Many car owners, particularly those who have sports cars or muscle cars wonder how they are able to create a more aggressive exhaust note to their vehicle. Even drivers of more common passenger cars occasionally look to change the sound of their exhaust note.
What Determines a Car’s Exhaust Note?
From the factory the sound of a car’s exhaust is going to be determined by a few different factors. Including the displacement and cylinder count of the engine, the shape and diameter of the exhaust system components, the design of the muffler, and even whether the car is turbocharged or naturally aspirated. Many manufacturers of sports cars have active exhaust systems so that the tone and volume will change in different circumstances. Sometimes this is automatic depending on the driving situation and how aggressively the car is being driven. Other times the louder exhaust setting is activated by simply pressing a button inside the car. This typically works by actuating a valve in the exhaust that diverts flow away from the muffler. So in the “quiet” mode all of the flow goes through the muffler but when that valve is opened some of the exhaust exits without going through the muffler.
Owners will not be changing the displacement or cylinder count of the engine. However, you can change other components to massively affect the volume and tone of the car’s exhaust.
Steps to Make Your Exhaust Louder
- “Straight Pipe” your car. This is achieved by cutting the muffler out of the exhaust system and welding another piece of exhaust tubing in place. Because this completely omits the muffler the car will be much louder all of the time, but may be susceptible to a droning noise in normal driving.
- Replace the exhaust system with an aftermarket setup. There are many aftermarket brands that offer complete replacements of exhaust systems for a variety of vehicles. These tend to be somewhat expensive but strike a balance between increased aggressiveness without making the car annoying to drive.
- Modify the exhaust hangers of the car. The exhaust system is usually suspended by metal hangers with rubber components to dampen vibrations. If these rubber mounts are replaced with something more solid an increased amount of noise and vibration will be transferred into the cabin.
Do You Have to Replace the Entire Exhaust System to Change the Sound?
If an owner decides to purchase an aftermarket exhaust system they may wonder if they need to replace the entire thing or just a component of it to get the more aggressive tone they are looking for. The answer is “no”. In fact, aftermarket exhaust companies often offer different setups such as “axle back”, “cat-back”, or “turbo back” exhaust setups. Axle back would mean anything behind the rear axle which would be basically just the mufflers and exhaust tips. Cat-back would be anything downstream of the catalytic converter, and turbo back would be a whole exhaust system downstream of the turbocharger.
The Axle back setup will be most cost effective because you are replacing less material. However, the only benefit will be the change in sound. With other setups there could be other performance benefits as well. An increase in exhaust diameter can reduce back pressure and allow for improvements in engine horsepower. Someone looking to more extensively tune their car and increase performance will want a more comprehensive setup to realize the performance gains.
Warning Tampering with or removing a catalytic converter is illegal in almost all jurisdictions. It will also affect your car’s capability to pass a smog test.
Many places also have laws against excessively loud cars. A solution such as straight piping a vehicle may get you pulled over and ticket if the car is too loud.