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Old 02-17-2013, 10:04 AM   #1
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Header Coating Update

Found this....


In the automotive industry, it's almost a lost cause attempting to come to a conclusion by searching on the internet for a definite answer on something as debatable as header wrap vs. ceramic coating vs. leaving the header naked as it was the day it left the factory.

I said almost a lost cause.

Today, what I'm going to examine are the differences between the options above, and speak to a couple of different reputable companies to get their take on which method(s) should or should not be implemented; and in the most unbiased manner possible, try to discern the best way to protect your investment while keeping it cool and making it the most efficient. The companies I have selected to talk to for this article are American Racing Headers, Jet Hot, and Kooks Headers. This way I can get a few different takes on the whole situation. American Racing Headers is a company based out of New York (most of you are probably familiar with) that specializes in crafting headers for American cars. Jet Hot, based in North Carolina, is a company that specializes in ceramic coatings for exhaust pieces for just about anything that has an engine. And last but certainly not least is Kooks Headers, also out of North Carolina, who specialize in custom exhaust pieces for domestics. These companies have one thing in common: exhaust is the driving force behind each of their businesses, as so they are commonly considered to be experts in the field. These companies have spent countless hours and lots of money researching and developing their products and services, so I figured- who better to ask?

The first of these companies I had an opportunity to interview with was American Racing Headers. I spoke with Anthony, who put me in touch with the owner of the company- Nick. These guys have been in the exhaust business for twenty some odd years but the company itself has only been around for the last five and a half. Talking with Nick, he informed me that all of their systems are made out of SS304 Stainless Steel, which is 200% better at retaining heat than mild steel. "The issue with wrapping a header is that by wrapping something around it, it insulates it [the header] but retains moisture and dirt against the steel itself. This leads to rust and cracking prematurely and also prevents the naked eye from seeing any damage caused until it's too late. By wrapping the system," he explained, "it's almost a guaranteed early death to the component." We went on to talk about ceramic coatings on a header. "We don't recommend coating our headers unless it's for an extremely high horsepower application, there's just really no need. As far as coating a header, unless you intend to use the car for a lot of high abuse racing- like road racing, or have a forced induction system it's just overkill."

Bottom of the third: Coating: 0. Wrapping: 0. Naked: 1, according to American Racing Headers.

The next company that I was able to get a hold of was Kooks Custom Headers. These guys have been in the exhaust industry for 48 years, so needless to say they've been around the block a few times. I spoke with George R. there, and he was very to the point about wrapping headers: "It's a thing of the past. Originally it was used to retain heat in the primaries, but that's not necessary anymore." When I brought up the notion of ceramic coatings, he shot that down almost immediately as well, "There's no need, its overkill for anything but a racecar. You could do it for looks, but it's really kind of pointless." So, that's two in the books that have shot down the notion of coating or wrapping headers for anything but a fully fledged racecar. These also happen to be two of the most respected names in the business.

Top of the sixth: Coating: 0. Wrapping: 0. Naked: 2.

So far, the top two names in headers have said not to do anything to your headers unless you're running an absurd amount of power, forced induction of some sort, or unless your car is a true bred race car (and as much as I know we all hate to admit it, but unless you trailer your car to the track, it has at least a 6 point cage, 5 point harnesses, is not registered, and has no interior- it does not qualify as a race car). I know this goes against everything we've all read on the forums, and against what we've all been raised/taught through the years. I certainly used to think that ceramic coating headers and then heat wrapping them was the only way to go. Interestingly enough, however, when you break it down past it being an overkill move, the engineering behind both of the previous two notions is not without thought. The cooler an engine runs, generally the better, but when you start changing the way that exhaust is pulled out of the engine (scavenging), you start to change the way the engine behaves. It is possible to change the dynamics of the engine in such a way that you actually lose power. The concept of over-scavenging is what happens when an improperly tuned exhaust pulls too much air through the engine and you end up with a flat spot in the RPM range.

I know what you're thinking- "But wait! He hasn't said anything about Jet Hot yet!"

