Screamer Pipe Explained: Horsepower, Sound & Is It Legal?

Screamer Pipe Explained

A screamer pipe is a type of exhaust system that produces more noise and horsepower than your average aftermarket exhaust. The name screamer pipe comes from the characteristic screaming sound it produces at wide open throttle (WOT).

Screamer pipes are usually made of mild steel, which are not ideal for high temperature applications. However, they are inexpensive and perform very well when used with racing gasoline or methanol mixed with nitromethane.

The design is quite simple: a length of thin-walled tubing constructed to produce maximum noise through resonance effects. It does this by using diameter variations along its length to make certain that each length resonates at different frequencies to create one loud note. At the end of the piping there’s also a flange where you can bolt on any random muffler tip that would give an aesthetically pleasing look under your hood.

There are a few ways to build a screamer pipe as some form of media such as sand or gravel can be placed inside the piping. The idea is that the different frequencies created by these moves will retain better and have more volume, which makes for a louder sound compared to smooth steel piping. Sand would also help with cooling if you plan on running very high engine RPM’s or racing applications which require long periods of wide open throttle driving.

Screamer pipes are popularly advertised in import tuning magazines, but they’re not legal everywhere around the world due to noise pollution laws. Check your local laws before installing one so you don’t get any unnecessary trouble with law enforcement officers or noise control agencies.

Proper Engine Setup For High Horsepower Exhaust Systems

High performance exhaust systems are designed to increase the airflow/exhaust volume of your engine. The more air you move, the more power your car will produce. And since race cars are built to go fast, race car engineering goes into building high performance exhaust systems for both racing and street applications.

Racing exhaust systems installed on newer cars have many advantages including increased horsepower, lower weight due to its lack of catalytic converters and other emission control devices, better looking under the hood because it doesn’t have a factory system cluttering up your engine bay. But before deciding whether or not you want to replace your OEM (original equipment) with an aftermarket racing system, there’s several factors that need attention first.

Engine Setup: Naturally Aspirated or Turbocharged?

Since we’re not exactly talking about a new generation of vehicles here, your first concern is whether you want a turbocharged or non-turbo car. The answer to this question will determine the type of exhaust system and all the necessary modifications you’ll need for maximum breathing on your specific engine.

Turbochargers work by using forced air supplied through a turbine that’s driven off the exhaust gases produced from running at high engine RPMs. A wastegate regulates how much air enters into the manifold depending on certain factors such as intake temperature and boost pressure (PSI). It’s basically like having two types of engines in one, which means more power – with some compromises.

Turbochargers use exhaust gases to drive the turbine which pressurizes the intake manifold. It then pumps in more air into the cylinders, creating higher horsepower and torque figures.

There’s a downside to this however – but it doesn’t pertain to engine setup really. Since turbocharged engines work with greater efficiency than their naturally aspirated counterparts, they aren’t very fuel efficient or friendly on older cars that weren’t originally manufactured for forced induction unless you compensate for it somehow.

How does a Screamer pipe work, and what are the benefits of installing one on your car?

There’s actually two different types of screamer pipes available on the market, and they work in very different ways. One type is designed to be installed on an engine that doesn’t have any form of aftermarket exhaust system at all, making it a completely bolt-on replacement for your factory piping. The other one is meant for racing applications where you’re constantly driving wide open throttle (WOT) with a free flow exhaust system already installed.

Screamer pipe for a stock/oem car: A screamer pipe basically replaces your factory catalytic converter with a straight section of piping which has been bent into an “S” shape design similar to many muffler designs seen in the marketplace today. The idea here was to reduce back pressure when the engine is idling, and increase horsepower overall by allowing for a smoother airflow with less resistance.

Screamer pipe for a free flow exhaust: If you have a naturally aspirated car that already has an aftermarket exhaust system installed with no catalytic converters, you can install a full straight pipe design just like what’s done in most turbocharged applications. But here’s the trick – instead of using this type of screamer pipe on its own, it’s usually used as part of a “test pipe” or “dump pipe” setup combined with another muffler/resonator/resonator chamber to help reduce the harsh noise heard at high RPMs while maintaining maximum horsepower gains throughout the entire RPM range.

Screamer pipe benefits:

1. By using a screamer pipe on any application, you’ll notice an increase in horsepower of around 5-7% due to the fact that your exhaust system is completely unrestricted (more airflow=more power).

