What is a Straight Pipe Exhaust System?

A straight pipe exhaust system is an interesting alternative to your car’s standard exhaust system, creating a louder vehicle with a bit more horsepower.
Written by Jacqulyn Graber
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
A straight pipe exhaust system is designed to let you hear the revving of your car’s engine. Straight pipes remove the limitations imposed by a standard exhaust system, resulting in a much noisier vehicle with the extra oomph that car enthusiasts crave.
If you’re a gearhead with a passion for custom cars, a straight pipe system might seem like an attractive choice. However, there are several factors to consider, such as legality and overall cost.
Whether you simply drive your car from point A to point B or intend to customize your vehicle beyond its factory-issued parts, reliable
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Read on to learn exactly what a straight pipe exhaust system is, how it works, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of installing one.
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What is a straight pipe exhaust system?

A straight pipe exhaust system—sometimes referred to as a full system exhaust—is a customization that replaces your car’s standard exhaust. Like standard exhaust systems, straight pipes are in charge of transporting the gasses and fumes produced by your car’s engine to the rear of your vehicle.
Right off the factory floor, cars have standard exhaust systems, which contain parts designed to lower a car’s emissions, reduce exhaust flow, and stifle the sound of your car’s exhaust. 
Straight pipe systems, however, do not include resonators, mufflers, or catalytic converters. This means that the roaring of your engine is uninhibited, resulting in a much louder sounding vehicle.

How does a straight pipe exhaust system work?

Whereas standard exhaust systems pump the gasses released from the exhaust manifold through a resonator, muffler, and/or catalytic converter to minimize emissions, straight pipes contain none of the parts that stop these gasses from flowing freely.
Instead, they utilize a straight pipe that runs all the way from the exhaust headers to the tailpipe. This means that exhaust emissions are funneled directly from the engine to the atmosphere, without running through any sort of filter. 

How much does a straight pipe exhaust system cost?

The price of a straight pipe will vary greatly depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the parts purchased. Straight pipes must be made from reliable materials (like titanium alloy) to protect the rest of your vehicle from the heat of the exhaust fumes, so it is important to avoid purchasing a cheap or low-quality system.
You’ll also want to account for the cost of labor. A professional mechanic may charge an average of $80-$100 per hour, with installation taking up to three hours. 
Additionally, your car’s make and model can have a significant effect on the cost of parts and labor.

What are the pros of a straight pipe exhaust system?

The roar of the engine

The classic, powerful sound often associated with racing vehicles is likely the result of a straight pipe exhaust system. Car enthusiasts often prefer straight pipe systems because your engine will make its loudest, most natural sounds when not held back by a
car muffler

Increased performance

Straight pipe exhaust systems reduce the amount of pressure put on the car’s engine by the exhaust gasses, also known as back pressure. A reduction in back pressure leads to an increase in torque and horsepower, which improves the performance of the engine and may improve fuel economy. 

Less weight

Fewer car parts will always equate to less weight. Shedding the weight of a muffler or catalytic converter can result in a more efficient vehicle. Lighter vehicles also tend to see an increase in speed and a slight bump in fuel economy.

Improved aesthetics

While onlookers won’t be able to see the entire exhaust system, the shiny, metallic, and muffler-free straight pipes that stick out the back of your vehicle offer a customized look that motorheads love. If infusing your personality into your vehicle is important, customizations like straight pipes can give your car that added touch.

What are the cons of a straight pipe exhaust system?

Too much noise

It is easy to underestimate just how loud a straight pipe system will make your car sound. Even if you love to hear your car go “vroom,” your neighbors may not—it may even violate state and local ordinances
Accompanying the added noise will also be added vibrations, which can be uncomfortable for the driver and passengers, especially on long hauls. 

Environmental impact

Straight pipes do not regulate or filter your car’s emissions and thus directly contribute to environmental degradation.
Standard exhaust systems don’t just muffle the sound of your vehicle—they also remove harmful emissions from the exhaust gas. Straight pipes lack catalytic converters that work to filter out gasses like CO₂ and sulfur, both of which can harm the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming, instances of acid rain, and more. 

Decreased resale value

Customizing your car’s exhaust system can make it harder to resell the vehicle in the future. The average buyer may not see the value in a straight pipe exhaust and may even view the system as a nuisance. So, you may be forced to spend extra money to reinstall a standard exhaust system or accept a lower purchase price when selling.  
Straight pipes can be disruptively noisy and dangerous for the environment, which is why most states have passed laws dubbing them illegal. Depending on state laws, this could mean several tickets and significant fines.
Key takeaway Straight piping your car can be cool customization, but it is bad for the environment and may be illegal. 

Finding cheap car insurance

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The cost of straight piping your vehicle will depend greatly on several factors: the make and model of your vehicle, the manufacturer and quality of the parts you purchase, and whether you choose to DIY or hire a professional mechanic.
If you have the skills and tools to install a straight pipe exhaust yourself, you may be able to do so for just a few hundred dollars. Having the job done by a professional will jack up the price significantly, especially if you ask your mechanic to source the parts, too.
Often, a very specific type of buyer will be interested in purchasing a used vehicle that’s been straight piped. Depending on where you live and what your used car market is like, it may be difficult to resell a car with a customized exhaust system.
Because several states have laws against exhaust and muffler modifications, you may have to reinstall a standard exhaust system before reselling—or accept a much lower price for your vehicle.
You may wish to make your car’s exhaust just a little bit louder, or you may be attracted to a straight pipe option but are concerned about the cost or legal risks. There are other alternatives!
Purchasing and installing an aftermarket muffler may allow your car to growl a bit louder while still keeping the volume in check. This is a suitable option for states that require mufflers to be included in exhaust systems.
Alternatively, you may choose to remove one component of the standard exhaust system at a time to see how it affects your car’s sound and performance, before jumping directly to the straight pipe option.
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