The Upgrade Guide for Ram 1500 Headers. The Ram 1500 is one of America’s most recognizable trucks. It first appeared in 1981 and received the coveted 5.7L HEMI engine two decades later in 2003. The 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.7L HEMI engine produced 345 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque and was a tremendous success when it was released. While drivers were largely pleased with the Ram’s power delivery and towing capabilities, enthusiasts began seeking for ways to increase power almost immediately. We’ve already looked at general headers for the 5.7L HEMI, but this article is about Ram 1500 headers. Continue reading to learn about the top header alternatives for your Ram 1500.
What exactly are Ram 1500 Headers?
Headers are components of an automobile’s exhaust system that link directly to the engine. In factory form, they are known as exhaust manifolds, and the name headers usually refers to aftermarket equipment. Headers improve horsepower and torque on the 5.7 HEMI by opening up the exhaust flow and allowing the engine to breathe more freely. Ram 1500 headers are made up of two parts: separate runners that connect to the cylinders and the merge collector, which connects them all together to form one huge pipe.
Exhaust headers’ primary function is to collect hot and toxic gasses being blasted out of the engine and route them through the rest of the exhaust system. Headers are often made of high-quality metals such as T304 stainless steel and connect directly to the cylinder head(s). Inline engines typically have one header per engine, while V-style engines, such as the 5.7 HEMI, have two headers, one for each engine bank.
The goal of modifying aftermarket exhaust headers is to improve the velocity with which exhaust gases exit the engine. The more quickly oxygen-depleted exhaust gases are evacuated and replaced by oxygen-rich clean air, the better. Scavenging is a procedure that adds to improved horsepower and torque.
What are Ram 1500 Headers?
Properly built Ram 1500 headers will reduce back pressure and encourage scavenging while increasing exhaust gas velocity. In general, aftermarket headers will feature larger diameter runners and merging collectors than factory headers to alleviate back pressure. The pressure differential between the engine and the headers grows as the diameter increases. Because air travels from high pressure zones to low pressure areas, this increases the exhaust velocity. The bigger the pressure differential, the greater the velocity of the exhaust flow.
Reducing back pressure has the additional benefit of improving scavenging on the engine. Scavenging is the process by which exhaust air exits the engine and is replaced by clean air containing more oxygen. Scavenging is caused by appropriately timed pressure waves, as we will describe.
When exhaust air exits the engine and enters the headers, it carries positive pressure waves with it. Negative low pressure waves are pushed back in the opposite direction when the waves contact the merging collector. The negative low pressure waves will reach the cylinder before the valve closes again, drawing more of the high pressure exhaust air out of the engine. This is because, as previously said, air prefers to go from high to low pressure. The faster this process occurs, the more electricity is produced.
Additionally, there is inertial scavenging. When positive pressure waves move through the exhaust, they leave a low pressure area in their wake, which is known as inertial scavenging. Through pressure differential, these low pressure locations suck exhaust from the engine. The greater the exhaust velocity, the smaller the pressure area in its trail, implying that exhaust gases will be sucked out of the engine faster. The faster exhaust gases depart the engine, the more horsepower and torque it can produce.
What is the significance of proper Ram 1500 headers?
If you do not have well-designed headers, your engine may struggle to scavenge adequately and may experience reversion. Reversion is the inverse of scavenging and occurs when there is excessive back pressure. If there is excessive back pressure, the pressure differential between the engine and the headers is insufficient. As a result, the exhaust gases will be blasted out more slowly, allowing them to linger in the engine and exhaust. If there is a buildup of unclean exhaust gases in the combustion chamber, it takes up space for clean air, reducing horsepower, torque, and efficiency.
As a result, you must ensure that your headers reduce back pressure and reversion while simultaneously encourage scavenging. They must be well-designed in order for this to occur. Not only do they require acceptable flow characteristics, but the merge collector and runners must also be suitably designed and spaced to promote maximum velocity while minimizing back pressure. Back pressure is created not just by insufficient piping, but also by poorly constructed headers with several bends and joins.
This is why it’s critical to collaborate with reputable manufacturers who put in the effort to perfect their ideas. You will be worse off with headers that do not maximize flow and scavenging while lowering back pressure and reversion.
Long-tube vs. Short-tube Ram 1500 Headers
Long-tube headers and short-tube headers are the two most frequent types of aftermarket headers for the Ram 1500. The fundamental distinction between the two is, as their names suggest, their length. Short-tube headers are solely intended to replace the exhaust manifold up to the catalytic converters. Long-tube headers, on the other hand, reach much further back, all the way to where the cat-back begins.
