Which Performance Muffler Design Is Best?
Car engines produce extremely loud sounds during operation, and without some sort of sound deadening device (aka a muffler), your vehicle would be unbearably loud to operate. Anyone who has been to a drag race will attest to that fact that most dragsters are incredibly loud, and this is because they don’t have any sort of muffler.
When shopping for performance mufflers, you will hear manufacturers argue that they have the “best” design. However, is one performance muffler really better than another? The answer to that question starts with a little background.
How A Muffler Works
Internal combustion is essentially a series of controlled explosions. Each of these explosions has a shockwave that travels out of the engine and into the exhaust system. When a shockwave enters the muffler, three things happen:
- The shockwave is bounced around against the walls of the muffler and against itself through a series of baffles, which causes the shockwave to lose energy.
- In almost all mufflers, the shockwave must also travel through a sound deadening material (usually fiberglass fibers) which absorbs the most extreme sound frequencies.
- Most mufflers have more than one chamber, and as the shockwave travels between and through the different chambers it’s broken up into pieces. This changes the wavelength and frequency of the sounds in the shockwave, which helps reduce it’s energy and harshness.
Put another way, a muffler is like the pool at the bottom of a waterfall. A massive stream of loud, boisterous water falls in, but a slow, steady stream of water flows out. The key to designing a muffler is understanding how best to contain each shockwave without limiting the flow of the hot exhaust gases.
Performance Muffler Design – Which is Best?
Most mufflers use a combination of sound reflection and sound deadening to control engine sounds, but some rely exclusively on one method. Some muffler manufacturers will advertise the fact that they don’t use any baffles, saying that they use a “straight through” design that doesn’t interrupt airflow. Other manufacturers advertise the fact that their systems don’t rely upon cheap sound absorption materials, and are therefore likely to last longer and sound better than the “straight through” designs.
Truth be told, there are no significant performance benefits to either design – at least not compared to the way the system you use has been tuned. If the manufacturer that designed your muffler tuned it specifically for your vehicle, you will enjoy better performance than someone who buys a “universal” muffler that isn’t tuned to your specific application.
So, the bottom line is, if you’re considering a performance muffler, don’t buy the hype. Design doesn’t matter as much as tuning. What’s more, whether you’re buying a performance muffler or just a factory replacement, look for the best warranty you can afford, stainless steel, and a brand name you can trust.