Short vs Long Tube Headers – My Personal Decision (Video)

Stock Exhaust Manifold still in there

Stock Exhaust Manifold still in there

My short vs long tube headers decision had been going on for at least a year – maybe longer.  At first, I desperately wanted shorty headers because I had read how much easier they were to install, and how they just “bolted on” with the stock Y pipe.  Then I read about how well made the stock exhaust manifolds were for GM trucks and that the shorty’s were a minimum improvement, but not worth the effort and the cost.  So, I accepted the thought that shorty’s were out – and put the great exhaust debate on the back burner (for like, 8 minutes).

On the other hand, I knew about the performance gains with long tube headers.  Article after article I read about how awesome it would be if I just made the effort to install them.  But they were so expensive, and what to do about the Y pipe and cats?

From what I understand, long tube headers were drastically more expensive than their shorter counterparts but then I kept seeing the same thing again and again, Speed Engineering Long Tube Headers and OR Y-Pipe package for under $400 – shipped!  WOW – those Gibson Shorty performance headers were $500.  What to do?  What to do?

Long Tube Headers and Y Pipe

Long Tube Headers and Y Pipe

So, I went for it.  Speed Engineering made the decision easy.  The worst thing that could happen is that I would get the headers on, and not be able to install the rest due to fitment issues.  So, I would go off to the exhaust shop and have them finish it up for me.

Long tube headers!  At last,  I had made a decision and they had arrived!

Exhaust manifold to Y pipe nuts can be some of the hardest to get off on the entire car

Exhaust manifold to Y pipe nuts can be some of the hardest to get off on the entire car

So here it goes!  Take it from a guy who is not a mechanic, and never did exhaust before.  Actual installation is not that big of a deal!  It’s getting those old rusty exhaust manifolds separated from the Y Pipe and unbolted from the head that is a total pain in the ass.  That’s all stuff you need to do if you go short or long.

Now, from my video (see below), you might think I got lucky.  My efforts to get those exhaust manifold to Y pipe nuts off went flawlessly.  Furthermore, you’ll notice no reference to getting bolts broken off in the head.  Lucky, you say?  No – not lucky at all.  You see, I did an engine rebuild last year.  I fought with one of the exhaust manifold nuts for days.  I twisted it, turned it, stripped it, drew blood on several occasions from it, cussed at it, cried about it, bought extractors for it, almost burned the place down hitting it with heat, and then finally beat it by grinding it down into oblivion.  As for the manifold bolts into the side of the head?  Yes, 2 of them broke off.  For this, I was a little lucky because my heads were off to the machine shop and I had the machinist do it for me.

Having said all that, YES, I can see where installing long tube headers can be a complete bitch.  But let me tell you, it is totally worth it, above any other mod I have done to the truck.  And, I’ve done a LOT!

On to the dismantling – In the video, I mention that if you want the old Y pipe out of there, you can cut it, or you must drop the transmission cross member.  I wanted to keep my stock Y pipe so I went through the hassle of dropping the cross member to get the Y pipe out.  It’s a lot of work, but I am glad I did it.

2 of the 4 long bolts that hold the transmission cross member

2 of the 4 long bolts that hold the transmission cross member

The transmission cross member has 4 massive bolts and I think the 6 nuts are 21mm.  Once you undo the 4 bolts, it will still hang on the transmission mount.  Or, at least it will hang with a 4wd because the transfer case sits on another cross member further back.  I’m not sure what the configuration is on a 2wd.  There are 2 more bolts underneath that need to come out to separate the transmission cross member from the transmission mount.  Once it was out of there, I supported the trans mount on some wood at the height it stood when the cross member was in there.  Not sure if this is required or not, but I didn’t want all that weight on the other cross member.  I was also concerned about the bolts attaching the transmission to the engine and what strain this might have on them at that angle.  But back to it……

Supporting the transmission at the mount with a block of wood

Supporting the transmission at the mount with a block of wood

Once the cross member is out, you can undo the rear 2 flange bolts and lower the Y pipe out of there.  I did it alone, but it’s probably easier (and safer) to do it with an assistant.  After that, I did the exhaust manifold to head bolts.  As for the manifold to head bolts, hit them with PB, too, and be gentle.  Having one snap off in the head is a whole world of headaches.

Like I said before, the nuts for the studs on the exhaust manifolds can be a show stopper.  Hit em with PB Blaster the night before, and if possible – beg, borrow, or steal some air tools to lighten the load.

Once you get past the two manifold headaches, you’re past the hard part.  Installation is way easier than removal. I’ll get to that in the next video.

 

So, check out the video, and be sure to check out my other videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and like and comment.   Thanks!

 

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