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post #1 of 48 Old 09-10-2012, 12:46 AM Thread Starter
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Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

As many of you know, I'm in the process of designing and building my own exhaust. Through the hours of research and experience I have picked up in doing this, I realized that many people who jump into or give advice on a project like this really don't quite know what they're up against. It isn't easy to make an exhaust that sounds good, flows well, and isn't too loud. So I'm writing this guide so that hopefully somebody will benefit and make a really nice custom exhaust from it.

THE MYTHS

To start with, there are a few myths about custom exhausts that need to be dispelled

1.Custom exhausts are cheaper than bolt-ons

This isn't necessarily true, in fact, I would say that this is rarely true. If your view of a "custom" exhaust is having a muffler shop replace the stock mufflers, then yes, with the price of a couple cheapo mufflers (~$100) and the welding job (~$100), it will be cheaper than the cheapest ebay exhausts. This is okay if you just want your car to sound nice, but obviously there won't be performance gains. A full custom can still be gotten for cheap, though. You can get mild steel crush-bent by an exhaust shop and then a muffler welded on the end for a few hundred. But it will rust away, crush bends suck, and fitment will suck. Is that really what you want? When we start talking about a quality custom setup, your mandrel-bent stainless steel piping will run you around $300, one or two good mufflers $200-$500, a good resonator $100, a high-flow cat an optional $100-$300, and stainless hangers and flanges, around another $100, and you're now looking at $700-1200 in just parts!

In the end, quality is quality, whether pre-made or custom built. If you cheap out, you'll get crap, but if you save up, research, and make good purchases, your exhaust's quality will rival the best bolt-on's

2. A little backpressure is important for torque

This is the default explanation as to why bigger pipes hurt torque. Only problem is, its just not true. Backpressure only ever robs power. Stock exhausts can have up to 18PSI of backpressure, compared to about 4 from a good aftermarket setup and 2 for a straight pipe. This does nothing for torque- OEM exhausts often have slightly better torque than an aftermarket exhaust simply because they have smaller piping. Without getting too much into the physics, the smaller a pipe is, the faster the exhaust gas flows through it. At low RPM, having a high exhaust velocity helps to clear the exhaust gases out of the cylinders better. Hence, smaller pipe generally equals more torque. However, at high RPM, too small a pipe can mean that the gas can't be moved quickly enough and so you may lose top end power.

On the flip side, restrictive mufflers also reduce exhaust velocity. So restrictive mufflers are just bad for performance, plain and simple.

I'll go into piping size and such a little more later.


LAYOUT

The first thing you want to think about is the layout of your exhaust. If your exhaust is 2.5" or smaller, it would be best to use the stock exhaust's route, as this lets you use the stock hanger locations for best fitment, vibration, and noise levels. If your exhaust is 3", however, it may not fit in the stock channel and you will have to figure something else out. Additionally, it's best to put the cat, resonator, and mufflers in the stock locations as this eases fitment greatly.

Another layout decision is whether you will go single or double. The pros of a single exhaust are that it is lighter and lacks the slight restriction of the y-pipe in a dual exhaust. A dual exhaust, on the other hand, will be more expensive since you will need to buy two mufflers and more pipe. Welding it up will also be more work. However, you may like the look of a dual exhaust, and it will be a bit quieter since the noise will be split up into two mufflers instead of just one muffler handling sound damping duties.

Additionally, an important decision is under-axle or over-axle. If you go with a dual exhaust, you will be routing the exhaust through the center. In this case, under-axle is probably better since you will avoid a couple bends in the exhaust and it won't be all that low. It will also be easier to weld and disassemble more easily. However, if you are paranoid about bottoming out, go over-axle. With a single exhaust, things are a little more complicated. If you are running the exhaust over at the passenger side of the car, an under-axle will have to be very low in order to clear the control arms when the suspension is fully extended. This presents a much bigger danger of the exhaust bottoming out. Because of this, I went over-axle with my single. It's not much more restrictive and much more safe.

