Making the most of your current ride is a distinct reality in today’s economy. With the economic woes, the rising cost of living and fuel, it makes little sense for many in today’s world to purchase a new car, when their old one is still serviceable. However, that does not mean that you cannot improve the car you currently have. Numerous inexpensive ways to add additional performance to your car exist. Many of these methods can also help improve fuel economy.
Modifying your exhaust is one of the best ways to gain greater performance, as well as help provide better fuel economy. While cat-back systems offer benefits, the best way to start is with a header. Yes, you can install a header on your 4-cylinder. These are specially designed for small engines (with tight quarters!) and can be installed on your own, with nothing more than a few simple tools.
A header helps reduce the amount of backpressure with which your engine must deal. Some backpressure is necessary for proper engine operation; however, OEM exhaust systems are very restrictive. The header takes the place of your exhaust manifold and connects the engine exhaust with the A pipe (which runs to the catalytic converter).
You’ll find the exhaust manifold on the front of your engine, shielded by a metal cover. Removing the cover and the manifold is a simple process. The first step is to remove the metal shield, which you can do in less than a minute. The second step is to remove the bolts holding the upper part of the manifold to the engine. Once you have removed these, you’ll need to tackle the lower section, where the manifold attaches to the A pipe.
Once the bolts have been removed, you will likely have to apply pressure to the manifold. Old gaskets tend to cling tenaciously, which can make it difficult to free your manifold. Use a flat-head screwdriver if necessary and gently pry the manifold away from the engine. Once it comes free, you can slide it down the front of the engine and take it out through the bottom (some models will allow you to remove it from above).
Clean the old gasket material off the mating surfaces (don’t forget the gasket on the A pipe). You’ll need to install the new gaskets prior to the header. Once the new gaskets are in, slide the header in place and install the bolts. You can use the same bolts from your manifold, though some headers come with new bolts. Once you have it all tight, you’ll need to start the vehicle and check for exhaust leaks.