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Headers: Coated or Wrapped?

This is a discussion on Headers: Coated or Wrapped? within the General Help forums, part of the LSx Technical Help Section category; I've had 5-6 folks in the past 30 days ask me about this in PM's. So I'll post up here ...

  1. #1
    Grand Imperial Wizard Sarge's Avatar
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    Headers: Coated or Wrapped?

    I've had 5-6 folks in the past 30 days ask me about this in PM's. So I'll post up here for all to contemplate/discuss/understand the issues and myths.
    Cost. Ceramic Coating cost about $300 bucks (+ shipping if applicable). Many header manufacturers offer this as an add on for less. But the cost is in the price of the original header and blended. Colors are usually black or silver.
    Header Wrap cost about $60 bucks for the wrap and the high temp ties. Available at NAPA/AutoZone or the INTERNET on places like JEGS etc. Damn near every color is available.

    Both stink like hell for a bit when they are "burning in"....smell like your gym shorts from 8th grade.

    Why either one? Well we are after cooler under hood temps firstly. Wrap or ceramic coating accomplishes this equally effective. RWHP gains are realized from super heating the exhaust to scavenge exhaust gases. May see a gain of 1-2 RWHP. Under hood temps drop like a rock.

    Many believe and the ceramic folks wish you to believe that wrap causes rust. This is a leftover from back in the day when headers were made from steel. Wrap would trap moisture as the car sat causing rust to form quicker than a unwrapped header. Of course todays headers are made from stainless and that is no longer an issue.

    I am not advocating one over the other. Hey whatever blows your dress up. I've been wrapping all my headers for years. On the GTO they are wrapped. On the Dodge R/T I got ceramic coating done locally. Both accomplish the goal of reducing underhood heat.

    You guys ask for some pics of my wrapped headers so here....




    So dont buy into the myth wrap will rust your headers. Aint true. Todays headers will eventually rust with or without coating or wrap all on their own. In some parts of the country with salt on the roads and temp fluctuations the "rust" will start eating sooner than other parts of the country. I will also submit your air fuel mixture out of whack will also play a roll in your exhaust sytems demise coming quicker than a guy who keeps his A/F in check.

    So I hope maybe this will answer your questions as far as wrap versus coating.

  2. #2
    Veteran 0rion's Avatar
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    I've always heard that wrapping causes them to rust faster. I have no personal experience with it but the theory makes sense. Some headers such as pacesetters aren't stainless so the concern might be valid. Personally, I don't think it would really make a huge difference either way. I think you have a better chance of them rusting from the inside out. I prefer the look of coated but think wrapped might do a better job of holding the heat in. If my pacesetters ever start looking less than new I would be tempted to wrap them.

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    ƃuoɹʍ ʇsnɾ sı sıɥʇ Firebug's Avatar
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    Mine are mild steel, so they remain naked...

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    Member SSmoky01's Avatar
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    I think that is a bitchin' look as well. Nice wrappin Sarge.

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    ORNGP33L 1BADDLS1's Avatar
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    how about coated & wrapped???

    or would that be a waste of time & $$$

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    Grand Imperial Wizard Sarge's Avatar
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    Sorta like wearing a belt and suspenders. No gains....

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    Detailing + Design third_shift|studios's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0rion View Post
    I've always heard that wrapping causes them to rust faster. I have no personal experience with it but the theory makes sense. Some headers such as pacesetters aren't stainless so the concern might be valid.
    :agreed: what's your say on this, sarge?

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    Single Malt rbob93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by third_shift|studios View Post
    :agreed: what's your say on this, sarge?
    Geezus!!
    Did you even bloody well read what he posted???

    "Many believe and the ceramic folks wish you to believe that wrap causes rust. This is a leftover from back in the day when headers were made from steel. Wrap would trap moisture as the car sat causing rust to form quicker than a unwrapped header. Of course todays headers are made from stainless and that is no longer an issue."

    So from that I would figure that if they were NOT stainless they would rust from the wrap & opt for coated!!

    No wonder us old guys get pissed so easily.....we have to keep repeating ourselves!!

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    Detailing + Design third_shift|studios's Avatar
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    well slap my ass, that made it clear as peanut butter to understand, old timer. what sarge said was ambiguous; i interpretted it as "a long time ago headers were made from milled, not stainless steel and today ALL headers are made of stainless steel"

    now shush

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    We'll be back... GatorSS's Avatar
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    Sorry, but us old timers sometimes forget to write everything we are thinking. Bottom line is if you are going to get non-stainless steel headers, get the coated ones. Saving a few bucks by getting uncoated plain steel headers is foolish, since you're going to have to replace them fairly soon.

  11. #11
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    I think they are both equal. The only disadvantage I have seen to wrapped Headers is the wrap can get pretty messy. An advantage of the wrap could also help with vibrations that would eventially weaken some parts of the steal.

