Accessories & Gear / Power Adders

Toyota Tacoma Headers – Part I

Freeing up your Toyota Tacoma’s exhaust systems from its factory restrictions can be a great way to squeeze some extra power out of your truck’s engine. Replacing the Tacoma’s exhaust system with a cat-back unit that allows for better gas flow is the most popular exhaust modification out there, but it’s only one piece of the overall puzzle when it comes to building the best flow-through solution.

A set of headers installed on the Tacoma.

Installing headers along with your aftermarket exhaust system can further improve the performance of your Tacoma. Headers replace the stock exhaust manifolds on your truck’s engine in order to help it “breathe” better through all rpm ranges. The design of an exhaust header is often much less restrictive than that of a factory exhaust manifold, allowing the header to scavenge or extract gasses out of the engine and send them on down the line that much more efficiently. Since a gasoline engine is essentially one big air pump – the more air you can get in, and the more exhaust gas you can suck out, then the more power you can generate – headers can play a key role in freeing up extra performance that has been lurking inside your motor.

Exhaust headers are largely a bolt-on affair, directly replacing the stock manifolds. In some cases, you might need to make sure that the headers you are ordering are also compatible with the emissions equipment that came with the truck from the factory. You might also have an issue with catalytic converter fitment, but the header manufacturer almost always spells out the details of how their product affects emissions gear in the literature that accompanies their product.

Headers are typically made out of either stainless steel or ceramic-coated material. Stainless steel headers are corrosion resistant and heat resistant, making them very durable under a wide range of operating conditions. Ceramic-coated headers are much better at shielding the engine bay from the heat thrown off by the exhaust system, but they can also crack over time if they get too hot. A compromise is to use a thermal wrap on a stainless steel design in order to achieve the same heat protection while enjoying the longevity of stainless steel.

The biggest performance gains associated with headers are found on engines that are either turbocharged or supercharged, as forced induction setups are able to take the best advantage of improved gas flow. While there is a horsepower bump when using headers with a stock motor, the best bang for the buck is definitely associated with installing headers on an already modified engine that is tuned for maximum air flow.

You might also notice a slight change in your truck’s power band depending on the design of the header that you end up installing, with some types of headers accentuating low-end torque and others shifting power to the higher rpm range. If you are looking to match power output to a specific performance application such as towing or racing, then you should probably discuss this detail with the manufacturer prior to ordering.