Long-tube headers significantly surpass short-tube headers in terms of performance benefits. This is mostly due to the removal of the catalytic converter(s) from the exhaust system by long-tube headers. Catalytic converters are extremely restrictive and generate enormous quantities of back pressure, but they are required for emissions control. Removing or replacing them with high-flow equivalents significantly reduces back pressure in the system, allowing for faster exhaust flow and more power.
Short-tube headers will still deliver some advantages, but not nearly as much as long-tube headers. However, the legal ramifications of using catless or high-flow catted exhausts must be considered.
Upgrades for Catless vs. High-Flow Cats
The difference between Ram 1500 long-tube headers and Ram 1500 short-tube headers, as previously stated, is that the long-tubes frequently replace the catalytic converters. Unfortunately, catalytic converters are required in many regions for a car to be declared emissions compliant.
As a result, many individuals will opt for long-tube headers outfitted with high-flow catalytic converters. These catalytic converters continue to filter emissions from the car, but they are less restrictive (and hence more effective) than standard converters. They are usually sufficient to be considered emissions compliant, but they still outperform stock units in terms of performance. This is a decent halfway point for most individuals because it provides for greater performance while still remaining legal on the road.
Short-tube headers connect directly to the catalytic converter pipe, eliminating the need for emissions equipment. If you live in an area where the standard cats are required, short-tube headers may be your only option for replacing your exhaust.
Another factor to consider with Ram 1500 long-tube headers is the need for a modified cat-back. They will not bolt up to the rest of the OEM exhaust without modification, so you will need to perform some welding or get a new cat-back.
The Advantages of Ram 1500 Header Upgrades
Most Ram 1500 header improvements are concerned with power gains, but there are several other advantages as well. Some of the benefits of Ram 1500 header upgrades include:
- +10 to +25 wheel horsepower
- -5 to +20 wheel torque
- Back pressure has been reduced.
- Enhanced scavenging
- Exhaust sound has been improved.
A pair of Ram 1500 headers will increase wheel horsepower and torque by 10 to 25 percent. But, before we get into power gains, consider some of the additional advantages of header installations.
One of the most significant advantages of Ram 1500 header upgrades is the previously mentioned lower back-pressure and increased scavenging effectiveness. OEM manifolds are only as effective as is required for stock power levels, and they are manufactured as cheaply as feasible. At greater than stock power levels, aftermarket headers minimize backpressure and boost scavenging.
The improvement in exhaust volume and tone is another benefit of header upgrades. Aftermarket headers boost the loudness of one’s exhaust while also producing a raspier, more guttural, and aggressive tone. Both effects are exacerbated more by long-tube headers than by short-tube headers. The difference is most evident at wide open throttle and on cold starts, but it is also noticeable at idle.
Gains in Ram 5.7 HEMI Header Horsepower
Now, let’s get back to the most significant aspect of Ram 1500 header upgrades: increased power. Long-tube headers, as previously stated, often provide improvements of 10-25 wheel horsepower and 10-20 wheel torque. ECU tuning is highly required for any Ram 1500 header changes to maximize power improvements and ensure safe operation.
For the reasons stated previously, long-tube headers will offer greater power throughout the rpm range on the Ram 1500 than shorty headers. However, they will often be 2-5 times more expensive.
Headers are an excellent way to increase the power and volume of an exhaust. They work well when combined with modifications like as intakes and cat backs. Exploring all of the numerous combinations allows enthusiasts to truly tune their exhaust sounds to their preferences.
Ram 1500 Headers at Their Finest
Now that we understand what headers are and why they are necessary for the Ram 1500, let’s look at some recommendations. Because there are so many alternatives, this list is not intended to be thorough or comprehensive. Furthermore, not all exhausts are compatible with all truck model years, so double-check both before purchasing.
This article is intended to take a look at the most practical Ram 1500 headers on the market today. The list includes both long-tube and short-tube headers to accommodate a wide range of budgets, settings, and power goals. In no particular order, here are the top five header improvements for the Ram 1500’s 5.7L HEMI engine.
*When installing new headers on the Ram 1500, it is always a good idea to buy new OEM gaskets. It is never a good idea to reuse outdated ones because they are prone to cracking and leaking.
1) Ram 1500 Long-System Headers by American Racing Headers
Price: $1,926.57 – $2,054.79
Fits the following models: 2006-2022 (6-speed); 2006-2008, 2013-2022 (8-speed).
American Racing Headers’ Ram 1500 Long-tube, Long-system Headers are the first on the list. American Racing Headers (ARH) are the best Ram 1500 long-tube header manufacturers, and our number one choice. They feature amazing craftsmanship and welding.
The ARH long-tubes are quite expensive, but you are definitely paying for quality. They have an aggressive tone and may be paired with an ARH cat back for the best fit, performance, and sound.