So, last but not least I got a call back from Jet Hot, and much to my surprise it was from David Burton, the head of engineering for Jet Hot. David was very patient with me and my lack of an engineering background, and broke it down very simply. In essence, when you coat something, you prevent corrosion. This is true with the Jet Hot coatings, but unlike header wrap their coatings provide a completely uniform dispersion of heat, and do not trap moisture, but prolong the corrosion resistance process. When asked about corrosion he said, "It really depends on the alloy and what kind of metal the headers are made of. Different metals will oxidize and rust at different rates. Mild steel is prone to rusting quickly, where as stainless steel is more corrosion resistant, even cast iron is prone to pitting- just at a much slower rate. Wraps and coating both improve the thermal qualities by acting as insulators, but wraps will burn and sometimes even etch themselves into the metal or alloy they cover as they heat and cool. They also trap dirt, debris, and water against the metals they are insulating. The thermal cycle burns the carbon out of steel as it goes from extremely hot, to cool, and then repeats. When this happens, the metal begins to rust under normal conditions. What the ceramic coating does is act as an insulator, and a corrosion inhibitor."



So, top of the ninth, Coating: 1. Wrapping: 0. Naked: 2.



Basically, what I can deduce from all of these interviews is that the first singular issue that should be addressed is that we should NOT be wrapping headers. It's a thing of the past, passed down from the generations before. Ceramic coating is a great tool in preventing corrosion, but not entirely necessary for an everyday driver. The bottom line is if you want to spend the extra money on corrosion resistance, and heat insulation, it's not a bad idea- but the headers will perform just as well without them. So, if you happen to be running a beast of a Corvette with a small mountain of power underneath the hood - either by way of forced induction, or just an astronomically built N/A set up - then it might be a good idea to get a ceramic coating on your headers. But, for the rest of us, while it does look nice, and provide an insulator to our headers, those beautifully crafted bends of steel sucking out the hot gases inside our motors, can be left just as naked as the day they were born.



Keep it under the limit,

-CN



Special thanks to Nick and Anthony at American Racing Headers, George R. at Kooks, and David Burton and Cheryl at Jet Hot for patiently taking time out of their busy day to put up with my poking and prodding and answering my questions.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:21 AM   #2
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But what about the starters that are sitting right by the primaries. I don't know how many starters I had to replace (and Alternators) because of heat related issues.

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Old 02-17-2013, 10:35 AM   #3
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The main reason I got the ceramic coating on the headers for my last two cars was to reduce under hood temps. Not only better for performance but also protects other components from an early heat related death. It is amazing how fast you can put your hands on coated headers versus uncoated once a hot engine is turned off. So I'd say on a daily driver coating is important. My car is a daily driver and is driven sometimes as 100's of miles as time during all seasons.

I know of some people that have gone uncoated and later either wished or went ahead an had them coated. I know of no one that went with coated and later had them stripped. j/k

fwiw I talked to the same companies.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:39 AM   #4
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Alot of people coated their headers for 'looks' as well. Alot of the time judges like the nice shiney bling look of headers rather then bronze/purple looking headers.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:54 AM   #5
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It's implied that its overkill to coat em, I like overkill. I want mine coated.
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:21 PM   #6
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you want coated headers simply for the heat reduction as mentioned, modern car engine compartments are crowded and heat can kill components nearby.

just about all header companies say header wrap will void their warranty.
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Old 02-17-2013, 02:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by IndeedSS1 View Post
The main reason I got the ceramic coating on the headers for my last two cars was to reduce under hood temps. Not only better for performance but also protects other components from an early heat related death. It is amazing how fast you can put your hands on coated headers versus uncoated once a hot engine is turned off. So I'd say on a daily driver coating is important. My car is a daily driver and is driven sometimes as 100's of miles as time during all seasons.

I know of some people that have gone uncoated and later either wished or went ahead an had them coated. I know of no one that went with coated and later had them stripped. j/k

fwiw I talked to the same companies.