Lastly, flanged sections are important to plan for, especially if your shop welds the exhaust while its on the car. If you forget this step, once the exhaust is welded together you won't be able to get it off without cutting the pipe.

THE COMPONENTS

Headers:
There is a whole thread on headers, but basically pairing up a catback with a good set of headers will help open your engine up a lot better. If your car is for the street, though, you will want a cat welded in, which leads to the next component...

Catalytic Converter:
Before going into options, there are a few points to address:

-Driving on the street without a cat isn't okay. Cats reduce noise about as much as a resonator, so without a cat your exhaust will probably be loud and raspy. If your Tib is an 05-06, extending the secondary o2 sensors to behind a cat will also usually eliminate the header CEL (see the CEL sticky for info on this). Additionally, even if your state doesn't have emissions, driving a car without a cat is still illegal. And, of course, its bad for the environment. Please save the kittens.

-Whatever you do, DO NOT gut the stock cats! Gutting the stock cat is actually probably the worst thing you can do. Sure, you will have removed the slight restriction of the honeycomb, but in its place will be an open, empty void. On the horsepower side of things, this will cause flow stagnation, which will cause a lot of turbulence and rob you of top-end power. As for torque, its a large section of open pipe, which will cause the gas to expand to fill it and greatly reduce exhaust velocity, and, well, yeah. You get the idea.


Typical high-flow cat

Anyways, on to options. Any modern cat, even OEM, has the ceramic honeycomb design. It flows well. The most common HF cat brand is magnaflow, with a number of equivalent-ish competitors. Magnaflow cats use a few tricks to flow better than OEM cats. A magnaflow cat generally costs around $100, you can get one from site sponsor NOPI.

However, a step above Magnaflow cats are random tech cats. I don't know of any competitors with as high-end of a design; random tech uses a different honeycomb design that they claim flows much better than any other cats, and there are some dyno charts out there to prove it. Not a huge difference probably, so its only worth it if you really want only the best.

Here's a random tech cat's honeycomb:

Random tech cats generally cost around $180-$200

Resonator:

A resonator is basically just an inline muffler that goes after the cat but before the main muffler. You don't really NEED a resonator, but I would recommend one if you don't have headers, and if you do have headers, then I would say a resonator is vital to getting a good, non-annoying exhaust note. All aftermarket Tiburon exhausts as well as the OEM exhaust use a resonator. A typical straight-through resonator will add less than 1PSI of backpressure, so there is virtually no performance loss. While your neighborhood ricerboy may disagree, the quieter your exhaust, the better.

There are a few considerations when you go to buy a resonator:

-It may or may not have sound-deadening packing in it. If it has packing, it will reduce overall noise level as well as tone out the exhaust, reducing cabin drone and raspy/buzzy sound in the exhaust note. If it doesn't, it will still reduce rasp and cabin drone, it just won't make the exhaust much quieter.

-Be sure to buy a straight-through perforated resonator for best flow. Just about every good resonator is straight-through. In fact, your OEM resonator is straight-through, were it bigger than 2" pipe it would probably be sufficient.

-The longer the resonator, the better the sound absorption. Of course, a shorter resonator with a better design may be better, but length is a major factor.

There are a couple brands of resonator that are very good. The flowmaster hushpower II is for the most part the resonator of choice. Vibrant performance also sells some decent resonators.

You can find both of these resonators at www.summitracing.com
(mods: no site sponsor sells resonators, I checked. If one does, I will be happy to change the link)

Mufflers

Whew, where to start. There are tons of different designs of mufflers (perhaps hundreds) out there and its probably the area where you can lose the most flow as well. Its also the area with the most gimmicks and bad deals, so you really have to do your research when you purchase a muffler.

For a long time now, virtually all OEM mufflers have been reverse-flow. Reverse-flow mufflers use a chambered design to reverse the exhaust flow and absorb a lot of the noise. This complex and restrictive piping layout is how a stock exhaust is so quiet, its just not so great for flow.


