Exhaust Science Demystified Story by David Vizard Referenced from SuperChevy.com: Click here for the full article The fact is most cars are leaving horsepower on the table. We show you how to get it back. For me the first really serious look at how to muffle a high-performance race engine without loosing a significant amount of power started in 1980 when I built a 400lb-ft, 404hp 350 to replace the very lame 158hp 305 in my California-spec Pontiac Trans Am. Having worked very hard to build a pump gas fueled engine (gas was really bad in those days), that would cross the 400 hp barrier, I was very disappointed to find that, regardless of what mufflers were used, the output dropped by some 20 lb-ft and 25 hp. Having had some experience designing a no-loss system for the original style British Mini Coopers, I felt confident I could pull off the same stunt for significantly bigger V-8 engines. The result, aided by an acoustics expert friend, was the Sonic Turbo. This design went on to be manufactured by Cyclone (now a division of Walker/ Dynomax). After the smoke cleared from a big muffler shootout (done at Gale Banks facility and published by Hot Rod magazine), a pair of 2.25-inch Sonic Turbos (the 2.5-inch ones were still a couple of months off) sunk everybody else's 2.5-inch items. This, it seemed, was just what the hot rod fraternity wanted and they sold by the hundreds of thousandths. That was good, but more importantly, it appeared to spark the industry into aggressively pursuing significantly more functional mufflers and exhaust systems. The result is that 20-some-years later, all the necessary components to build a highly effective, no-loss system are at hand, and not necessarily that much money either. All that appears to be lacking is widespread know-how as to what is needed to achieve this happy state of affairs. As of now, we are going to make a start on putting that right. Simple Steps to Success Although the mode of function of an exhaust system is complex, it is not (as so often is believed, even by many pro engine builders) a black art. To help appreciate the way to get the job done I will go through the process of selecting exhaust system components for a typical high-performance V-8 in a logical manner from header to tail pipe. Although the entire exhaust functions as a system, we can, for all practical purposes, break down many of the requirements that need to be met into single entities. Fig. 1 details the order of business. But before making a start, it is a good idea to establish just why getting the exhaust correctly spec'd out is so important. This will allow realistic goals, improved component choice, and a more functional installation. The V-8 engines we typically modify for increased output are normally categorized as four-cycle units. Although pretty much the case for a regular street machine, this is far from being the case for a high-performance race engine. If we consider a well-developed race engine, the usual induction, compression, expansion (power stroke) and exhaust cycles have a fifth element added (Fig. 2). With a race cam and a tuned-length exhaust system, negative pressure waves traveling back from the collector will scavenge the combustion chamber during the exhaust/intake valve overlap period (angle 5 in Fig. 2). To understand the extent to which this can increase an engine's ability to breathe, let's consider the cylinder and chamber volumes of a typical high-performance 350 cubic-inch V-8. Assuming for a moment no flow losses, the piston traveling down the bore will pull in one-eighth of 350 cubic inches. That's 43.75 cubic-inch, or in metric, 717cc. If the compression ratio is say 11:1, the total combustion chamber volume above this 717cc will be 71.7cc. If a negative pressure wave sucks out the residual exhaust gases remaining in the combustion chamber at TDC, then the cylinder, when the piston reached BDC, will contain not just 717 cc but 717 + 71.7 cc = 788.7 cc. The result is that this engine now runs like a 385 cubic-inch motor instead of a 350. That scavenging process is, in effect, a fifth cycle contributing to total output. But there are more exhaust-derived benefits than just chamber scavenging. Just as fish don't feel the weight of water, we don't readily appreciate the weight of air. Just to set the record straight, a cube of air 100 feet square will weigh 38 tons! If enough port velocity is put into the incoming charge by the exhaust scavenging action, it becomes possible to build a higher velocity throughout the rest of the piston-initiated induction cycle. The increased port velocity then drives the cylinder filling above atmospheric pressure just prior to the point of intake valve closure. Compared with intake, exhaust tuning is far more potent and can operate over ten times as wide an rpm band. When it comes to our discussion of exhaust pipe lengths it will be important to remember this. At this time a few numbers will put the value of exhaust pressure wave tuning into perspective. Air flows from point A to point B by virtue of the pressure difference between those two points. The piston traveling down the bore on the intake stroke causes the pressure difference we normally associate with induction. The better the head flows the less suction it takes to fill (or nearly fill) the cylinder. For a highly developed two-valve race engine the pressure difference between the intake port and the cylinder caused by the piston motion down the bore, should not exceed about 10-12 inches of water (about 0.5 psi). Anything much higher than this indicates inadequate flowing heads. For more cost-conscious motors, such as most of us would be building, about 20-25 inches of water (about 1 psi) is about the limit if decent power (relative to the budget available) is to be achieved. From this we can say that, at most, the piston traveling down the bore exerts a suction of 1 psi on the intake port Fig. 3. The exhaust system on a well-tuned race engine can exert a partial vacuum as high as 6-7 psi at the exhaust valve at and around TDC. Because this occurs during the overlap period, as much as 4-5 psi of this partial vacuum is communicated via the open intake valve to the intake port. Given these numbers you can see the exhaust system draws on the intake port as much as 500 percent harder than the piston going down the bore. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that the exhaust is the principal means of induction, not the piston moving down the bore. The result of these exhaust-induced pressure differences are that the intake port velocity can be as much as 100 ft./sec. (almost 70 mph) even though the piston is parked at TDC! In practice then, you can see the exhaust phenomena makes a race engine a five-cycle unit with two consecutive induction events. With the exhaust system's vital role toward power production established, it will be easy to see that understanding how to select and position the right combination of headers, resonators, routing pipes, crossovers and mufflers will be a winning factor. This will be especially so if mufflers are involved in the equation. I first started putting out the word on how to build no-loss systems as much as 20 years ago and I am somewhat surprised that it is still commonly believed that building power and reducing noise are mutually exclusive. Historically, this has largely been so, but building a quiet system that allows the engine to develop within 1 percent of its open exhaust power is entirely practical. Be aware that knowing what it takes in this department can easily deliver a 40-plus hp advantage over your less-informed competition.