What do extractors do?

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If you have considered improving the efficiency of your engine’s exhaust system, chances are you’ve stumbled upon exhaust extractors. These bolt-on accessories, sometimes referred to as headers, increase the engine’s power generation and fuel efficiency by improving the scavenging effect.

You are probably asking ‘How exactly do extractors achieve this?’. Well, we have the answer for you but before dive into the nuts and bolts of extractors, let’s first explore the basics of these performance products.

Extractors: What are they all about?

An extractor is an external manifold added to the engine to improve overall performance. This bolt-on component replaces the original exhaust manifold (usually made of thick cast iron) present in the engine. There is a slight difference between extractors and headers, but the terms are often used interchangeably.

Extractors are considered to be an efficient workaround for car owners looking to boost engine performance, albeit this doesn’t paint the complete picture. There is a bit of contrariety in how extractors work, and we have addressed that in this post.

In a normal exhaust manifold, the exhaust stroke opens the exhaust end allowing the pistons in the cylinder to expel the exhaust gases. However, the process is not smooth and often ends up in partial expulsion of gases from the chamber. This is not desirable because it leads to unbalanced power production, with some of the generated power ending up wasted. More often than not, this complication is caused by the exhaust manifold, which restricts exhaust gas flow, resulting in back pressure. This is where extractors comes in.

What does an extractor do?

Extractors help the engine push out exhaust gases efficiently, thereby balancing the power from all the cylinders. As opposed to the ineffective and clunky manifold that creates back pressure, a header is more effective. They are designed with more extended individual mild steel or stainless steel tubes that connect to form a single pipe.

The tubes from the cylinders have almost equal length, which means the exhaust gases reach the collector point simultaneously, hence little back pressure in the exhaust system. This also affects the torque of the engine. The switch from the stock manifold to a header results in a smooth flow of exhaust gases and the overall operation of an engine cylinder. This, in turn, translates to improved performance since the proper tuning of the piping ensures power is not lost.

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Points to note

The design of these headers is very crucial as it delineates the suitability of the component. Some designs and curvatures are meant for specific cars so before thinking of fixing one to your vehicle, keep this in mind.

The length, as well as thickness of the primary pipes and overall size of the collector, are all factored in when designing an extractor. This is crucial in developing an ideal extractor that is leakage-free when bolted onto a car.

there are two main header designs: – the Tri-Y and the 4-in-1. By and large, the Tri-Y extractor design is associated with fuel efficiency and normal driving, whereas the 4 in 1 design is mainly associated with high top end horsepower. Tri-Y headers are also harder and expensive to design than the 4 in 1, otherwise known as a tuned-length header. They are referred to as tuned headers because of the nearly equal length of the primary pipes.

That said, both are good sets, but if you’re not sure which option works for you, we recommend consulting a specialist in exhaust systems. Installing the wrong extractor set-up may fail to yield the expected results and, in extreme cases, reduce the performance of your car.

Another important thing to factor in when fitting an extractor is the ride height of your car. The last you want is to have ground clearance issues after or during the installation process.

How efficient are extractors?

Although extractors help increase the power generated by an engine, the primary role is to ensure balance in power from an engine cylinder is achieved. The design and quality of the extractor determine the extent of improvement in your car’s power production and fuel efficiency. There is no precise efficiency figure, but the boost has an average range of 5% to 20% in most cases.

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Sam Grant

Sam's interest in cars stemmed from reading car magazines and dabbling with his dad’s Hilux ute as a teenager. Today he is a content writer for the Automotive, FinTech, and Crypto niches.