Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Racing Headers

When it comes to exhaust choices for the G8 it can be overwhelming what to pick. Axle-Back? Cat-Back? Long Tube or Shorty Headers? Even if you know what you want done, what brand do you go with? I held out for quite some time making a decision to upgrade my exhaust after getting my Stolen Fox H-Pipe and Axle-Backs a while back. I was quite content with the sound and how they rumbled but were not overly loud. Obviously no power gains, but sound-wise I was happy.

During this time several new products were released such as the Magnaflow Cat-Backs which were a very popular choice, and also the ARH Headers. As time went on, SLP released their headers which would bolt up to the stock exhaust and Kooks came out with their headers ( & axlebacks). Since I wanted a full system (to the rear axles since I already had mufflers) the choice was between ARH and Kooks.

Based on user-experiences i found that ARH Provides EXCEPTIONAL customer service (even assisting people who bought competing brands who were having install problems or needed an extra part ASAP), Their products look & sounds amazing and are fantastic quality. Kooks, while a long time player in the header market seemed to drop the ball on initial construction & sound quality (people complaining about things not lining up, drone and/or twangy sounding exhaust) and customer service (people with issues not being responded to etc). While i'm sure Kooks has a 'good' product i decided to go with the American Racing Headers system in 1-7/8" since they really go above & beyond.

Here are some pictures of some of the components - I LOVE the detailed engraved plaque they put on! (since I forgot to take pictures, these are from other people's install :) )

Here's the Header next to the Stock exhaust Manifold & Cat:

I once again had Turbo Technologies in Tacoma do the install (yes should've done it at the same time as the converter, but several things prevented this from happening). They are normally 'Kooks fans' so to speak and somehow had never really heard of American Racing Headers (they thought it was a wheel company). Their initial 'concerns' about the quality of the kit were soon laid to rest when they dug in there and inspected all the parts. "Wow.. this is a really nice system!" I heard one of the mechanics say. Indeed it is! The quality truly is exceptional - it really makes the exhaust almost a piece of art!

Install should've been a breeze, and after roughly 4.5 hours I got the call they were on."Good" I think to myself - that's right about the amount of time I figured it should take. Shocker was that since they 'used two guys' I got charged 7 hours of labor!!! What the !?!? This for an install some people do in their driveway by themselves in 4-5 hours..... so I totally got raped on that one. The guy who installed the kit (main guy I guess...) came out and told me he was really impressed with the quality of the kit and it was so easy to install and that it fit like a glove.
Nick, the guy who runs the front office, said they were at least as good at the Kook's systems they usually install. I took that as a compliment coming from a hardcore Kooks-Fan ;)

Here are some pictures Nick @ Turbo Tech took of the actual install on my car - i'm SHOCKED how clean the bottom of the car is!:

My car hadn't been pulled out of the shop yet so as I'm waiting all of a sudden I hear this loud rumble... could it be? Oh yes, that was my car! As I look the car over and have it idle , the idle is REALLY rough and the guys are like "oh well it just needs to be tuned for the headers". Ok.. i'm a bit of a 'noob' when it comes to all this so i'm thinking 'ok' and take off.

I took it for a few passes up & down the street and something didn't seem quite right. When I had the Torque Converter put in I had gobs of power to spin the tires. Now, It sounded great albeit a little rough, but it simply would not make enough power. (video to follow). I take a peek under the hood, just focusing on the headers and they seem to be on alright. That's ok i'm thinking to myself, it must just be tuned for the headers. As i'm driving back to the office the car keeps idling rougher and rougher and the Check Engine Light came on. A few times it backfired and sounded like it was about to die.. what the hell, this just isn't right I think..

Somewhat irritated that after what altogether was a $1300 bill it's not running right I decide to email Kirk @ Vector what's going on and that i need a new tune ASAP and also call up the Master himself ,The man - Charlie! I describe the problem to both of them and they both almost instantly reply with "yeah you've got a misfire going on". Probably causes would be cracked spark plug or disconnected plug wires. With Charlie still on the phone I go out to the car and as i'm going through the plug wires what do I find? The middle 2 on the passenger side are sticking out by at least an inch too far! Son of a.....

