The Different Types of Aftermarket Exhaust Systems and How They Differ

It’s widely known that aftermarket exhaust systems are arguably the best way (in terms of efficiency and value) to improve your vehicle’s overall performance and fuel economy. Wider diameter pipes, a smarter design that allows for more gas flow and larger, more efficient parts are just some of the benefits you can get from an aftermarket 4×4 exhaust. However, with so many aftermarket exhausts available nowadays, how do you pick the right one? Well, as is with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

That being said, you’ll find a few different types of aftermarket 4×4 exhaust systems, namely: axle-back, header-back, and cat-back exhausts. Depending on which one you pick, they come with some combination of tailpipes, mufflers, catalytic converter, intermediate pipes, headers, and crossover pipes.


Header-back exhaust systems replace the entire system and are therefore the most expensive ones, but they also provide the most benefits. Installing a header-back exhaust system can be quite complicated for the average person, so you’ll likely have to account for installation costs as well. However, a header-back exhaust system can improve everything from performance to mileage, sound and look.

Cat-back exhaust systems replace everything from the catalytic converter backward. This generally includes the tailpipe and mufflers, but depending on the particular kit you get, it may also include mid, X-, H- and Y-pipes. Cat-back exhaust systems are a relatively simple mod that can free up a lot of exhaust flow, which makes them great in terms of value per money spent. Additionally, cat-back exhaust systems can improve the exhaust note of your vehicle.


Lastly, axle-back exhaust systems replace components from the rear axle to the exhaust tip. Although you get the least benefits from this type of exhausts, you still get some power gains. On the upside, axle-back exhaust systems are the most affordable ones and are extremely easy to install. These exhausts can improve how your vehicle looks and sounds.

Regardless of what type of exhaust system you end up choosing, make sure it’s made of aluminized or stainless steel and that it features mandrel bent pipes. Mandrel bending is a technology used in the construction process that helps reduce gas flow restriction. Stainless and aluminized steel are the most popular materials for making exhaust systems, as they’re incredibly durable, rust- and impact-resistant, which makes them ideal for driving in all types of rough terrain. Once you install a stainless or aluminized steel exhaust, chances are it will outlast your vehicle.