5 Muffler Types Compared For Sound, Power & Mileage (Detailed)

By August 18, 2021Muffler

Throughout my car days, I have installed multiple types of mufflers to my Civic – some were great while some were loud as hell.

Strangely, I couldn’t find any in-depth articles that compare the different types of mufflers. I remember I had to hop on different forums and articles to get my answer.  

Fortunately for you, here is the great article I wished I had!

In this blog post, I’ll be talking about the 5 types of Mufflers and compare them for sound, power, mileage, legality, cost, and installation.

Too lazy to read? I got you. Here’s a comparison table of the most common muffler types.

  Chambered Muffler Turbo Muffler Straight Through Muffler Resonator Exhaust Baffle
Sound Gain Noticeably louder but not too loud Slightly louder than stock Very loud Used together with muffler to reduce sound Used together with muffler to reduce sound
Horsepower Gain + 0-5% HP

 

+ 0-10% HP + 5-15% HP No impact No impact
Mileage No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact
Legal Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Void Warranty Partially Partially Partially Partially No
Cost $100-$300 $50-$100 $50-$300 $60-$300 $50-$250
Installation $80-$100 $80-$100 $80-$100 $70-$100 $70-$120

1. Chambered Muffler

Chambered mufflers silence sound by using steel plates that bounce sound waves against each other to cancel them out.

Chambered muffler is the most common type of muffler. Majority of stock mufflers are chambered mufflers. 

Chambered muffler summary table:

  Chambered Muffler
Sound Gain Noticeably louder but not too loud
Horsepower Gain 0-10% horsepower gain
Mileage No impact
Legal Yes
Void Warranty Partially
Cost $100-$300
Installation $80-$100
Image of the internals of a muffler

Chambered mufflers consists of metal plates positioned to make chambers and bounce sound waves to each other.

Sound

Aftermarket chambered mufflers can either be slightly louder or noticeably louder than stock mufflers – depending on the number of chambers. Less number and smaller chambers will result in louder sound. 

Generally, chambered mufflers are noticeably louder than stock mufflers and they produce a deeper exhaust note. I give a sound rating of 2/5 for a chambered muffler. 

Chambered muffler is suitable if you want a noticeable sound improvement but still want to keep it moderate and not cause a disturbance. 

Personally, this is my go to muffler. I enjoy the louder exhaust note – it’s noticeably louder but not so loud it’s deafening. 

 

Horsepower

Chambered mufflers will not provide much horsepower (if any). This depends on the number of chambers. One with lesser chambers and straight-through pipe can help increase horsepower by up to 5%

There are many variables that contribute to the amount of horsepower gained with a chambered muffler such as engine size, exhaust system design, and vehicle weight.

But generally, you don’t get chambered mufflers for performance. Don’t expect any power gain from a chambered muffler. 

Personally, I did not gain any horsepower from my chambered muffler. 

 

Mileage

A chambered muffler will not impact gas mileage. Most stock mufflers are chambered and the backpressure difference will not be significant enough to impact gas mileage. 

Do not expect any gas mileage improvement from a chambered muffler. Instead, you can try other gas mileage improvement tips like keeping your boot empty when not in use. 

Muffler is located at the very end of the exhaust system. Changes in this area will not cause any change in gas mileage.

 

Is It Legal?

A chambered muffler is legal in most states. Legality typically depends on how loud a muffler is. Chambered muffler does not significantly make your car louder – so it’s legal in many states. 

Installing an aftermarket muffler is legal. What makes it illegal is usually the loudness and emission. For instance, California limits the exhaust sound to be 95 decibels.

A chambered muffler does not make your car too loud but it’s still best to check with your local regulations on the sound limit and also check with your seller. 

Also, most companies selling mufflers like Flowmaster or Magnaflow all have a federal motor vehicle safety standard which ensures that they are safe for street use on vehicles with up to two axles.

However, there can be local regulations that prohibit their installation on certain types of vehicles such as motorcycles or trucks with three axles or more. 

If you’re unsure whether your vehicle falls under these exceptions, then consult your local DMV office!

 

Does It Void Warranty?

Installing a chambered muffler will void the warranty of your stock muffler and exhaust. It will not void the entire car warranty. 

Which muffler is your car right now?

The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act is a federal law to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices. 

The purpose of the act was to make warranties on products binding and enforceable, so that manufacturers would be responsible for honouring their promises when it came to things like performance and product life.

Under the Magnusson-Moss act, auto dealers must be able to prove in a warranty claim that the car’s chambered muffler caused the damage.

Dealers are usually experienced with these scenarios, which means they should be able to void the warranty of related parts like mufflers and exhausts. 

 

Cost & Installation

In general, a chambered muffler will cost anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on where you purchase it from and what brand it is.

Here’s how to install a chamber muffler:

  1. Remove the stock muffler from your car and use a socket wrench to loosen it.
  2. Remove the bolts that hold down the chamber muffler clamp onto your exhaust pipe.
  3. Align or center up the clamps of both pieces on either side of one another so they match up.
  4. Tighten them by hand. There you go!

You can also go to any workshop and get your new chamber muffler installed at a minimal labor cost i.e., $80-$100.

