Exhaust Manifold vs Header: What’s the Difference?

If you’re confused about the difference between a car’s exhaust manifold and header, this is the guide for you.
Written by Jessie Devine
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Exhaust manifolds and headers have similar functions—they both route fumes from the engine to the exhaust system—but exhaust manifolds come standard on most cars, while headers are aftermarket performance upgrades.
Whether you’re a seasoned car person or just trying to find info on your everyday driver, it’s easy to get twisted when the technical terms start flying around. When looking at exhaust systems, a subject that often confuses people is the difference between exhaust manifolds and headers. 
If you don’t know the specifics of exhaust manifolds vs headers,
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What’s an exhaust manifold?

An exhaust manifold is a simple car part that collects gasses from your car’s engine and transports them to the exhaust system. They are made of thick cast iron or stainless steel and come assembled on most standard production cars.
You can break down this car part’s name into its roots to help understand what it does. It’s called an exhaust manifold because it receives fumes from multiple cylinders and folds them into one output—a tube that leads to the exhaust.

What’s a header on a car?

A header does the same thing as an exhaust manifold—it also collects gasses from the engine and delivers them to the exhaust system. Headers are made of longer, thinner steel tubing. 
They are typically used on high-performance cars, and they’re usually added aftermarket to maximize the engine’s power.

What’s the difference between an exhaust manifold and a header?

The structural differences between exhaust manifolds and headers are the material and size. Exhaust manifolds are made of thick iron, while headers are made of lighter, thinner steel. Headers are also longer than exhaust manifolds.
Why do these two different parts exist when they do basically the same thing? The main reason you have a choice between an exhaust manifold vs header is usage requirements
Headers are used in high-performance vehicles because their size and structure decrease back pressure. This means the engine can breathe more easily, resulting in increased power.

Should I use an exhaust manifold or a header?

Exhaust manifold vs header—which one is for you? For most people, a standard exhaust manifold is the way to go. If your car isn’t a high-performance vehicle, changing out your exhaust manifold for a header isn’t going to give it a noticeable performance boost.
However, if you have a performance engine and you’re into modifying your car, adding a header might give you that extra gain you’re looking for.

How can I save on car insurance?

Maybe you’re souping up your performance car or you’re just looking for info on your everyday driver—either way, you need
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Exhaust manifold vs header differences come down to their usage. Exhaust manifolds come standard on everyday driver cars. Headers are usually aftermarket add-ons for high-performance vehicles.
Unless your car has a high-performance engine, adding aftermarket headers won’t do much to improve performance. For sport and luxury cars, it may make all the difference.
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