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What Are The Best Mustang Headers?

Written By: Ryan Doyle

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Headers will add power to your Mustang while tuning the exhaust note. You'll pick up a pile of rear wheel horsepower and turn many heads when you install an aftermarket set of high-flowing headers.

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Learn all you need to know about Mustang headers here and get the knowledge to pick the right header option for you and your Mustang!

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Choosing Between Three Different Types of Mustang Headers 

Chrome Aftermarket Headers
  • Shorty Headers—Preferred when using a turbo setup, but can still be used in a naturally aspirated engine and street builds

  • Equal Length Headers—Allow more equal exhaust flow through the header to the mid pipes

  • Long Tube Headers—Preferred when using non-turbo, performance builds because they produce higher performance numbers compared to cost

Headers, also known in stock form as the exhaust manifold, is the first section of the Mustang’s exhaust system mounting to both the left and right sides of the engine (V8/V6 only). There are many options when it comes to choosing a set of aftermarket headers for your Mustang. With so many choices: long tube, shorties, chrome, ceramic…where do you begin? Let’s take a look at the different types of headers, their benefits and also the several types of finishes available for headers. Depending on your desire in exhaust sound and also your engine setup, the type of header you choose may differ.

Shorty Headers: How do they compare to long tubes?

Chrome Shorty Headers

Shorty headers are preferred when using a turbo setup in your Mustang but can still be used in a naturally aspirated engine. Despite the most common uses shorty headers can still give you performance increase regardless of your setup by providing more low-end torque.

Do I want equal length or unequal Mustang headers?

When choosing shorty headers you are given the options of either equal length or unequal length. The difference is that the separate pipes on an equal length set of headers are contoured in a way so that all four pipes converge into one pipe while having the same length. This option is beneficial due to allowing more equal exhaust flow through the header to the mid pipes.

Shorty vs. Long Tube Header Installation

When it comes to ease of installation, shorties are where it’s at. They can be easily installed by removing a few simple components if that and can easily be done at home. In addition, shorty headers can easily mount up to your existing stock mid-pipe with no customization. If installation is not your concern, consider this: Shorty headers, unlike long tube headers, stay close to the engine, virtually giving no chance of bottoming out on lowered vehicles. The down side of shorty headers on a Mustang is that you’re not going to see as high performance gains as compared to a long tube header setup. One of the reasons for this is that shorties do not scavenge adjacent exhaust ports quite as well (savaging is where one exhaust outlet in the combing section of the header in ways causes suction to pull the adjacent port’s exhaust gasses).

When are long tube headers the right choice for my Mustang?

Long Tube Headers

For non-turbo, performance builds, full length or long tube headers are the more popular choice because of their higher performance numbers compared to the price you are paying. This performance is do to the flow characteristics and how the exhaust flows through the tubes and out of the engine. A good rule of thumb for headers is the longer you can extend the individual tubes going into the combing chamber without the need for bends or twists in the tubing, the better your exhaust’s performance will be. Compared to the shorty header, the long tube header will generally give you more midrange and top end power gains.

Drawbacks of long tube Mustang headers

A few drawbacks of long tube headers as mention above are fitment, clearance, and installation. Often when fitting long tube headers into your Mustang an upgraded mid-pipe needs to be installed. Clearance issues—depending on how dropped your Mustang is—can arise on lowered vehicles with long tubes due to their lower exiting design.

TIP: scavenging is the process of pushing exhausted gas-charge out of the cylinder and drawing in a fresh draught of air or fuel/air mixture for the next cycle. This process is essential in having a smooth-running internal combustion engine. If scavenging is incomplete, the following stroke will begin with a mix of exhaust fumes rather than clean air. This may be inadequate for proper combustion and another reason to swap out the stock manifolds for a set of aftermarket headers.

Choosing Your Header’s Coating

Ceramic Headers

Ceramic- when it comes to the most expensive yet longest lasting headers, ceramic is the way to go. Under hi-heat temperatures, paints and other coatings can begin to break down. With out a proper coverage on your header they can begin to rust and eventually lead to exhaust leakage.

Painted Mustang Headers

Hi-temp Paint- Some headers often are listed as painted. This most often means they were coated with a hi heat paint which in most cases should be rated for the temperature your engine area will be at. Although this does not supercede ceramic, if painted correctly can still uphold the standards.

Chrome Long Tube Headers

Chrome- Another hi-temp coating which gives a shiny stylish chrome appearance. No rated as highly as ceramic, yet not as expensive in most cases still offers rust protection if applied correctly.

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