Long Tube Headers vs Shorty Headers

Long Tube Headers vs Shorty Headers

Last Updated June 25, 2024 | Meghan Drummond

Replacing your Mustang's exhaust manifold with aftermarket headers can offer a performance boost. But choosing to go with headers vs exhaust manifolds is just the first step in the process.

There are two main types of headers: Shorty and long tube. Understanding the differences between long tube and shorty headers and how they affect horsepower and torque gains will help you pick the best option for your build.

Shorty Headers

Shorty headers are perhaps inappropriately named, because they’re really only short vs long tube headers. Compared to your stock exhaust manifold, shorty headers still have a much longer tube.

Because of how shorty headers are shaped though, you should still be able to use all of the other components of your exhaust, which makes shorty headers an easy modification.

Newsletter Sign-Up

If you’re driving a turbocharged engine, you will absolutely want shorty headers, but they’re also great for a variety of other drivers. If you’re looking to increase the performance of a vehicle that’s primarily your daily driver or commuter, shorty headers are a good idea.

And no matter what you’re driving, shorty headers should be a considerable step up from your existing exhaust manifold.

With shorty headers, an additional choice you’ll need to make is whether to get unequal or equal length headers. Unequal length headers offer a deeper rumbling sound and a little more low-end torque, but equal length headers offer greater performance gains consistently.

shorty headers positioned over the smaller exhaust manifold

Long Tube Headers

Long tube headers are best for track cars or other machines that spend most of their time in the higher end of the RPM range. Depending on the style of long tube header, it may require either relocating or else uninstalling the catalytic converter. This is one of the primary reasons that long tube headers are frequently not fifty-state legal. The other reason is the sound.

Although many enthusiasts love the sound of an exhaust outfitted with long tube headers, it’s rarely a popular choice with the neighbors. These headers have a tendency to be incredibly loud.

Long tube headers can also be more challenging to install since they will probably be too long to work with the existing components of your exhaust.

Long tube headers hooked up to show performance

Installing Shorty vs Long Tube Headers

Installing shorty headers is a great project that you can complete in as little as an hour. The first step is to disconnect the car battery and then lift your vehicle.

Once you’ve completed that, you simply unbolt the mid-pipe from your existing exhaust manifold and then gently connect the headers. Be sure to make sure everything is lined up before you start to torque down the bolts. Then connect your new headers to the mid pipe

That simple.

Because you don't have to uninstall the oxygen sensors or any of the more complex aspects of your exhaust system, the shorty headers should occupy approximately the same space as your former exhaust manifold. You’ll need to retorque the nuts after a short adjustment period, but other than that, there’s nothing to it.

Long tube headers do necessitate having to engage with the more complex aspects of the exhaust system. Though the basic steps are similar to what you'll encounter with installing shorty headers, there are additional steps that make this a more complicated installation.

Shorty vs Long Tube Headers

If you’re still weighing the pros and cons of long tube vs short tube headers, it’s helpful to establish your build goals. Shorty headers are a great choice for people looking to get a little extra performance out of their daily driver or who are currently using a turbocharger. Because of the length of the long tube headers they tend to increase turbo lag substantially, and may negatively impact your performance if you’re using a turbo.

If you’re looking to get substantial performance gains for your track day beast, long tube headers may take longer to install, but they’ll be the right long term choice for you and your build.

Shorty vs Long Tube Header Pros and Cons
Header Type Pros Cons
Long Tube Headers Substantial Performance Boosts
Improve High Revving Cars
Great Sound
Challenging Install
Not Always Legal
Will Hurt Turbocharged Engines
Shorty Headers Easy To Install
Legal in Fifty States
Great for Turbos
Better Than Stock Exhaust
Less rev happy than long tube headers

Whether you’re more interested in shorty headers or long tubes, CJ’s has a variety of exhaust mods for your Mustang.

Source: How Do Exhaust Headers Work To Improve Engine Performance?, How Stuff Works | Image Credit: Hotrod | Drive Tribe

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.