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post #2 of 48 Old 09-10-2012, 12:47 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

The old style of performance muffler is the "turbo" muffler. These are just reverse-flow mufflers with optimized airflow. They reduce noise well, but their flow is poor compared to even chambered mufflers. Nowadays, most el cheapo mufflers are turbo mufflers. There are a few name brands that still produce turbo mufflers, so make sure you know what kind of muffler you're getting before you buy!

Next up the food chain are chambered mufflers. These replaced turbo mufflers as the high-end performance mufflers and are a fairly old design. They try to maintain a somewhat-straight exhaust path whilst also having resonating chambers to cut down noise. These are generally louder than turbo mufflers and around as loud as straight-through mufflers and flow a tad better than a turbo muffler. Their quality varies a lot because there are all kinds of wild chambered designs. Here are a few examples:


Flowmaster super series muffler. Probably one of the better chambered mufflers.


A crazy Corsa chambered muffler. The long, thin chambers are designed to reflect sound back just right to cancel the sound waves out.


Hooker aerochamber muffler.

The most modern and best-flowing muffler design is the straight-through perforated core design. Several companies only produce these types of mufflers nowadays, such as Magnaflow, Apex'i, and HKS. These mufflers have a straight pipe inside them that has perforations which allow sound to pass through and be absorbed by fiberglass wadding/stainless steel wool packed in the can. Of these, there are several different designs:

The bad:
-louvered-core mufflers. These are often a cheap alternative to the high-end perforated-core mufflers. They use louvers instead of drilling out perforations. Sounds fine, except that the louvers create turbulence in the exhaust flow, meaning they're very restrictive.

This is what I'm talking about. Don't buy one of these.

-louvered/baffled glasspacks (aka cherry bombs). These are just bottle enclosures filled with fiberglass and using a baffled or louvered core. They have the same turbulence problem that the above mufflers do, and they are generally pretty loud. Magnaflow actually offers glasspacks with a proper perforated core. These are fine but will probably be pretty loud.

The good:

-Offset. These mufflers are straight-through but inside the can the perforated pipe is at an angle. The advantage of these mufflers is that they get straight-through flow but at a lower noise level. Unfortunately they are big and heavy so they aren't suitable for all applications.

These are your best option if you can find a place to put it and don't mind the weight, because they will have the best noise/flow ratio. Magnaflow, flowmaster, dynomax, and a few other companies offer these.

-X/hybrid designs. There are a few interesting straight-through-ish designs that sacrifice a bit of flow for sound deadening. Really, the cutaway pictures show better than my words:

SSR ultraflow X


Borla XR-1. Pretty neat design if you ask me.

-Straight-through perforated core. These are the king of flow. Their difference in flow versus a length of straight pipe is nearly negligible. They are also small and light. Unfortunately, they are also loud, but a big fat and long can goes a long way towards fixing this shortcoming. The best straight-through mufflers have stainless wadding closest to the pipe, as fiberglass will get burned out over time. If you buy one of these, get the longest and largest muffler that will fit. The bigger the can, the more sound that is absorbed, and there is no performance penalty for a longer muffler.

Here are a few good straight-through mufflers:

All of Magnaflow's mufflers are very good. I would go so far as to say downright best bang for buck, period.


Some of GReddy's mufflers are good stuff.


HKS hi-power. For $300, it better be good, and it does deliver.

Other companies that offer straight-through mufflers are Apex'i, DC Sports, and Borla.

Piping:

Type of piping is a vital decision in the exhaust design process. The right type of pipe will ensure a long-lasting exhaust with good torque and power.

Material- If you want to go cheap, don't just get mild steel piping. It will get ugly and rusty almost immediately, and will rust out eventually. Aluminized steel is a better alternative and will keep decently. But really, just get stainless. It isn't THAT much more expensive and will last basically forever.
Now, there are two different types of stainless steel. 409 stainless is the cheaper option. Over time it will fade to a dull brown color and does corrode very slightly over time. It also cannot be polished. There's no structural danger, it just isn't as pretty. 302 stainless doesn't fade and can be polished to a mirror finish but is more expensive.

