Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?

A Catback exhaust system is one of the first upgrades truck owners perform on their trucks. It is a generally simple bolt-on system that most people can do with limited tools. It provides an instant change in sound. It can turn tame trucks into full out beasts! Performance-wise some are well worth it while others don’t give you a whole lot of oomph.

But overall a Carback exhaust system can be an expensive mod that may not be for everybody. There are other options that can fit some truck owners better. So…

Is A Catback Exhaust Worth It?

Yes, a Catback exhaust system is worth it. If not for a seamless transition and what little modification you need to do, all things equal the sound of a Catback exhaust makes the mod well worth it. Just listen to the before and after comparison in this video:

So does Catback exhaust make a difference? The biggest difference is the sound the Catback system makes. You will love turning over your truck each time. It takes a tame-sounding family truck and transforms it into a mean and aggressive sounding animal.

You will get better performance and higher MPG as well, though, to fully take advantage of the performance upgrades capable with a Catback Exhaust you would need to upgrade additional parts as well. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Is A Catback Exhaust Illegal?

No! Catback systems are 100% legal in all 50 US states (yes including California). Catback is used because the exhaust system is modified in the back of the catalytic converter.

The catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction (an oxidation and a reduction reaction). – Wikipedia

Since the catalytic converter is not affected there is no change to the emissions of your vehicle. Also, there are certain noise limits that would limit the use of certain exhaust systems, but if your Catback exhaust system is under 95 dB then you are well within the law.

That being said, a police officer can still issue you a ticket if they feel you are too loud. They do not have a decibel meter so if you are near the limit and the cop is having a bad day they may just give you a ticket, or even worse impound your car.

Will A Catback Exhaust Increase Horsepower?

A Catback exhaust system can offer a large increase in horsepower if the stock exhaust system restricts too much airflow. Opening up airflow can change the power band of your vehicle resulting in an increase in measurable horsepower.

Catback Exhaust System, Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?
Stillen Garage Catback exhaust build. Click for the full article

Maybe a better question to ask is, “does a high flow cat increase HP?” Since you are changing the catalytic converter from stock to a “high flow” cat you can greatly increase horsepower. A high-flow cat paired with a Catback exhaust could dramatically increase horsepower across the entire powerband.

While you will gain horsepower, especially in the lower RPM power ranges, you won’t b polluting anymore. In fact, you may reduce emissions with a high-flow cat. This entirely depends on your driving style. And let’s face it you are not spending your hard-earned cash on expensive upgrades like these to drive Ms. Daisy. You will be going through tires and having a lot of fun doing it.

Does A Catback Exhaust Increase MPG?

Yes, a Catback exhaust system will increase MPG. Most exhaust systems will increase fuel efficiency and a full Catback exhaust can give you up to 10% fuel savings! You will pay off the Catback pretty quickly with savings like that.

The Catback exhaust system starts behind the stock catalytic converter and replaces the muffler as well. MPG will increase at least minimally depending on other upgrades and the make and model of your truck.

A Catback system has larger and more efficient tubes. This isn’t universally better but they in most instances offer a much more efficient exhaust removal process resulting in less energy wasted by your engine. This results in better performance and MPG.

With Catback exhaust systems ranging in price from a few hundred dollars all the way up to over $1,000, purchasing one may actually save you money in the long run with the fuel savings you will collect. Think about it…

Does A Catback Require A Tune?

No, a Catback exhaust system does not need a tune. It does not modify any part of the motor so it will not require any settings adjustment. It is installed after the catalytic converter and replaces the piping and the muffler. It is considered a “stage 1” type of modification. It is a simple bolt-on and independent mod that does not affect the drive train function.

Catback Exhaust System, Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?

Can You Pass Smog With Catback Exhaust System?

Yes, you can pass smog with a Catback exhaust. The catalytic converter is not adjusted, removed, nor changed in any way. A smog test checks the emissions exiting the muffler so the catalytic converter will provide enough filtration for your vehicle to successfully pass a smog test.

There is a visual portion of the smog check and if for any reason your Catback looks too homemade or damaged in any way the inspector may fail you based on a visual check. Not to mention, if there are any leaks in the Catback they can see, that would be an automatic failure.