2. Most aftermarket manufacturers who sell these types of piping will state that they aren’t legal for street use under the U.S. Federal Noise Emissions standards, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Because most states only measure decibel levels (Db) at idle and part throttle while cruising through residential areas, there’s nothing illegal about it unless you’re routinely driving WOT with one installed all the time – which believe us when we say that 99% of daily drivers never do that.

3. In theory, a screamer pipe will actually increase the longevity of your catalytic converter because it’s not constantly fighting against a massive amount of back pressure from a free flow exhaust system while idling at stop lights or cruising down the freeway at low speeds.

4. Screamer pipes are usually priced very affordably compared to other superfluous parts you’ll find in the marketplace – and they sell extremely well during the late summer time when people start modifying their cars for road course/autocross events throughout the country. Whether you’re building a show car, racecar or daily driver, you should consider installing one on your own vehicle today.

It’s highly unlikely that any state will fine you for having a screamer pipe installed on your car because it doesn’t create enough noise or emissions to be labeled as illegal. In fact, most drag strips don’t even care if you have one installed because it won’t cause any drag strip legal issues when participating in quarter mile drag racing events. Unless you’re driving your vehicle around 24/7 and routinely accelerating at full throttle while cruising on the freeway, we definitely recommend giving it some serious consideration whenever adding more parts to your own exhaust system.

The pros and cons of having a screamer pipe installed on your car 

When you’re the market searching for the best parts to install on your vehicle, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will say “get a screamer pipe” because at first glance, they don’t seem to offer any real performance gains whatsoever. But when you look closely at what an aftermarket exhaust system does for your car in terms of horsepower, torque and even gas mileage – if you have an older or high mileage vehicle without a free flow system already installed, you should consider adding one as part of your next upgrade.


1. Many people run these pipes on their daily driver vehicles all the time without ever being pulled over by police officers trying to force them into removing it from their cars. Unless you’re driving around with one installed and constantly driving the car really hard, you should be fine!

2. Screamer pipes help your engine breath more efficiently, which means that your vehicle will burn through less fuel and create more power throughout the entire RPM range.

3. By reducing back pressure at high RPMs caused by a standard free flow exhaust system, you’ll notice a significant gain in horsepower and torque between 3500RPM to 4500RPM – because the engine exhales easier from all exhaust ports instead of being restricted from certain parts of the pipe.


1. Some people run screaming pipes on their vehicles without any muffler/resonator chamber installed behind them – if this is something you plan on doing yourself, we highly discourage it because it can cause serious damage to your engine and catalytic converter.

2. They’re illegal in almost every state because they create way too much noise while idling at stop lights or cruising down the freeway – it’s very unlikely that you’ll get pulled over by a cop, but it’s still something to be aware of!

3. Screamer pipes reduce back pressure at high RPMs, which means you’re going to lose low-end torque between idle and 3500RPM. This isn’t a big deal for most people, but if you have an older car without any modifications done to the engine management system – a screamer pipe will make the car feel sluggish from a stop light even when cold.

4. At extreme high RPM’s when the engine is creating its maximum amount of power, an aftermarket screamer pipe may actually decrease horsepower. Think about it…when you have your foot planted on the gas pedal and are trying to accelerate as fast as possible in a straight line – by installing a screamer pipe, your vehicle will be transforming large amounts of exhaust gases into noise at full throttle which isn’t what you want when accelerating quickly.

It’ll definitely depend on where you live in the country when deciding whether or not to add one onto your own car – if you can get away with it without getting fined for illegal noise or “loud pipes” then we recommend installing one and seeing how great it makes your high performance exhaust system sound during daily driving situations!

But if you live in an area where having a free flow system installed is frowned upon by the cops, we advise against running one no matter what vehicle you drive – it’s just not worth getting pulled over and possibly ticketed because of how much noise they make when your car isn’t actually moving.

So that’s basically all there is to know about aftermarket screamer pipes & why some people like them but others don’t! They’re relatively cheap compared to most other exhaust parts out there (usually around $100), especially when buying online – if you’re in the market for one yourself then feel free to check out all our available brands.


In the end, if you have an older car with a free flow system installed already and want to add a muffler/resonator chamber for more quietness when your engine is idling at a stoplight – then we recommend going with a straight through style of pipe that doesn’t have any internal noise chambers inside.

But if you’re interested in getting one that has an internal resonance chamber inside for maximum exhaust tone at high RPM’s under full throttle – then go ahead and get yourself some screaming pipes.

And if you live somewhere where it’s illegal to drive around on the streets with loud aftermarket exhaust parts installed then don’t even bother adding one onto your vehicle because they aren’t worth the fines and possible violations.

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