Bends- OEM exhausts use crush-bent tubing. Crush-bent tubing is cheap and easy to shape, and as such, cheap neighborhood exhaust shops are also going to use crush-bent steel in a custom exhaust. However, crush-bent piping is very restrictive. I have been told that a 90 degree crush bent pipe's flow is reduced by 50% when compared to a similar mandrel-bent pipe. That's a big difference. Don't cheap out here. A smaller mandrel-bent pipe is better than a bigger crush-bent pipe. Remember, exhaust velocity is just as important as absolute flow.


Size- compromise in size is very important. Too big of a pipe is going to destroy torque, but too small will choke the car off. On smaller engines, 2" piping is just fine. i4 people would probably be just fine on 2" pipe so long as they stay N/A. 2.25" pipe is also a good N/A sweet spot for both i4 and V6 people. However, if you have plans for F/I in the future, a 2.5" exhaust is a good compromise. Plenty of people here run big power with a 2.5" exhaust with no trouble. Any more and you'll lose a lot of torque while you're still N/A. If you already have a ripping turbo setup, then 3" is the size for you. Of course, if you are running a turbo, you probably already know that and know more about exhausts than me. heh.

www.summitracing.com sells mandrel-bent piping of all sizes and material at good prices. I got 6 302 stainless mandrel bends and 4ft of 302 straight pipe for around $280.

Hangers/Flanges:

Honestly there's not too much to be said about this aside from get the right stuff. Getting mild steel hangers and flanges will defeat the purpose of expensive stainless piping. Hangers come in a couple varieties. You can get hangars with plastic bushings or pre-bent stainless hangers from magnaflow. You can then weld these to either the piping or quick-remove exhaust clamps. You can also get stainless steel rod (I think I used 3/8" rod) and bend it yourself. If you're getting a stainless exhaust done by a shop, I would buy these myself. Most shops don't have stainless hangers or flanges. Don't forget gaskets either! Exhaust shops ought to have various sizes on hand.

WELDING

No, I'm not going to write a guide on welding. I don't know that much about welding, I just know how to MIG weld and that's what I do. However, there's a few things you have to take into account when you take your stuff to the exhaust shop:

-Type of welder. Make sure to ask your shop what type of welder they use. The cheapest welders are flux-core arc welders. These do not work for stainless steel, and even for mild steel they're not any good. If the shop tells you that they use an arc welder or won't tell you what kind of welder they use, I would recommend finding another shop.
Next is MIG welders. So long as you know what you are doing, MIG welders work fine for stainless. The welds won't be super-pretty and they will get slag on them that you would have to grind off, but MIG welding stainless is functionally fine.
However, best is TIG welding. In the hands of a skilled welder, TIG welds on stainless will be strong, pretty, and should be slag-free.

-Type of wire. If you use stainless steel, its crucial the welder use stainless steel wire. Otherwise the welds will be weak and rust away, which defeats the purpose of using stainless steel pipe. If you use aluminized steel pipe, you will also have to paint the welds or something, because they will rust much sooner than the pipe.

That's more or less all I've got. Hopefully if you've read through this novel you'll be well on your way to building a good custom exhaust. Happy modding!


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post #3 of 48 Old 09-10-2012, 05:37 AM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Worth a sticky, so it is stuck


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post #4 of 48 Old 09-20-2012, 08:11 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Very good thanks! but im still not sure about what to do for my car regarding "Muffler deletes"
, as i want mine to be loud (As close to being straight-piped, but not that insane while being legal) and i already have my resonators removed..
What im concidering is a muffler delete and tips but im not sure what it will do for flow/power/etc

Im confused on the part also that since i have my resonators removed, what options can i do (Except removal of cat), am i able to but a muffler kit and weld it on to replace my OEM ones?

Should i consult my muffler shop or should i buy a whole exhaust system?
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post #5 of 48 Old 09-20-2012, 11:26 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

technically any exhaust modifications are illegal, but its not enforced. However, if you drive around with no resonator and no mufflers, expect to be pulled over. You may like loud, but nobody around you, especially the police, does.