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It's implied that its overkill to coat em, I like overkill. I want mine coated.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr pogo View Post
you want coated headers simply for the heat reduction as mentioned, modern car engine compartments are crowded and heat can kill components nearby.

just about all header companies say header wrap will void their warranty.
these quotes say what i feel and think. i think some people would be surprised how quickly i can touch my headers after use.

my dad figured out the wraps were shit and counter productive decades ago. i cringe when i see wraps.
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Old 02-17-2013, 03:06 PM   #8
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Quality increase, good looking, peace of mind in the hot summer months, and some overkill. Got mine ceramic coated for these reasons.
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Old 02-17-2013, 03:22 PM   #9
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You asked 2 companies that make headers and do not coat headers. Then you asked 1 company that coats headers and does not make wraps for headers. I think anyone could've guessed what their answers would be. I would've interviewed the companies that make wraps and more than 1 coating company.
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Old 02-17-2013, 06:41 PM   #10
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It's implied that its overkill to coat em, I like overkill. I want mine coated.
Great job -- very wise investment!!!
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Old 02-17-2013, 07:42 PM   #11
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Regarding the premise that ceramic coated headers reduce under-hood temperatures, has anyone done any real testing to confirm this is real or is it just wishful thinking?


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Old 02-17-2013, 07:47 PM   #12
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I know of some people that have gone uncoated and later either wished or went ahead an had them coated. I know of no one that went with coated and later had them stripped. j/k

fwiw I talked to the same companies.


I've had my 2" Kooks on the car, uncoated for 2 1/2 years. They just came back from being coated. In looking for hundredths I need to cover everything including attempting to control the heat.
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Old 02-17-2013, 08:55 PM   #13
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Regarding the premise that ceramic coated headers reduce under-hood temperatures, has anyone done any real testing to confirm this is real or is it just wishful thinking?


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Yes there has been and the number was pretty high. If you search you'll find it. Usually the ones that say it makes no difference are those that simply wanted to save money. I like to save money too. I did the research years ago and decided that it made sense. Over the course of time and being at auto gatherings confirmed my choice. That said, my first set of headers were not coated but that was on my 72 Chevelle and that was in 78.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:24 PM   #14
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George R is no longer at Kooks..has not been for a while.

I always warn people that coating is something you have to really take people's opinions with a grain of salt. The main reason is coating is not a profit base...and adds some complexity to processing orders.

So for a company...what would you rather do? Sell someone a header and be done with it

.......or....


Sell them a header, with coating at no margin, then deal with shipping the headers to the coater and back, and the customer support of "When will my headers be ready". Then if the customer has a warranty issue with the header, they will likely expect you to recoat them for free also. Selling coated headers requires a lot more leg work.

As a manufacturer there is also a pride issue. Most people see coating as preventing rust...and when you are making a high end stainless header, saying it needs to be coated would be like saying there is a problem with the quality of the stainless.

I have discussions with Kooks, and I suspect this is why they push customers away from coating. It's easier to say it is not worth it than deal with it.....unless of course you are willling to pay $350 they charge to do it

Coating is not 100% necessary on a stainless header, but it is an added positive if you do decide to order them with it.

Is an uncoated stainless header going to be any hotter than cast iron manifolds?..likely not. However will coated stainless headers be quite a bit cooler than uncoated headers or cast iron manifolds? You bet ya!

Coating is not going to show up on the dyno, however it will show up hot lapping at the track. I have hot lapped the crap out a car with coated headers before and been able to come back 15-20 minutes later and the header was cool enough I could touch it with my bare hand. That means under the hood cools down quicker, and you get more repeatable results at the track. Also coating makes you engine slightly more efficient. Because the header traps exhaust heat inside the header, the exhaust gas becomes more pressurized, and leaves the header faster. The faster the exhaust leaves the head, the easier your engine breathes. The common excuse I have heard from tuners of the years as a reason not buy coating is that a coated header reduces how much you can advance the timing vs. an uncoated one. This is a half true, a coated header does require less timing advance, but does not make less power.. This is because you advance timing to help correct an inefficiency. The coated headers make the exhaust gas flow better, making the fuel burn quicker and more efficient, so less timing advance is needed to make the same power.

As for durability, coated headers are very durable. Failures are rare, and when they do happen, are almost always due to the car being run lean (normally during tuning process). You can tell this because the coating discolors around the flange where the primaries bolt on to the engine. The coating does its final curing the first time you run the car, and all the headers we send out have instructions from the coater that say to either drive the car for 20 minutes at highway speeds, or let the car idle for that long with fans running under the car. A common mistake I see is to install the headers, and roll the car on the dyno and start tuning. This is the worst thing to do because the car is not tuned right, and the dyno is the hottest your car will ever be.