The ARHs cover all head combinations and are made of T304 stainless steel. They are available in both 1-34″ x 3″ and 1-7/8″ x 3″ primary. They also have a 3″ Y-pipe that connects the two primaries into a single exit. The ARH long-tubes for the Ram 1500 are built entirely in the United States and have 200 cell cats. These headers on the Ram 1500’s 5.7L HEMI should produce 10-25 wheel horsepower and 10-20 wheel torque.
2) Ram 1500 Classic Long-tube Header Kit by Stainless Works
Price: $2,056.00 – $2,191.00
Our second item is Stainless Works’ Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers (2009-2019) [or (2019-2023)]. They are yet another excellent choice for 5.7 HEMI headers and deliver excellent performance. Users can get 10-20 wheel horsepower as well as amazing and powerful tones from these headers.
The Stainless Works Ram 1500 headers are on the pricey side for headers, but they are well worth the money. They are available in two forms, the most common of which is a y-pipe that connects both primaries into a single exit. The other is an X-pipe that links to the Stainless Works’ cat back and provides a real dual exit.
They are made entirely in the United States and come in either 1-34″ x 3″ or 1-7/8″ x 3″ primary. They are well acclaimed for their exceptional fit, fantastic craftsmanship, and welding on the Ram 1500. The Stainless Works is only available with a high-flow cat. Another top-tier entry, but at top-tier rates.
3) JBA 1-34-inch Long-tube for Ram 5.7L HEMI
Prices range from $659.00 to $968.00 (with Y-pipe).
The JBA Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers come next. In terms of headers, the JBAs are a low-cost choice for the 5.7L HEMI. They come with an optional 3″ Y-pipe for an additional $309 on top of the $660 base price.
The JBAs will not outperform the Stainless Works or ARHs, but they will provide good gains. After installing these headers on the Ram 1500, users should expect 8-20 wheel horsepower and 5-15 wheel torque.
The JBAs have received generally excellent feedback, while some users have reported fitment and quality difficulties. Some individuals adore them and have logged millions of miles on them, while others have had less favorable experiences. We continue to suggest them because they have shown to be high-quality headers overall.
4) Kooks Stainless Long-tube Headers for the Ram 1500
Price: $1,750.62 – $3,518.90
The Kooks Headers Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers are our fourth entry on the list. For decades, Kooks has provided performance exhaust systems and is well-known in the industry.
These headers’ prices can be misleading. The long tubes are $1750.62 on their own, but they do not come with a y-pipe like the ARHs or Stainless Works. The extra high-flow catted y-pipe costs $1,768.28. This makes the whole long-system the most expensive, however the catless y-pipe is less expensive at $1,018.35. Welding and modification will be required in the absence of the y-pipe.
After installing these long-tubes, users should expect 10-20 wheel horsepower and 5-20 wheel torque. As predicted, the welding and craftsmanship are excellent, and the fitting should be second to none. The complete system is made of T304 stainless steel and measures 1″ x 3″.
5) Gibson Performance Shorty Headers for the Ram 5.7 HEMI
The Gibson Performance Exhausts Ram 1500 Short-Tube Headers round out our selection. The major reason these are on the list is that they are one of the few models accessible prior to 2009.
Because they are short-tubes, their performance will not be comparable to the other entries on the list. However, they are still capable of making significant progress. After installing these, users should expect a 5-10 horsepower and 5-8 torque increase.
Gibson short-tubes are direct replacements for the OEM crossover pipe. Furthermore, they are CARB compliant, making them an excellent solution for individuals who must adhere to tight restrictions.
Related : The Upgraded Ram 1500 Intake
Summary of Ram 1500 Header Upgrades
Headers are a vital modification for Ram 1500 owners who want to get the most out of their car. They will not only increase power throughout the rpm range, but the lower back pressure will also improve scavenging and prevent reversion. Your exhaust tone will also become more vibrant and aggressive, reflecting the 5.7L HEMI engine’s particular traits.
On the Ram 1500, header improvements can result in an increase of 10-25 wheel horsepower and 5-20 wheel torque. Tuning provides the best bang for the money and should be utilized in combination with any header upgrade. Long-tubes can produce up to twice the horsepower of short-tubes, but they can violate emissions rules if they are catless.
Each of these headers are excellent prospective Ram 1500 upgrades. In terms of build and performance, the ARH, Kooks, and Stainless Works are all very similar. The true distinction is in how they sound, as well as their dramatically varied pricing. For those wanting for some volume and minor performance boosts, the JBAs are a solid budget alternative. Finally, for pre-2009 cars, the Gibsons are an excellent CARB compliance shorty choice.