The sound of a car is often a crucial factor when choosing to purchase a new vehicle. The noise produced by the engine and intake is amplified with a downpipe. However, a question that has arisen in car culture is whether or not a downpipe makes a vehicle sound louder. Of course, this does not refer to turbocharged vehicles because they have no muffler system at all as the turbine acts as one itself.
The name given to the exhaust tubing of an automobile usually associated with aftermarket products. Downpipes come in many forms from high flow catalytic converters used for racing applications, flex pipe designs made from steal wool wrapped around the stock tubing made for OEM replacement purposes, and stainless steel mandrel bent piping either additionally advertised as “fully polished” or “polished”. All will produce a sound increase over a factory system.
Typically a term used to describe the sound of an automobile exhaust system that is deep, loud, and at times annoying. Many car enthusiasts have been heard asking “does a downpipe make my car louder?”, as they actually believe having one installed will increase their decibels produced within the cabin. In fact this is not accurate as most products available on the market today serve no function but to enhance performance and potential horsepower gains by allowing more air flow out of the engine due to less restriction on all internal components.
What is a Downpipe, and How does it affect the noise levels of your car?
A downpipe in today’s automotive market has several uses and interpretations. To fully comprehend the definition of a downpipe we must understand what one is in the first place, the automotive world is much like our own with many different perspectives and people that each feel their explanation is correct. Most commonly when someone says “downpipe” they are referring to an aftermarket performance part for a vehicle which increases air flow out of the exhaust manifold or turbocharger(s) by removing or replacing a section of piping between them allowing less restriction on all internal components. When encountering a vehicle with two exhaust manifolds separated by a Y-pipe design directing both induction systems through one muffler there will be three total pipes exiting from the system. The large center pipe is the main downpipe which transfers exhaust gasses from both manifolds into one larger pipe that splits off to each side of the muffler. A common misconception about performance downpipes is when there are two pipes protruding from a system they are both considered “downpipes”.
A drawback to an aftermarket downpipe for most 4-cylinder engines today is there will be no catalytic converter included in the design so all emissions related equipment must be retained or replaced with an approved catless solution. For example, automotive enthusiasts may upgrade their small displacement engine by purchasing a high flow catalytic converter (HFC) combined with a high flow up-pipe and exhaust manifold in hopes this will eliminate bottlenecking issues in conjunction with other power producing modifications. If the vehicle is still subject to emission testing this will most likely cause problems as those components are now missing from the exhaust system and their replacements might not be able to deliver enough restriction for compliant flow outside of its design range.
Does A Downpipe Make A Car Louder?
No, as mentioned above a downpipe only serves as either an OEM or aftermarket replacement part that enhances performance and/or sound with no effect on decibels produced within the cabin.
Sound is simply vibrating air which can’t solely be attributed to one single factor alone whether it’s exhaust gases escaping out through an opening in the tubing, resonance caused by certain frequencies vibrating off of objects near by amplifying what we hear coming from the vehicle, or even waves made by air passing though a tube which make the walls of the tubing vibrate and resonate within our ear drums.
A muffler serves to reduce noise (decibels) and turbulence produced inside the exhaust system by slowing down and dissipating exhaust gasses through many smaller paths allowing them to exit in a less harmful manner. A muffler is comprised of chambers filled with packing material such as fiberglass that traps combustible particles while also allowing for sound control via reflected frequencies canceling out certain tones that might otherwise amplify other frequencies slightly quieter than said canceled tone. This can be seen when looking at two types of mufflers side-by-side, one having larger piping and packing materials compared to another with less obstructions allowing for more sound suppression.
Downpipes do not contain any of these packing materials so the noise will be heard at its original volume without any dampening allowing the exhaust note to “breathe” more freely and produce a deeper or louder tone depending on how it is designed.
A downpipe normally replaces the large restrictive catalytic converter with a smoother less obstructed path from both intake manifolds into one larger pipe which reduces lag commonly found in factory systems and allows them to flow better. Most performance cars today use some type of free-flow muffler design such as an X-over or H-pipe arrangement which removes all restrictions and increases power but does not come equipped with packing materials like OEM units often do.
Downpipes are obviously more of a performance part than anything else designed to deliver the maximum amount of flow for increased horsepower, torque, and throttle response; however if the replacement downpipe is not secured properly it can vibrate under various RPMs creating undesirable drone at cruising speeds which will be amplified inside the cabin. This is why some drivers like to install an aftermarket hanger between the exhaust system and chassis with rubber bushings or polyurethane in order to absorb any unwanted resonance created by loose components near their exhaust system.
Why do people think that downpipes make cars louder?
Because of the exhaust tone that they create and people’s perception on how it sounds. Some cars sound raspy or “throaty” with a downpipe, others have a deeper tone in lower RPMs because of its free-flowing design while some are just too quiet in stock form requiring an aftermarket high flow muffler to amplify it.