Is Catback Better Than Axleback?

An Axleback exhaust system may offer a more aggressive sound, a cheaper price, and an easier install. A Catback exhaust replaces more parts, so it has the opportunity for better performance and a more “subtle” engine sound if that is what is desired.

Catback Exhaust System, Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?
A comparative look at the different sections replaced in different exhaust mods. A DPF-Back is for diesel engines. A turbo-back is for engines equipped with a turbocharger.

While a Catback exhaust system replaces everything “in back of” the catalytic converter, an Axleback exhaust system replaces everything “in the back of” the rear axle. An Axleback exhaust is sometimes called a “straight pipe” exhaust, or straight pipes. It is a simple bolt-on system that may just replace the muffler with another or straight pass-through pipes. This open system will give your truck the most aggressive and loud rumble possible.

I had a Honda Civic and when I was replacing the exhaust manifold I drove it around the block with the exhaust manifold off. It was truly as open an exhaust system as you could get. Normally, you don’t hear the 2.0-liter DOHC engine.

But with no exhaust manifold, it sounded like a side by side! it really was throaty and beasty for a small 4 cylinder engine. Just imagine what a 5.7L Hemi in a Dodge RAM would sound like. Well actually, check out this video and find out!

In some states, you can have a truly open exhaust as they don’t require a catalytic converter. You can literally connect your exhaust manifold to the intermediate pipe, and mufflerless exhaust! Or a simpler option would be to install a “muffler delete” exhaust system. That is a fancy way of saying you took off your muffler.

Is Catback Louder Than Axleback?

No, an Axleback is louder than a Catback. It does differ from model to model but an Axleback with straight pipes typically has less muffler insulation or no muffler at all. This results in a loud AF engine.

Catback Exhaust System, Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?

What Is A Catback Delete?

A Catback delete doesn’t exist. When using the word “delete” you are stating you are removing that piece. A “Catback Delete” would mean you are removing the Catback exhaust. So that means your exhaust system starts with the exhaust manifold, the catalytic converter, and… nothing.

This is obviously not practical. Though it is essentially a straight pipe exhaust, though the exhaust ends at the catalytic converter spewing exhaust down and out of your engine bay. This is an excellent way to collect exhaust residue in your engine bay. The minimum you would want is an intermediate or downpipe from the catalytic converter pointing toward the street.

There, of course, is a Catback exhaust with a muffler delete. This is simply a Catback exhaust with the muffler or straight pipes going all the way to the exhaust tips. Or you can remove the catalytic converter and add a Catback exhaust.

What Is The Legal Sound Limit For An Exhaust?

There is no federal mandate for any vehicle noise limits. Certain states have noise limits, for example, in California, it is 95 dB. Other states have no limits. Though each state has certain laws that limit noise if something specific is not stated in the law. Cops have the ability to issue a fine or even worse, impound your car, at their discretion if they feel your car is operating in a dangerous manner.

So things like reckless driving, driving under the influence, a radio being too loud, or an exhaust being too loud are all fineable offenses if the issuing officer sees fit. Of course, they can be fought in court, and many times the case is thrown out. Just don’t run into a cop on a bad day and always be respectful. Kiss the ring and cops won’t come down hard on you.

Catback Exhaust System, Is A Catback Exhaust System Worth It?

A Catback exhaust system is a great and exciting upgrade for your vehicle. The engine really comes alive and you will turn heads driving slow or hauling butt on the highway. It can turn a tame 4 cylinder into a beastly sleeper that won’t be too sleepy.

But is a Catback exhaust system worth it? It really depends on you and what you want out of your vehicle. For the sound, it is 100% worth it. For performance upgrades, you really have to study how a Catback versus an Axleback or some type of delete option works for your individual vehicle. Then you can judge where a Catback exhaust is worth it.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty

Written by Mud Flap

Hi Im Ryne Sweeney, or, Mud Flap. I am a dedicated truck enthusiast. I like to argue how Dodges are expensive pieces of metal. One day I will start showering daily inside the house. My nights are long and my days are muddy.

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