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    I have wrapped and coated headers on several different cars of mine.
    The headers I wrapped were of plain steel (stainless not available on this particular car) and the wrap does indeed make it rust faster. As a matter of fact,,,some routine maintainance required me to remove the passenger header,,,although the painted portion of the headers looked pretty good,,,when I removed the wrap to put a fresh wrap on there I was shocked and mad at the same time to see the header literally rusting before my eyes, and it already had pin holes in it,,,after only about a 3 month period of fair weather driving.
    After this experience I am not a big fan of wrap at all no matter what header material is used.

    As far as the coatings,,,they are okay, but for what you pay I don't feel they are worth the effort either. I have coated headers on 2 cars currently, and after 3-4 years they start to pit and show rust through, and these cars are also fair weather cars that never get wet, and stored in climate controlled garages.
    Problem is once they pit and start looking horrible,,,your only option is to send them out and get them recoated again,,,,pain in the butt, you have to wait for them, and you have to spend another $300,,,kinda sucks in my opinion to have to go through this every 3-4 years, but I am anal and very picky. Had to coat the headers on the chevelle twice now in the last 7 years and it's due for another coating. Problem is once you coat headers it's very hard to get off so going back to something cheaper or simpler is very difficult. That crap is hard to get off.

    Because of these experiences I prefer to paint mine anymore. Simply because I am always pulling my motors out every 3-4 years anyway for re-detailing the engine compartment, re-painting the motors (LS1 doesn't apply here) and other various reasons such as refreshening,,,and while it's out it's simple to repaint the headers anyway.
    With a good quality paint, proper stripping and metal prep,,,I get 3-4 years easily out of a good paint on the headers,,,which works out great for me because it's usually time to pull the motor by that time.

    This isn't an option for some of you guys I know,,,,just some of the fun I have had over the years. Larry.

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    Oh,,,just another heads up on the wrap,,,,don't spill anything on them,,like gas or oil,,,,it soaks it up and does catch fire if not carefull,,also it stains and starts looking like crap if you use a light color of wrap.

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    Damn! All you guys are paying $300 for ceramic coatings. I probably shouldn't say this, but I spent at the most $40 for a set of headers to get coated!

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    Actually the last set I had done about 3 years ago was $180 plus shipping and tax. Probably more than that now but still expensive for what you get in my opinion, and having to recoat them every 4-5 years or so,,,I just get tired of it. Larry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firebirdjones View Post
    Actually the last set I had done about 3 years ago was $180 plus shipping and tax. Probably more than that now but still expensive for what you get in my opinion, and having to recoat them every 4-5 years or so,,,I just get tired of it. Larry.
    What kind of high temp paint do you use?

  17. #17
    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    I have experimented with several, but I tend to lean torwards paint for outside cooking grills. After stripping and prepping properly, that stuff hangs pretty tough for 3-4 years,,,about when I pull the motor out anyway for re-detailing. It's cheap and easy, and I don't have to wait.
    Don't get me wrong,,,I love the high luster of the coatings you get, they look great when they are fresh and looks awsome against the aluminum heads on my chevelle,,,I just wish they lasted more than 4-5 years before they need coated again,,,Larry.

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    Guess I'm old school, I'm still hesitant to wrap. Ceramic is an excellent heat insulator but if you're like me your exhaust system is fairly tuned thus a good hard pure nickel coating serves the job well provided you've got some decent air flowing through the underhood.

    Still amazes me how so many people put huge pipes from the header flange back when a graduated system is far better at keeping the desired negative pressure at the exhaust ports.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firebirdjones View Post
    I have experimented with several, but I tend to lean torwards paint for outside cooking grills. After stripping and prepping properly, that stuff hangs pretty tough for 3-4 years,,,about when I pull the motor out anyway for re-detailing. It's cheap and easy, and I don't have to wait.
    Don't get me wrong,,,I love the high luster of the coatings you get, they look great when they are fresh and looks awsome against the aluminum heads on my chevelle,,,I just wish they lasted more than 4-5 years before they need coated again,,,Larry.
    Here is what I'm going to use if get non-coated Pacesetters:



    Description:

    "VHT FlameProof Coating will renew and extend the life of any surface exposed to extremely high temperatures. This unique coating is a matte finish, ceramic base silicone widely used by the automotive industry on exhaust systems and the aerospace industry for jet engines, re-entry vehicles, the Stealth fighter, B-2 bomber and other high temperature applications."

    Looks like good stuff to me, and you can pick it up at your local Autozone

  20. #20
    Grand Imperial Wizard Sarge's Avatar
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    True any header is going to pit and rust regardless of what you do over a period of time. My life expantency of any header regardless of material it is made out of is 3 years before you have to do "something"...once again I reinterate....I'm not advocating wrapping is "better" or "worse" than (a) doing nothing (b) ceramic coatings (c) Painting ( does nothing for underhood heat...or should I say very little IMHO)...I am just sharing what it is I have done...my observations....and yes...the old school look of wrapped headers does draw a crowd in the pits or at a car show....folks dont see that much anymore.....the Harley guys still wrap their pipes though I see...bottom line is this....wrap will last just as long...look cool...reduce underhood heat....and cost much less.....and if done correctly is tight and neat and doesnt come unraveled at all....my recommendation for what it's worth...is do one of the three versus doing nothing.....wrap em...coat em or paint em....

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