Exhaust Tips and TricksSubjective style and sound
Exhaust tips are one of those items that bridge the gap between the two worlds of automotive performance and visual style. What makes exhaust tips unique is that along with adding a visual finishing touch to the exhaust system and vehicle, they also provide an aural punctuation. The shape and construction of the exhaust tips affect the overall tone of the exhaust note, and can affect exhaust flow as well. The other aspect of exhaust tips is that like a set of wheels, they are an entirely subjective finishing touch to the exhaust system of a car, truck, SUV, or station wagon.
One person's idea of the ultimate exhaust tip is another's idea of an automotive abomination. As a result of the millions of different people in this world who drive motor vehicles, there is a bewildering array of exhaust tips available. Tapered to trumpet. Mellow to megaphone. Single. Dual. Triple. Quadruple. Square. Round. Oval. Even tips molded into the shape of the Chevrolet "bowtie" are remarkably easy to acquire. The list goes on and on. Everything from basic single wall tapered tips to triple wall lit-up-from-the-inside by different colored neon monster tips are all a phone call, mouse click, or trip to the store away from being bolted up or welded onto any vehicle in no time.
While exhaust tips are indeed one of the most subjective style points of any vehicle, there are still a few guidelines to follow when considering a tip change. If over-the-top is your style, then by all means get your hands on the biggest and loudest. No holds barred. If subtlety is your strongpoint, you must be careful not to tip the scales. Following the general direction of bodyline and predominant shape of the vehicle and mounting flush with the rear valance can add subtle yet unique style. Shape is also important. A swooping car with a great number of curves is not visually well served by square tips that extend beyond the curved valance. And so on. If you're a purist then stick with the classics, or go with what was the predominant style of the time. A period-correct upturned "stinger" exhaust tip looks right at home on a '70s-era Volkswagen Baja Bug, whereas it would look downright goofy on a '90s-era Corvette.
Finish and construction are also important considerations. Chrome finish exhaust tips have been known to chip and flake, as chrome doesn't handle extremes in heat very well. Stainless steel is more durable, and available in finishes from brushed to chrome-like polish. Titanium exhaust tips are often available already "blued" to simulate the extreme heat created by real life racing, and add a racy look to an otherwise street-going exhaust. The beauty of it is that, ultimately, exhaust tip choice is up to you. If you think it looks right, then it's right.
Function Over Fashion
Exhaust tips actually do play a role in the final sound of an exhaust. Where mufflers and resonators take care of the good majority of exhaust pulse cancellation and silencing, the exhaust tip can shape the remaining pulses and accompanying sound as it makes its final exit from the pipe. Much in the same way a Tuba sounds different than a Trumpet, a short megaphone exhaust tip will sound completely different than a long pencil-shaped exhaust tip. Some exhaust tips even add a small resonator to the equation to help mellow and deepen the exiting exhaust note. A perforated tube surrounded by sound deadening material puts one last mellowing touch on the exhaust pulses before they reach your ears and the ears of others.
Mounting can also have an effect on sound. A tip that is mounted with a compression clamp or welded on can provide a more solid sound than screw-on type tips. Screw-on tips mount in the same way a light bulb cover bolts onto the ceiling light fixture. Three bolts or screws hold the tip onto the end of the exhaust pipe. Finally, while claims of exhaust tips by themselves adding horsepower are numerous, these claims should be approached with great skepticism. Unless the tip being replaced is acting as a massive restriction to exhaust flow, replacing an exhaust tip is more an exercise in style and sound than noticeable horsepower gains.
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