent foreign objects (including droppings from a bird perching on the exhaust pipe when the vehicle is not being used) getting inside the exhaust pipe.
In some trucks, when the silencer is front-to-back under the chassis, the end of the tailpipe turns 90° and blows downwards. That avoids anyone working by the truck when stationary from getting a directed blast of the exhaust gas, but often raises dust when the truck is driving on a dry dusty unmade surface such as on a building site.
Also known as side pipes, lake pipes are exhaust pipes, normally brightly chromed, which exit the front wheel arch of a car and then pass down the sill/rocker panel, finally opening sideways in front of the rear wheel. They are sometimes seen on custom cars and hot rods. Cars in series production which are equipped with sidepipes include the Dodge Viper and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, with the SLR having sidepipes which end behind the front wheels.