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Aftermarket Exhaust Buyer's Guide

People buy aftermarket exhaust systems for many reasons, including improved performance or better sound. However, there are a lot of things to consider before installing one, which is why we put together this buyer's guide.

In this guide, we'll cover common questions people have and what to look for when selecting an aftermarket exhaust.

What Is Exhaust Drone, And Is It Bad?

Exhaust drone

The first thing to watch for is exhaust drone, which is a common issue in aftermarket exhaust systems. The drone is a monotone sound and vibration that typically occurs at highway speeds or when the engine runs between 2,000 and 3,000 RPM. The sound can range from mildly annoying to a loud buzzing noise that you feel as well as hear. In extreme cases, it can even cause damage to your hearing.

If your vehicle's aftermarket exhaust has droning issues, your only real options are to live with it or replace the exhaust system. For more information on exhaust drone check out the following posts:

Does An Aftermarket Exhaust Make A Vehicle Faster Or Increase Gas Mileage?


Changing to an aftermarket exhaust system can provide slight gains in horsepower for fuel economy, but there are a lot of variables to consider, including:

  • The size and type of engine, including whether it's naturally aspirated, turbocharged, or supercharged.
  • Increased air intake volume, or the air flowing into the engine, due to lower exhaust restriction.
  • Increased fuel volume due to a larger carburetor, manifold, fuel injectors, or increased fuel pressure.
  • Lower exhaust restriction or increased exhaust flow/volume.

To help understand these variables better, check out this post on changing the exhaust.

Should I Get A Cat-Back Exhaust, An Axle-Back Exhaust, Or Just Slip-On A New Muffler?


Cat-back, axle-back, and new mufflers are the most common forms of aftermarket exhaust modifications. Let's look at how they are different and what benefits they provide:

  • A new aftermarket muffler will change the sound or the tone of your exhaust but won't necessarily provide any performance improvement. People looking to give their cars a deeper or throatier sound will often start by replacing their mufflers.
  • An axle-back system provides more sound volume in addition to a throatier, more aggressive sound. This option is more expensive than replacing a muffler but cheaper than a cat-back system.
  • The cat-back system replaces the exhaust system from the catalytic converter to the tailpipe. It's the best option for people looking for performance gains and more sound.

What Features To Look For In A Performance Exhaust System


The two things to look for in a performance exhaust system are the materials used and how the exhaust system is made. The best exhaust systems use T304 stainless steel and are manufactured using mandrel bending and Helmholtz technology. To learn more, check out these articles:

What's The Difference Between Exhaust Systems From Thermal R&D And Other Companies?


Thermal Research and Development started out of a small shop in 1983. Since then, we've become one of the most respected exhaust manufacturers in the United States. Our expert team of fabricators and R&D specialists are enthusiasts, which makes us different than other companies.

We make exhaust systems for a wide variety of cars and trucks, including popular enthusiast models and smaller niche vehicles other companies won't touch. All of our products are made from durable, premium-quality materials using the best technology and include a lifetime warranty.

So why buy from us? Check out this article for more reasons, or contact us if you have more questions.

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