As for coatings, I recommend to most of my customer to our polished silver coating options. These are very durable coatings that are cleanable, and will last as long as you have the car with proper maintenance. With coating, you have to understand first off the basic idea, which is to bake ceramic power on your header. It is, in the simplest terms, pottery baked on your header. The coating companies mix in different things to give it a desirable appearance. For instance, the colored coatings (black, blue, gray), all have different resins mixed in. These coatings work good, but in terms of appearance they are the least forgiving. If you over heat a colored header, you burn the resin, and it wil create a discolored spot where the resin was damaged. These coatings can also be stained by fluids. With the silver coatings I recommend above, they mix in silver and aluminum powder, and then after the header is baked, they polish it. This gives the header what I call a 7/8ths chrome appearance. It looks like chrome from a distance, but when you get close, it has orange peel to it. This coating looks good on anything, is wipe able, and best of all can be polished back to a shiny finish. When you over heat a silver header, it will normally only lose some luster, which can be restored by simply polishing the header.

I personally am ambivalent at this point. As stated, a coated header is a bit more work on the business side..so if you want uncoated, I am not going to push you. It's less work for me, and to your average customer is not going to notice a performance difference driving the car (kind of like most cold air intakes, haha). The flip side is, I offer coating, and personally recommend it because I do believe it works, and ensures you will get every bit of performance out of your expensive header purchase. Every GM LSX I have ever owned, has had coated headers on it because I have seen how fast the headers cool down..and simple common sense tells you that anytime you can cool down something mechanical, that is a positive.
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:34 PM   #15
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That said, my first set of headers were not coated but that was on my 72 Chevelle and that was in 78.
Damn you're old.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:46 AM   #16
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Damn you're old.
You are right. I need to watch out for any suspicious conversations from my family, especially my son, that may suggest I give up my keys.

Anyway my vote is to coat
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:51 AM   #17
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If coating is good enough for the aerospace industry, it's good enough for me.
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Old 02-18-2013, 01:51 PM   #18
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When you over heat a silver header, it will normally only lose some luster, which can be restored by simply polishing the header.
I noticed that on mine.....(Jet Coated losing luster), not sure why they lose their luster & need constant polishing?

I have another set of SBC headers in a different vehicle that were silver coated in 2005 that require no polishing at all, look brand new
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Old 02-18-2013, 02:12 PM   #19
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Interesting reading.... so if you get a car tuned should the timing be adjusted to account for coated vs. uncoated headers?? or on a computer controlled car it isnt going to be adjustable or make that much of a difference?
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:08 PM   #20
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I noticed that on mine.....(Jet Coated losing luster), not sure why they lose their luster & need constant polishing?

I have another set of SBC headers in a different vehicle that were silver coated in 2005 that require no polishing at all, look brand new
It's like anything polished metal..if you don't maintain it, it will not be shiney. Also, newer motors run hotter, which can slightly burn off the the very top polished layer.
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Old 02-19-2013, 10:30 AM   #21
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You asked 2 companies that make headers and do not coat headers. Then you asked 1 company that coats headers and does not make wraps for headers. I think anyone could've guessed what their answers would be. I would've interviewed the companies that make wraps and more than 1 coating company.
This. Talk to Dynatech. They make headers and offer coating options.
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Old 02-19-2013, 07:45 PM   #22
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Interesting reading.... so if you get a car tuned should the timing be adjusted to account for coated vs. uncoated headers?? or on a computer controlled car it isnt going to be adjustable or make that much of a difference?
The difference would be negligible, if at all. All fuel injected cars have the ability to adjust for changes, to a point.
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:47 AM   #23
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I'm planing on getting mine coated flat/satin black. The benefit of lower under hood temps is all the reason I need. ARH offers a coating for I think $250 on there LT's.
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:57 AM   #24
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I'm planing on getting mine coated flat/satin black. The benefit of lower under hood temps is all the reason I need. ARH offers a coating for I think $250 on there LT's.
You will have more radiant heat coming from a flat black header than a polished one.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:25 AM   #25
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For what it's worth, I'm at Jannetty's right now and he's putting on Dynatech DuraMaxx Ceramic coated...maybe Im unreasonable, but I don't want any nearby components exposed to any more heat than needed...and surely it can't alter the performance of the headers right?
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