Straight Pipes on Cars, Trucks & SUVs: What is it, and should you have one on your car?

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A straight piped exhaust is common in the racing industry, as it removes the catalytic converter, muffler, and pushes all of the exhaust straight from the headers all the way to the rear of the vehicle with no obstructions. While this allows free flowing exhaust and enhances the performance and sound, it can be illegal in many states.

Because of the fact that straight pipes may be illegal in many states, this makes straight pipes something that is best used for vehicles that are track, or off-road only.

Please Note: Make sure to check with your local, state, and federal laws for anything that has to do with your exhaust before making modifications.

Why do vehicles have a straight pipe exhaust?

There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to have a straight pipes on there car!

More Sound

There is no denying that sound makes a big difference in how much you enjoy your vehicle! My truck is a great example, as the main reason I enjoy driving it so much is because of the rumble that I get, and it isn’t even straight piped.

Because of this, really any straight piped vehicle will result in a crazy loud, and rumbling sound, even a 4 cylinder engine car.

Additional Power

Once you have installed a straight pipe exhaust on your car, and have tuned it correctly, you will notice a large bump in power, which of course is more fun!

This is a result of the exhaust being able to freely flow from the engine to the rear of your vehicle, instead of getting stuck in the catalytic converter and the muffler. This makes for a more efficient vehicle, meaning more power (and sometimes even better gas mileage).

More Fun

The above two things also make for a big third category, more fun! Enjoying your car to its fullest is a lot of fun, and having it be louder and have more power allows you to not only enjoy it more, but also have a lot of price in what you have built.

That said, that fun can be a bit dampened now that it is a track-only or off-road only vehicle due to its legal status…

Why should a vehicle not have straight pipes?

While straight piping a car can be a lot of fun, it also has its drawbacks, that we have already alluded to a bit in this article.

It’s illegal in many states

The major reason why a straight piped vehicle may be illegal in your state, is that fact that the catalytic converter has been removed from the vehicle. You can read more about what a catalytic converter is in this article here, however it essentially, significantly lowers the emissions that a vehicle puts out when it burns its gas.

These catalytic converters play a big part in helping you pass emissions in states that require you to pass a smog check, and can even be illegal in states that don’t require a smog check if it is discovered.

It also isn’t that hard to know when a car has been straight piped, due to its increased sound.

Waking the neighbors

Speaking of sound, once you straight pipe a vehicle there really isn’t any going back from having that sound. This means if you live a in a neighborhood, each time you start the car, let’s just say it will be an event of sorts. You will be waking neighbors, possibly setting of car alarms (yes this does happen), and making dogs bark.

A better solutions is to get an exhaust (with a catalytic converter) that also has a valve in it, which allows you to quiet your vehicle down at the push of a button, and then make it louder when you would like.

Can damage your vehicle

Yep, if you don’t have your exhaust installed correctly, or tuned a straight piped exhaust can actually damage your car. This can be a result of a bad install, or possibly by tuning it incorrectly and making the vehicle run to rich, or not rich enough.

A straight piped exhaust is actually a large modification to a vehicle, so taking car on how you do it is important.

Hard to re-sell your car

You may enjoy having a loud car 100% of the time, however most people don’t! That means it will be considerably more difficult to re-sell your car when the time comes for that. You likely will want to hang on to your original exhaust, to replace it when you are ready because of this.

How is a straight piped exhaust different from a cat-back exhaust?

Now, we have talked a lot about catalytic converters, and the fact that a straight piped car will have had it removed. However what if you are someone that wants to leave that catalytic converter alone, but get the rest of the benefits? That is where a cat-back exhaust.

No, there isn’t a feline animal in the rear of your vehicle, instead cat stands for “catalytic” meaning these exhausts leave your catalytic converter alone, and replace everything back from the catalytic converter.

This results in a car that is able to stay legal in most states (some states still require a certain decibel), yet has the benefits of a more free flowing exhaust, and a cooler sound! This also allows you to be able to get an exhaust with a valve, meaning you have mufflers, but can also choose to bypass those at the touch of a button. This is a great example of one of these exhausts!

Should I install a straight pipe exhaust on my car?

I personally would not install a straight pipe exhaust on my car! Why is that? I think the downside of making your car illegal for on-road use just far outweighs the upsides of the power and sound.

I like the idea of having a car that can be fun on the track, but also be able to drive home in, and this just wouldn’t achieve that unfortunately.

However if you are someone that has a track-only car, then by all means, move forward!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your car is straight piped?

A quick glance under your car will show this! Look for the headers on your car (right at the engine), and look for any bumps along the exhaust. If everything stays the same width, you may have a straight piped exhaust. If you see bumps a long the exhaust, that likely will be a catalytic converter, and a muffler, meaning you don’t have a straight piped exhaust.

Is straight pipe better than muffler?

This really is up to the individual person. A straight pipe exhaust will give you sound and performance, however may leave your vehicle unable to drive on roads. Having a muffler will dampen the sound, allowing you to enjoy driving your car in your neighborhood.

What’s better than a straight pipe?

I believe the better solution to just a straight pipe, is to leave your catalytic converter and replace your exhaust with a cat-back exhaust with a valve. You will get most all of the benefits of a straight pipe exhaust, but still have the chance to stay legal, and you won’t wake the neighbors.


So there you have it! There are some massive downsides to a straight piped exhaust, and it really is up to you to decide what is best for your situation. I personally wouldn’t go that direction due to its legal status, and the inability to quiet it down, however if you have a track-only vehicle, this could be a lot of fun.