As i'm trying to fiddle with them to push them back in all of sudden I feel a sharp pain, hear a sizzling sound and all of a sudden smell some kind of baked pork product..Hmm is someone grilling a piece of spam? I'm getting hungry... oh, wait...OUCH! Charlie says: "oh yeah and you may want to check this when your car has cooled down! Otherwise it'll be hot if you accidentally touch the headers!" ehmm Thanks Charlie, but too late! as i notice I am missing my fingerprints on two fingers. I start it up again and the car sounds ROCK SOLID all of a sudden, though it still has the occasional dip under 500rpm which makes it stumble. Ok we're all good I think!

Next day i'm driving and it's still throwing the Check Engine Light and the weird idle is still there. Hmmmm I suddenly remember reading something by 'BobTheMonkee' and 'WreckWriter' how for both of them when they had work on their car done their Roto-fab had come apart and was now showing that behavior. I pop the hood and (for the first time since getting all this installed) really pay attention to my intake. What do you know, the hump hose was basically completely disconnected! This must have happened when they pulled the transmission which causes the engine to lean back a bit.

Ok so I fix this on the spot, restart the car and smooth as silk without any stumbles and best of all, NO Check Engine Light! Ok now the real testing can begin. The rest of the drive was amazing.

My initial concerns with the Stolen Fox Axle-Backs were that they'd be too loud!
But when idling or cruising the car almost sounds like before and it's only when I really step on the gas it gets loud (and it gets L O U D ). Though the fun part is, it's not loud inside the car at all, but outside you can hear the car blocks away if you're in the 3000rpm+ zone. That's basically a perfect combination in my mind!

The sound is hard to describe - the H-Pipe gave my car more of a muscle-car kind of sound , that classic "bup-bup-bup-bup" sound. This setup has that sound at idle, but when you get higher up in the RPM band it sounds more like really bad-ass Growl/Scream. From what i've read this is one of the main differences between H-Pipe and X-Pipe, and in the end i definitely love the sound.

The car definitely has more power and pickup as well, and the infamous butt-dyno says "quite a bit more!" Now traction on even dry roads is becoming an issue when stepping on the gas, so it's quite easy now to break out the rear end when taking corners etc. Going to have to get used to that and take it easy :)

All in all, the ARH Headers are what i consider the ultimate upgrade to your exhaust and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a better sound (even with stock mufflers they sound great!) and a good 30hp+ gain!


  1. Did you ever clear the check engine code after you fixed the roto fab and loose plug wires? I am curious if you drove many miles with the headers on before you got a tune on the dyno. Was there a code? Did the car seem quick without the tune?

    I do not have a local tuner, so I will have to do my mods and then drive a fair distance to get the tune. I want to know what was up before the final tune. Idle, power, codes?? all that stuff.

    You can email me at

  2. I didn't get a single CEL, but when I got my initial tune(s) he tuned out the rear O2 sensor. If you get a CEL that's where the CEL will come from. After the ARH install I initially picked up 14hp but Tony retuned and I ended up with an additional total of 25hp/22tq from the header install. A little less than what I was expecting but cheap HP nonetheless.

  3. Nick here over at Turbo Technology. I understand that you’re upset with our workmanship; however it appears as though you've left out a few key components while expressing your experience with us. We always test drive every vehicle after installation of parts or servicing, even if work performed is as simple as spark plug wires. If you recall, you were in a rush to get your car because you had to be somewhere. I decided to allow the car to leave without a test drive (which I shouldn’t have done under any circumstance). With the rush that you were in, you still managed to make 3 or 4 passes in front of our business, to test out the new converter. While you did this, your car was spinning the tires which would also make me believe that you were experiencing wheel hop as well. It may be possible your aggressive driving caused the intake tube to disconnect. As far as the spark plug wire goes, I’m deeply sorry you burned you hand trying to fix our honest mistake. If we would have test drove the vehicle before hand, it would have been brought to our attention immediately, and the issue rectified. I’m sorry you think you’ve been ripped off and that you didn’t have a pleasant experience with us.