Like I said, you can just get 2" mufflers and replace the stock mufflers, and it will be louder. You won't gain any performance (maybe a couple HP, but the stock pipe size and the crush bends and y-pipes are really restrictive without too much help from the res/mufflers), but deleting the resonator and replacing the stock mufflers with a good muffler will make your car sound pretty good without being a police-magnet. I bought my car with a setup like that, and it did sound good, but it was too ghetto for my taste so I built a proper exhaust for it.


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post #6 of 48 Old 09-25-2012, 09:42 AM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Wow, just on time lol. Great write up. Im just not sure about the hangers part. If I get a single exhaust and replace all the hangers with stainless, how much $ are we looking at?
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post #7 of 48 Old 09-25-2012, 11:05 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Honestly the hangers aren't that much... if you get stainless piping, the cost of the hangers is going to be pretty trivial. I got a like 6-foot section of stainless steel rod from a metal supply store for like $20, enough pre-bent hangers to get the job done will probably be around $50 if you go that route.


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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Okay that's good I was hoping itd be under $100. So I don't know if you remember me, but I'm doing a custom exhaust in the spring when I'm educated enough and have enough money. I want to get a reducer to 2.25" sometime after the the high flow cat. The only problem is I don't know when to reduce it. Im getting a hushpower resonator and magnaflow muffler with welded stock tips and a single outlet. Should I reduce before or after the resonator for torque and non rasp?
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post #9 of 48 Old 09-25-2012, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Before. There's no point to running 2.5" for a really long way back and then going to 2.25" near the end. I would say weld the reducer to the end of the cat.


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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

wow, great write up and info! thank you sir
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

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Before. There's no point to running 2.5" for a really long way back and then going to 2.25" near the end. I would say weld the reducer to the end of the cat.
kinda what I figured. thanks again for the info
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

I got the ARK DT-S v2, i love it, but i need to weld in a high flow cat, i have headers and even o2sims dont get rid of the codes, keep that in mind, but its tough to find a custom exhaust shop that can do 304 stainless mandrel bent exhaust tig welded, with good quality mufflers and resonators, most shops use crush bends, so that means if you do a 2.5 inch exhaust, at the bends it tacks it down to 2 and a quarter which sucks, go with mandrel if possible.
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

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I got the ARK DT-S v2, i love it, but i need to weld in a high flow cat, i have headers and even o2sims dont get rid of the codes, keep that in mind, but its tough to find a custom exhaust shop that can do 304 stainless mandrel bent exhaust tig welded, with good quality mufflers and resonators, most shops use crush bends, so that means if you do a 2.5 inch exhaust, at the bends it tacks it down to 2 and a quarter which sucks, go with mandrel if possible.
Very true. Im lucky enough to have an extremely good shop by my house and I know the owner. They have all of the above mentioned except I haven't talked to him about what kind of welds.
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post #14 of 48 Old 09-25-2012, 03:05 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

What a great Sticky! Spartacus has done his homework. My custom exhaust is almost exactly what he recommends and has a nice, deep, smooth sound, somewhere between a loud 350Z and a Mustang GT sound. It is a catback, all mandrel-bent 2.5 inch 304 stainless, underaxle, with a large Hushpower II res and Aero SS mufflers very similar to the Borla XR1, with quad tips. It cost $1200 parts and labor and took the shop in Pasadena, MD 10 hours to design (using CAD) build and install/tune. I've had it 5 years now and it still looks and sounds brand new.
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

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I got the ARK DT-S v2, i love it, but i need to weld in a high flow cat, i have headers and even o2sims dont get rid of the codes, keep that in mind, but its tough to find a custom exhaust shop that can do 304 stainless mandrel bent exhaust tig welded, with good quality mufflers and resonators, most shops use crush bends, so that means if you do a 2.5 inch exhaust, at the bends it tacks it down to 2 and a quarter which sucks, go with mandrel if possible.
Yeah, this is true. Before I decided to weld my exhaust myself, I looked around for some shops to do it for me, and didn't find much. My advice would be to avoid just exhaust/muffler shops, their work is generally cheapest and they usually don't work with stainless. Every big city has more than one real custom-fab performance shop though. Check a shop like this' site for examples of their work. If they do engine swaps and such, they will be able to tig weld stainless no problem.