It’s just like when somebody modifies their car with an intake system, wheel style, window tinting film, spoiler or body kit; it might not change the sound much but you’ll still hear things differently. Just because a downpipe has a deeper tone doesn’t mean it’s going to be overly loud or dangerous, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking that way. Many owners install them in order to improve the performance and throttle response of their car without actually becoming louder themselves which is why some cars come from the factory with a slightly more free-flowing exhaust system. It’s mainly about perception which should not equate to consequences for something as simple as an aftermarket part. People should really do research before jumping into conclusions especially when it comes to modifying their vehicle.
The benefits of installing a downpipe on your vehicle are
obvious when it comes to increasing performance, but what are some of the drawbacks?
1. Additional Expenses- A downpipe by itself is not very expensive compared to other modifications on a car, but you have to factor in the cost of the gasket(s), hardware, and any additional plumbing that you have to run in order for it to work properly. Some parts are interchangeable between models so if your exhaust system is compatible with another model this might save you some money. You can also use factory or aftermarket catalytic converters when installing a downpipe if they’re available which will help save some cash if your current one is rusty or damaged beyond repair.
2. Sounds Different- It’s not going to sound like an exhaust leak or anything that may sound unsafe. It just sounds different from a completely stock system which might bother some drivers who prefer the “stock” sound, there’s no way around it.
3. Check Engine Light- A downpipe will cause your car to run leaner because of its increased airflow, but this might set off a check engine light depending on the vehicle and any additional sensors required for various reasons. If you have an OBD scanner this shouldn’t be much of a problem if it’s not throwing other codes at the same time. You can always plug it in and clear any errors so you can still get to work or go out with your friends without being stranded somewhere because of a faulty C (Check Engine Light); however you should get it checked out if you plan on installing an aftermarket part in your vehicle.
4. Additional Exhaust Maintenance Required- This can be a another point of contention for some people who are “on the go” all the time, but this usually happens when they don’t tag their car in long enough because someone else is using it or they forget to tag it at all. Some vehicles may require frequent exhaust maintenance which can be costly depending on how often you drive your car and whether or not the shop charges by the hour or flat fee. If your exhaust system has rust, holes, leaks, etc… then you’re going to have to get that fixed before putting down money on other modifications unless you want to tow your vehicle behind another car or suffer from a potentially fatal accident.
5. Emissions Checks- If you’re lucky enough to live in a state which requires emissions checks then this might cause some issues depending on the laws of your state and whether or not they have any rules regarding aftermarket parts. California, Washington D.C., Maryland, New York City and Virginia all require inspections for emission devices as part of their yearly smog testing although there are other states that don’t explicitly prohibit them from being installed but still do check them during vehicle inspections or periodic tests because it’s required by law even if there aren’t any specific rules about it. In those instances the shop will need to know how much work was done to your vehicle as well as inspect everything before they clear your vehicle and let you reregister it.
6. Availability- To make things easier (and cheaper) for customers most manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers usually stick to selling certain parts which work with cars from 1996 onward because they’re required by law to sell replacement parts that fit with the factory specs despite any changes made in newer models or additional differences between different years of the same model. If you want something that’s compatible with your car then you might have to search a bit harder online unless you plan on ordering it through a local supplier who will charge more than if you were to order directly from them online.
7. Additional Heat- This is another point of contention when people complain about installing an aftermarket part in their car because it’s going to cause their engine to run hotter than it was stock which can cause additional problems if any of your hoses or belts are on the verge of breaking. Honestly, I’d rather my car overheat a tiny bit because an aftermarket part is installed instead of it not running at all because something else broke down due to heat damage along with leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere even though there’s no rules against it according to the DMV.
8. You Might Screw Something Up- If you don’t know what you’re doing then chances are pretty good that you’ll screw up your car at some point which could leave your vehicle undrivable until things get fixed which might cost more money than expected especially considering some shops charge by the hour or day instead of a flat fee.
9. Sudden Breakdowns- Some people have claimed that their engine has suddenly exploded or other parts have failed after installing a certain part which could cost them extra money for a tow and getting things fixed so depending on your skills you might be better off leaving it to professionals who know what they’re doing just to be safe.
10. Angry Neighbors- If you plan on being loud with your vehicle then chances are pretty good your neighbors will complain because…well just look at the size of some aftermarket exhausts which can cause noise issues if they’re not installed correctly as well as decrease the value of nearby properties if you don’t keep the decib under control when driving by someone’s home.
11. You Might Get Pulled Over- If you’ve ever wondered why the police and state officials drive around with a device that scans license plates then this is probably why because they’ll catch your tags if it doesn’t match the description on file and could give you a ticket for driving around with illegal modifications. I can understand wanting to put aftermarket parts on your vehicle but just try not to let it affect everyone else as well as potentially ruining your car along with getting into an accident which could result in someone’s death or permanent disability especially if anything happens to one of those self-driving cars .
Final Thought of Does Downpipe Make A Car Louder?
Honestly, I’ve seen some pretty stupid things done to cars which would be considered illegal but the owner was lucky they never got caught otherwise there would have been additional charges added on top of those they already faced. It’s not just about the work that needs to be done as well as having to pay extra fees if it turns out your car is undrivable after you install a part even if you can prove it has been within legal limits beforehand because people need to realize they’re not going to get anything for nothing and going beyond those boundaries will put a lot more pressure on them than it’s worth unless you don’t mind taking the risk.