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Challenger Header Options and Benefits

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A set of headers not only looks good under your Challenger's hood, but they also add power and torque. Different styles of headers will net differing power gains. For example, a set of shorty headers are better for low-end torque, but long tubes are better for top end speed. No matter your build, there's a set of headers that'll compliment your style.

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You’re in the market to add horsepower to your third-generation Challenger (2008-2018). You want it at a relatively low cost and in a bolt-on package, but you also want some considerable improvement in performance. A friend suggests looking into fitting a set of aftermarket headers to your Dodge, but you’re not sure where to start. How do headers benefit your Challenger? What’s the difference between different designs of headers? Which headers will give you the performance you’re looking for? Trust us, there’s a lot more to it than ordering up any old set of headers and slapping them on your ride. To help, we dive into the need-to-know information of aftermarket headers. Read on!

What are Headers?

First off, exhaust headers are one of the easiest, most beneficial upgrades you can make to your car, period. Instead of sharing a common manifold for every cylinder, aftermarket headers give each cylinder its own exhaust pipe. This works to help eliminate the manifold’s back pressure, which robs power from your engine by not allowing the engine to efficiently push out exhaust gasses and bring in ​fresh air.

Shorty vs. Long Tube Headers

While digging through the different options of exhaust headers available for your Challenger, you’ve most likely come across both short and long choices. So, what’s each mean? Essentially the difference between the two designs is the length of the exhaust port pipes before they merge into a single exhaust pipe. As you can imagine, short header pipes have less distance before the merge and long pipes have more distance.

Simple, right? Well, the difference in length of the exhaust port pipes creates differences in the system’s back pressure, which results in distinctive power characteristics between the two. Hands down, equipping your Challenger with a set of long tube headers will give you a significant peak power advantage, much due to their ability to better reduce back pressure—but they also come with a few disadvantages.

With long tube headers, you’re going to be forced into swapping out your stock mid-pipe as well, due to fitment issues. Not only does this increase the cost of upgrading considerably, but also lengthens and complicates its install.

Long header pipes 

  • Highly beneficial for peak power 
  • Need for aftermarket mid-pipe

Short pipes are more restrictive than long pipe headers, meaning they won’t offer as much outright performance. That said, however, third party tests have proven that short headers can outperform their competitors in low-to-mid RPM performance, only losing out to long headers at high RPM. Short tubes are also commonly cheaper due to less material being needed and are less prone to be bottomed out on low-riding cars because they sit closer to the engine. They are also highly recommended on turbocharged setups.

Short header pipes 

  • Low-to-mid power advantage
  • Lower cost
  • Less chance of bottoming out

Tuned Length Headers – What Does it Mean?

Let’s end the confusion about tuned-length—also known as equal-length—headers right here. In this design, each individual exhaust pipe of the header is cut and bent so they are all of identical length, which ensures the exhaust gas pulses of each cylinder arrive at the mid-pipe at the same time. The smooth and consistent flow of exhaust gases that tuned-length headers provide will boost horsepower over that of unequal-length headers. Efficiency is key.

  • More efficient flow means less backpressure and improved power

What’s the Difference in Installation Between Short and Long?

Actually, a lot. When in the market for aftermarket headers, take time to consider how much time you are willing to spend (or how much money you are willing to pay an expert) to install your new pipes.

As previously mentioned, short header pipes are known for being a simple, bolt-on piece that will work with your stock mid pipe. Most often, someone with intermediate mechanical skills can do an installation of short pipes with simple hand tools. This is one reason that aftermarket short head pipes are such a hit by so many consumers.

As previously mentioned, installing long tube headers is more complicated and will take a longer amount of time, mainly due to the need for also installing a set of aftermarket mid pipes. If you do choose to go purchase long header pipes, it’s recommended to purchase a set of short mid pipes from the same manufacturer. This will save headaches by ensuring a proper fit between the two.

Options of Finishes for Your Headers

A quick search through the available head pipes for your Challenger will point out several finish options, including ceramic, chrome, and stainless steel. Each of these has their own advantages, which we dive into below!

Ceramic: If you’re willing to spend some extra coin to ensure your new headers will withstand hard driving, look no further than a ceramic finish. Although pricier than the alternatives, they are more corrosion resistant and helps reduce under-the-hood temperatures, which can help boost horsepower figures in hot conditions.

Chrome: Bling, bling! Of course, there are several aftermarket header options out there that are offered in a chrome finish. Not only does chrome offer a look worth a double-take, it also has mild cooling characteristics to help keep temperatures under control and offers great rust protection. To keep it in pristine condition, chrome exhaust pieces should be polished often, which can be quite difficult—take this into consideration when purchasing.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is also a beneficial coating option for your aftermarket headers, much due to its durability against rust and chipping. That said, they will endure years of use and reflect a more original appearance with proper maintenance. Like ceramic coats, stainless steel finishes are on the upper tier of pricing.

Options in Header Sizing – Is Bigger Always Better?

You’ve made the decision between short and long pipes for your preferred exhaust system, chosen which finish you want, and now you’ve come to picking out which size diameter your headers will be. The biggest header is the most “free flowing” so it’ll offer the best performance, right? It’s not that simple.

There are several options for diameter size of your aftermarket headers, but the two most common are 1-3/4” and 1-7/8”. Before choosing which, you must understand the basics of header sizing. A head pipe with a smaller diameter will offer a higher velocity of exhaust flow. This is typically optimal for relatively-stock builds or for low-to-mid RPM performance. Larger pipes, on the other hand, will allow a larger flow capacity, but at a lower velocity. That said, drivers with fire-breathing builds needing to pump out as much exhaust as possible choose this design, or those looking to maximize top-end power.

Headers with a 1-3/4” diameter are the most common among enthusiasts using their Challenger for daily driving—and for good reason. Likely, these cars aren’t fully equipped with internal modifications, so there’s no need for a massive amount of flow capacity. In fact, the higher velocity flow associated with the 1-3/4” pipe will offer more performance at city-driving RPM—say under 4,000 RPM. 

On the contrary, 1-7/8” headers are perfect for those looking for outright speed. The lower flow rate and higher flow volume will benefit a Challenger in the high RPM range. This larger diameter will also suit builds with internal engine modifications that pump out high horsepower. A smaller diameter will cut off flow and rob the car of power.

Fitment includes: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, SRT-8, RT, SE, SXT, RallyeRedline, ScatPack, Hellcat, GT, TA, Demon