Long Tube vs Short Tube Headers: Which is Better for Your Ride?

Long Tube vs Short Tube Headers: Which is Better for Your Ride?

Figuring out the best way to upgrade your exhaust system can be (yes, we're gonna say it) exhausting. But the system your pony comes equipped with out of the gate ain't gonna cut it if you're looking for truly lethal performance. That's why, once you've beefed up the rest of your exhaust system, you have to look into headers. There are two main types to consider: long tube headers and short tube headers. Which is better? We'll consider the pros and cons of both to help you decide.

By Lethal Performance

Why Headers?

Why Headers? Headers (also called "tubular manifolds" or "extractor manifolds") are just another element of your exhaust system that helps your car "breathe" — intake air and let out exhaust. They do this by limiting the amount of backpressure that your exhaust has to overcome to escape, which can be a real power killer for your engine. The many tubes that make up a header direct each of your engine cylinders' exhaust to a main collector pipe at different times to keep the whole system free of backpressure and running smoothly. And that's why they're so important for improving the performance of your vehicle.

But again we're faced with the issue of shorty vs long tube headers, because they have unique strengths and drawbacks that could make or break your performance on the track. Let's dig into the pros and cons.

Short Tube Headers

This header style is a shorty you can be proud of. Shorty headers give your exhaust manifolds free flowing piping that'll improve the performance of even a naturally aspirated motor. But short tube headers really shine when they're used in conjunction with a turbocharger — their more compact size fits nicely in the engine bay right alongside your turbo flange and piping. Their size also makes them fairly easy to install. Short tube headers are ideal for vehicles in the idle to mid-RPM range, so if you're looking for more power in your daily ride or work pickup, they might be the option for you.

Another big benefit of shorty headers? They're legal in all 50 states. Playing around with your exhaust system is a big no-no in states that require emissions checks on vehicles, so unless you live in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina or South Dakota, your souped-up ride might not be street legal with long tube headers. Also, long tube headers are loud, so neighbors who don't appreciate the fine art of burning rubber might file a complaint.

As for drawbacks? Shorty headers aren't as loud as long tube headers, although they'll definitely have better sound than your stock manifold. You can choose unequal length headers for better sound, but equal length is the way to go for consistent gains in performance. Shorty headers also aren't generally used for high RPM situations, especially when used with a turbocharger — all those rotations can hurt your turbo!

Pros of Shorty Headers:

  • Legal in all 50 states
  • Easy to install
  • Great for turbo applications
  • Better sound than stock exhaust

Cons of Shorty Headers:

  • Not as loud as long tube headers
  • Not great for high RPMs

Long Tube Headers

You've gotten a little preview of long tube headers in the previous section, but now we're gonna dig in deeper. Long tube headers work with naturally aspirated and supercharged applications, so you know what that means: long tube headers are unquestionably the option you want to go with if you want to max out your RPMs and tear up the track. They also have an awesome, roaring sound that'll make it hard to resist putting the petal to the metal whenever you get in the drivers seat.

So, aside from not being compatible with turbochargers, why the hell wouldn't you want long tube headers on your pony? Well, as we mentioned above, long tube headers don't fly in all 50 states. Installing them means either relocating or removing your catalytic converter altogether, so your car will not be able to pass an emissions test if you live in a state that requires them. Because of their size, long tube headers are also quite a bit more complicated to install than shorty headers, so you'll definitely need professional help if you're not experienced or equipped enough for this kind of upgrade. And, of course, there's the issue of sound.

Pros of Long Tube Headers:

  • Major performance boosts
  • Awesome, loud sound
  • Great for high RPM applications
  • Can be used with stock or supercharged exhaust

Cons of Shorty Headers:

  • Not legal in all 50 states
  • Not compatible with turbocharged engines/exhaust
  • Tough to install
  • Could make the neighbors angry

Lethal Long Tube Headers

So what if they're not always legal? At Lethal, we love long tube headers! They're the only choice for taking your race vehicle to the next level. And, which sounds better: short or long headers? The answer is always long tube. Check out some of our favorite options that will help your Mustang gallop like never before:

Check Out the Rest of Our Shorty and Long Tube Headers

You've barely seen the beginning of the headers we have to offer at Lethal Performance! Whether you have a specific brand in mind or just want to weight the options available for your specific Mustang model, you can do it all in our massive, kick-ass selection of Mustang parts. Check out all we have to offer today or contact us to get our take on the best parts for your needs.

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