I was about to buy an expensive set of long tube headers. Their horsepower boost, along with a booming sound, convinced me to buy them.
Nevertheless, a friend of mine suggested reconsidering the decision since I live in a state where these headers are not legal.
Long tube headers are illegal in most states in the US, as well as by federal law. However, you can still use them if you don’t tamper with the catalytic converter and oxygen sensor.
I will start the article by describing both state and federal guidelines for long tube headers. As I progress, I will provide a few ways you can meet emission requirements even with these headers.
Let’s dive right in!
What Are Long Tube Headers?
Long tube headers have a longer set of tubes than short headers between the exhaust manifold and the catalytic converter. The larger diameter facilitates faster and more efficient gas release.
As a result, your vehicle’s horsepower and torque will go up, and the engine sound will get louder.
Federal And State Regulations On Long Tube Headers
To begin, I would like to discuss federal laws, followed by state ones.
- Federal Legislation
Neither the EPA nor any other federal regulation prohibits using standard headers on automobiles. However, the case is different when it comes to other headers.
Long tube headers, in particular, have been declared illegal by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. If you still install them disregarding the EPA rules, you are in violation of federal law.
- Legislation Across States
One of the states where long tube headers will not be a problem is Pennsylvania. Let me explain why.
Under the 75 Pennsylvania Statutes, headers and side exhausts are allowed as long as they meet the requirements for noise levels.
Since it doesn’t mention any specific header, long tube headers are likely legal in Pennsylvania.
As for the acceptable decibel level, it is within the range of 86-92 dB. Thus, if you opt to install the long tube header, make sure that you do not exceed the maximum sound level.
I have exciting news to share for all you motorheads living in Delaware. Those who are planning to mount long tube headers don’t have to worry about it. Here’s why.
In accordance with Delaware Code, every street vehicle must have a leak-free exhaust system, which includes the exhaust manifolds as well as headers.
To put it simply, you may legally use long tube headers in Delaware, provided they are not leaking.
I know that California is home to many car enthusiasts. You guys are probably aware of how strict the state’s exhaust laws are.
The California Vehicle Code doesn’t even permit simple modifications such as exhaust tips, let alone anything else. So, unsurprisingly, long tube headers are illegal in California.
This law takes effect as a result of two factors:
- Long tube headers emit noise at or above 95 decibels
- These headers go beyond the original position of the catalytic converter
It is possible to lower the sound level in some way, but the latter issue seems pretty intractable.
Is There Any Way To Pass Emission With Long Tube Headers?
You may have already figured out that long tube headers aren’t legal in most states. Does that mean you can’t take advantage of what these components offer? Not at all.
I have come up with two different methods to use long tube headers without any problems and even pass emission tests. Check them out below.
- Leaving the O2 Sensor and Cat Untouched
You see, what makes laws prohibit long tube headers is their interference with O2 sensors and converters. Therefore, both of these items no longer function as they should.
This results in greater emissions coming from your vehicle.
Hence, while installing a long tube header set, ensure the O2 sensors and catalytic converters are not damaged. This way, you will be able to proceed legally despite the headers.
- Utilizing Tuners
Even when the O2 sensors and the catalytic converters work properly, you may still struggle to meet emissions standards. This is where tuners truly shine.
Thanks to the help of a tuner, you can get the most from your favorite long tube headers in addition to passing the emission inspection.
Advantages of Long Tube Headers
Despite the illegal nature of long headers, people continue to use them. What makes them so fearless? Here are those advantages that are simply irresistible to automobile enthusiasts.
- Back Pressure Reduction
First and foremost, I love long tube headers because of their ability to minimize back pressure.
It refers to the resistance that exhaust gasses face when they exit the engine. This significantly hinders the engine’s performance.
Long headers are designed for easier flow of gasses, thereby reducing back pressure.
- Cross-flow Control
Another perk of these headers is that they prevent exhaust gas cross-flow. If the gas passes between cylinders rather than leaving the vehicle, it is called cross-flow.
An engine will never operate efficiently under such circumstances.
Thankfully, a pair of long tube headers separate each cylinder’s gasses and eliminate cross-flow.
- Various Tunes
You can tune long tube exhaust headers in multiple ways to optimize their performance to suit different horsepower and operating conditions. Depending on your needs, you may adjust the tubes’ diameter, length, or shape.
- More Horsepower
The horsepower boost from long tube headers is surely going to impress you. They achieve this by making scavenging more effective.
In case you didn’t know, it is the technique of using pressure waves created by exhaust gasses to improve air and fuel flow.
- Torque Boost
A long tube header extends much further than a stock exhaust manifold. Such a lengthy design enhances exhaust velocity.
Thus, the engine delivers more power and torque. In regards to torque, long tube headers will provide greater torque in the lower and mid-range RPM ranges.
Consequences Of Illegally Installing Long Tube Headers
If you have attached long tube headers to your car and done absolutely nothing to make them legal, you may face severe consequences. Let’s see them.
- Violation of Emission Laws
As I previously noted, long tube headers increase a vehicle’s emissions. It leads to failed emissions tests along with a hefty fine.
- Risk of Getting Caught
Some states have strict regulations against automobile modifications that affect emissions and performance. You could face severe penalties if you violate these guidelines and are subsequently caught.
In the worst-case scenario, law enforcement will impound your ride.
- Invalid Warranty
This one is probably well-known to everyone. The manufacturer’s warranty may be void if aftermarket parts, like headers, have been fitted.
Your car included some enticing warranty coverage? Put them to rest if you go for long tube headers.
- Alternative To Long Tube Headers
Shorty headers are a suitable alternative to long tube headers. Their size does not extend into the catalytic converter, keeping them in the original location.
As a result, they are unlikely to break any laws.
To elaborate on shorty headers, they boost performance in compact vehicles. Since these headers feature shorter tubes, you can get them at a more affordable price, and the installation will be easier.
To Sum Up
Besides Delaware and Pennsylvania, virtually no state allows long tube header installation. However, if you maintain low noise levels and make sure the catalytic converter and oxygen sensors are intact, authorities will probably not have any problem with you.
Considering the benefits of long tube headers, I would say these efforts are definitely worth it.