So you just spent thousands over dollars on a new exhaust header or turbo system and even more time and money installing it. This is a good investment because exhaust and turbo systems give you the most horsepower gains over most other aftermarket upgrades. If you have ever installed headers on a car or a turbo system you know you don’t want to do it again. Yet most people don’t go the extra step to protect their headers or turbo components so they don’t ruin or rust. Avoid costly replacement part costs, repair expenses, and lost time by protecting your exhaust components. Why should you protect them? Let us point out 5 things that can ruin your expensive investment and what you can do to protect them.
Heat – heat kills metal, have you ever heated up a piece of metal to a point where it melts. While most expensive headers will not melt in normal applications, excess heat can weaken metal. Weak metal becomes brittle, forms pin holes, and over time will split and or when combined with corrosive exhaust gases eat your exhaust components from the inside out!
Solution – the best way to reduce heat is to run a large volume of air over your headers or have an open engine compartment. Both are pretty unfeasible options. The best solution is to keep the heat inside the pipe and prevent it from soaking into the metal. This can be accomplished with heat wraps, high temperature paint and ceramic coatings.
Thermal Cycling – have you ever seen turbo headers or housing glow red hot and then cool down to their original color. Well this is called thermal cycling. Heating up headers, manifolds, and turbo housings over and over again is very damaging. After a period of time the metal will start to degrade, delaminate, or develop pin holes. Thermal cycling can ruin parts fast and coupled with corrosion as discussed below can render your expensive turbo system useless in no time at all.
Solution – the only thing to help prevent damaging thermal cycling is a high heat ceramic or plasma type coating. You should look for a coating that penetrates the metal and forms a new protective barrier both inside and out. This will allow the heat to stay internal in the exhaust system and effectively exit out the rear.
Thermal Tumbling – metal can have “hot spots” or areas where heat will soak into metal more aggressively than other areas. This can cause thermal tumbling. The most effective way for exhaust gas to escape from your engine is in a straight laminar flow. Thermal tumbling is like hitting little road blocks impeding a nice smooth straight flow. Thermal tumbling or inefficient exhaust scavenging can cause a loss in horsepower and cooling efficiency.
Solution – exhaust piping from the motor all the way back to the exhaust tip can benefit from an internal ceramic pipe coating which should eliminate hot spots and create a smooth laminar flow. This will prevent exhaust gases from tumbling and working back on themselves. It will also keep the heat internally in the pipe effectively scavenging it out from the motor.
Heat Soak – while this does not really damage the headers, other than in retained heat mentioned above, heat soak can damage engine components. When you upgrade to high performance headers, turbo, and exhaust components they are going to release more heat into the engine compartment. Heat will soak out from the metal of the exhaust component and can melt spark plug wires, electrical equipment, and other expensive engine parts.
Solution – it is imperative to have a protective coating to help prevent heat from soaking into your engine compartment. As in the example of heat management stated above heat wraps, high heat paint, and ceramic coatings will do the job. See our other article about why we do not recommend heat wraps. High heat paint is a good option but after a time it can delaminate, crack, and peel. This is because the paint does not bond with the metal. A good ceramic coating, will bond and react with the metal, filling in disparities and form a protective barrier that will not delaminate.
Corrosion and Abrasion – this is by far the most prevalent problem with expensive header systems, turbo components, and exhaust components. Mild and even low grade stainless steel can exhibit rust over time. Most all metal including titanium can discolor as heat starts to degrade the metal. Cast iron turbo housings will rust, sometimes in a few days. Salt, road grime, mud, dirt, and water can all lead to a corrosive slime that will eat away expensive exhaust systems. Discoloration can render parts ugly and rust is unpleasant to see in any engine bay or under any vehicle. Abrasions can happen by rocks, road debris, and tools working around the parts. These abrasions or dents can look unsightly and in some cases start small weaknesses in the metal.
Solution – both heat wraps and high heat paint are not good solutions to prevent corrosion and abrasions. A polished ceramic coating has a very high impact rating and can withstand a beating with a hammer without delaminating. It also prevents corrosion and cleans with normal aluminum polish. It does not discolor as long as you do not exceed the temperature rating of 1300F. Other ceramic coatings help prevent corrosion and have higher heat tolerances but may not be as impact resistant as the polished aluminum ceramic coating.
There are many ways to protect your new headers, turbo, or exhaust system. Most manufactures are using higher grade metals or coating their products to solve some of the issues above. We do not recommend heat wraps which can trap condensation in between the metal and wrap ruining the metal in a short time. High heat paint is also discouraged because it discolors easily and delaminates over time. The best option is a ceramic or metal based coating that interacts with the metal to form a long lasting protective barrier. This will insure your parts are useable and last for a long time.