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Originally Posted by dctibby View Post
What a great Sticky! Spartacus has done his homework. My custom exhaust is almost exactly what he recommends and has a nice, deep, smooth sound, somewhere between a loud 350Z and a Mustang GT sound. It is a catback, all mandrel-bent 2.5 inch 304 stainless, underaxle, with a large Hushpower II res and Aero SS mufflers very similar to the Borla XR1, with quad tips. It cost $1200 parts and labor and took the shop in Pasadena, MD 10 hours to design (using CAD) build and install/tune. I've had it 5 years now and it still looks and sounds brand new.
Thank you sir.
Nice setup! Looks great and I'm sure it sounds great. A setup like yours ought to silence the many custom exhaust haters on this site.


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post #16 of 48 Old 09-25-2012, 04:58 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Anyone wanting mandrel-bent stainless piping should do a Google search for "mandrel exhaust systems". Shops that do it are scarce to find. Mine was done by a company in Pasadena, MD, about 25 miles from DC. They claim to be the only one in the mid-Atlantic area.

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post #17 of 48 Old 09-30-2012, 11:42 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

What would you guys think of buying an ebay catback and welding in/replacing the resonator and mufflers with the ones mentioned here like the hushpower II? Kinda like a custom exhaust minus the work of having the pipes bent and welded? Don't know much about it so let me know if it's a terrible idea lol
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post #18 of 48 Old 10-01-2012, 11:25 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

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Originally Posted by karimz View Post
What would you guys think of buying an ebay catback and welding in/replacing the resonator and mufflers with the ones mentioned here like the hushpower II? Kinda like a custom exhaust minus the work of having the pipes bent and welded? Don't know much about it so let me know if it's a terrible idea lol
People do it, and it works. The only problem is the piping on ebay kits is pretty low quality. Even the supposedly stainless steel piping eventually rusts, but it will keep for a pretty long time. It's not a terrible idea, no.


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post #19 of 48 Old 10-03-2012, 12:01 AM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Wow.. nicely written. I've learned another lesson today.
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post #20 of 48 Old 10-03-2012, 12:41 AM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

fart pipe ftw!
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post #21 of 48 Old 10-23-2012, 10:29 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

started buying my parts for my custom exhaust. the problem is i dont know any shops near buy that meet the criteria (MIG/TIG, and mandrel bends.) i dont know if you even have the answer but it couldnt hurt asking: do you know any shops in SE Wisconsin/Chicago?
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post #22 of 48 Old 10-23-2012, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Like I said, if you can't find a shop that specializes in stainless custom exhausts, find a good serious custom shop. Just from a quick google search of "chicago tuner shops" I got these results:
https://thesource-usa.com/store/
http://www.renderphase.com/fizzautosports/
http://www.amsperformance.com/
http://www.boombaracing.com/index.html
http://www.sixstarmotorsports.com/about.php
There's nothing to lose by calling them up and asking if they do custom exhausts and getting a quote.


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post #23 of 48 Old 10-24-2012, 07:50 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Yea I've been looking but none of them offer mandrel bends. Curse living in Wisconsin. One guy I talked to said they would just increase the pipe diameter where the bend is by 1/4" but that still sounds if-y. You said you ordered some pipes online, I'm sure that I could just do some measuring and buy the right bends online. Right?
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post #24 of 48 Old 10-24-2012, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

Right. For my single I bought 6 45 degree mandrel bends.


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post #25 of 48 Old 10-24-2012, 08:13 PM
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Re: Want to build a custom exhaust? Read this first!

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Right. For my single I bought 6 45 degree mandrel bends.
okay thanks man. If I have more questions ill pm you in order to avoid cluttering this thread.
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