A large number of customers are first-time buyers of performance branches and free-flow systems. They happened to hear about this type of performance enhancement from friends, or advertising, or even a bumper sticker. A percentage of these customers become reasonably informed about the performance exhaust market and the major players in this market. They inquire about prices, performance improvement, dyno test comparative results relating to power and torque figures, improvement in fuel consumption, advantages of free-flow systems, noise output, warranty problems etc. Unfortunately the customer receives a myriad of different answers to his questions, some knowledgeable and some B.S., but eventually he accumulates enough information to make up his mind after knowing what is available and what he is likely to pay for his choice of performance exhaust.
A bigger percentage of customers, however, although totally uninformed, just shop around and buy on price only. The following scenario is happening too frequently:
“Joe” phones for an appointment to repair his car’s aging performance exhaust system. He owns a Honda 180i Ballade.
His car is hoisted for inspection of the system to establish repair or replacement costs. He informs me that the system consists of a branch manifold and a matching free-flow system, which is now 18 months old. The “branch” is a joke. It consists of four 38mm pipes approx 300mm in length press bent into a 4 – 1 collector merging into a 50mm knuckle joint coupling the ” free-flow” silencer system which is custom bent 50mm hot rolled mild steel tube with two silencer boxes. The whole silencer system thing is welded in one piece (as supposed to separate flanged sections) from the knuckle joint to the tail pipe. Incidentally, the rear box is not of the through flow absorption type. The mild steel rear silencer box and pipe section need to be replaced due to leaks caused by corrosion.
“Joe” asked me, like it was a trick question, “how much improvement you think this system got me?”
It is common knowledge that the B18B is a reasonably high performance motor. It should also be common knowledge that not just any branch will work on this motor, and that a silencer system of a smaller diameter than 57mm will not produce optimal exhaust gas flow to complement the effectiveness of a good branch.
So I replied, “ you probably got a minus 5% improvement!” to which he commented, “my car has never been the same since installing this cheap shit ……”
It turns out that disillusioned “Joe” was a first time buyer of a performance exhaust system, and not a very discerning one at that. He did not shop around or even think about researching what he thought was a simple subject: “… you want a branch manifold and a free flow system, so you fit one. My China got me a contact for a good price …”
To cut a long story short, eventually “Joe’s” story had a happy ending. We managed to increase his 180i’s power from a paltry 52kw to 67kw’s (measured off the wheel at Gauteng altitude), an increase of 18%, which he missed for all of one and a half years!
There are two basic reasons for replacing the stock manifold with a branch:
- 1. To replace a broken, cracked or warped stock manifold with a factory-supplied original is too costly and a branch is about half the price or even less, fitted. In South Africa approximately 70% of all branch manifolds are sold as replacement items. Apparently this figure increases to approximately 90% in Australia where most “extractors” as they are called are cheap press bent items as described above. (Performance doesn’t enter the picture).
- 2. The second reason is performance enhancement. Per capita, there are more ‘petrol-heads’ in S.A.than any country in the world.. South Africans are privileged to have available off-the-shelf designed and developed branches, which actually work well for most popular cars at very reasonable prices. These branches, matched to through flow silencer systems do result in significant power gains, which can be verified on dynamometers. If you are going to replace your car’s broken original manifold with a good branch, you score a bonus in terms of power gains, specially if you decide to replace the stock silencer system with a matching performance silencer system as well.
Price is everything these days, especially with respect to grudge purchases, but when shopping for a performance exhaust system the buyer should be very wary about so called bargain prices. Some exhaust shops are quoting unrealistically low prices on branch manifolds and free-flow exhausts. In all likelihood, ‘cheapies’ are products of dubious quality, and can lead to a scenario similar to “Joe’s” episode.
The South African motoring enthusiast is becoming a rare breed of customer and deserves to be treated with respect and preserved from extinction!
That’s all for now!
Abel dos Santos