As I said, a chambered muffler is my go to. If you are interested in getting one, here’s an article I wrote about what to look for when getting aftermarket mufflers (especially chambered).

2. Turbo Muffler

Turbo muffler is an aftermarket muffler that’s designed to reduce restriction, improve horsepower but still provide sound muffling using fiberglass packing. 

Unlike chambered mufflers, turbo mufflers don’t use any steel plates to bounce sound waves. 

Instead, turbo mufflers consist of an ‘S’ shaped pipe which allows exhaust gases and sound waves to flow without much restriction.

Turbo muffler is designed this way – specifically to reduce restriction and allow exhaust gases to flow out easily. 

Turbo muffler is wrapped around fiberglass packing that’s great for absorbing sound waves. Which means, instead of using steel plates to bounce sound waves, turbo mufflers absorb the sound waves. 

Turbo muffler pro? It reduces exhaust restriction – which results in horsepower!

Turbo muffler con? It’s the most quiet aftermarket muffler. It’s still slightly louder than a stock muffler but don’t expect significant sound gain.

  Turbo Muffler
Sound Gain Slightly louder than stock
Horsepower Gain 0-10% horsepower gain
Mileage No impact
Legal Yes 
Void Warranty Partially
Cost $50-$100
Installation $80-$100

Turbo muffler is designed for better air flow and still quiet car sound.

Sound

Turbo muffler is slightly louder than stock mufflers. Turbo muffler is designed to to reduce exhaust restriction, while still silence sound waves using fiberglass packing.

Do not get turbo mufflers if you want a loud sound. Turbo muffler is meant for performance with effective sound suppression. 

This is suitable for people who want some horsepower but don’t want a loud car.

 

Horsepower

A Turbo Muffler adds about 10% horsepower  by reducing exhaust restriction of your car. The actual horsepower gain depends on your engine size and car model.

Turbo mufflers work by reducing the amount of back pressure in your engine and increasing flow. This means more air is being pushed into the cylinders faster than ever before

Note: You don’t need a turbocharged car to use turbo mufflers. The term ‘turbo’ in turbo muffler is not referring to a turbocharger. 

 

Mileage

A turbo muffler does not improve gas mileage. The improvement in exhaust restriction is not significant enough to give you any noticeable gas mileage. 

Similar to a chambered muffler, do not get a turbo muffler for mileage improvement. The changes are not significant enough.

 

Legal

Turbo mufflers are legal. It does not significantly increase car sound and does not impact emission. 

To be on the safe side, measure the sound of your car while revving. If the sound emitted by your turbo muffler is below 95db, then it’s legal to use.

I wouldn’t worry at all about legality after installing a turbo muffler. 

 

Does It Void Warranty?

A turbo muffler will void the warranty of your stock muffler and exhaust. This is because those related parts will be involved during the installation process. 

The reasoning is the same with what I have discussed in the chambered muffler section above. 

In short, your dealer cannot void your entire car warranty because they have to prove how your aftermarket muffler is a direct cause of the problem.

Best they can do is void your muffler and exhaust because they are directly involved during the installation of a turbo muffler. 

 

Cost

The cost of a turbo muffler is somewhere around $50-$100 or above. The price of a turbo muffler depends on the brand you choose.

You can visit any workshop and get your new turbo muffler installed at a minimal labor cost i.e., $80-$100.

3. Straight Through Muffler

Straight through muffler is an aftermarket muffler that’s designed with loud sound and horsepower in mind. It has a single ‘straight-through’ pipe that allows exhaust and sound waves to travel easily. 

Straight through muffler is made of a single chamber and a single straight through pipe that allows exhaust gases to flow easily.

It also contains fiberglass packing to help with sound suppression – which is not that effective, given that a straight through muffler is extremely loud. 

 

Straight through muffler is the loudest type of muffler. It’s more suitable to be used in weekend track cars rather than a daily street car. 

Here’s a summary table for a straight through muffler:

  Straight-through Muffler
Sound Gain Very loud
Horsepower Gain 5-15% horsepower gain
Mileage No impact
Legal No
Void Warranty Partially
Cost $50-$300
Installation $80-$100
Glasspack mufflers

Straight through muffler is hollow and reduces backpressure significantly (it’s also extremely loud!)

Sound 

Straight-through mufflers are extremely loud- because they let exhaust gases flow through, going straight out of the tailpipe and into the atmosphere.

Straight through mufflers come with many different sound options, from a low idle to choppy sounds depending on RPMs (higher the RPM, the louder).

Straight through mufflers are not effective for soundproofing because of their single chamber. 

The loud noise from the engine easily finds its way into the pipe and exits into your car, or onto a neighborhood street.

 

Horsepower

You can gain up to 5 – 15% horsepower from a single straight-through muffler. The actual gain depends on your engine size and exhaust systems – but you can expect minor gain in horsepower.

Straight through muffler is usually used by track enthusiasts who have a separate weekend track car and are serious about power gain.

That being said, if you are looking for something with more power, installing an aftermarket exhaust system could be worth considering instead of just one straight through mufflers.

Dual exhaust is a good mod for horsepower. Adding the second pipe and splitting the sound waves out into two different directions can offer up as much as 60 additional horsepower.

 

Mileage

Straight through the muffler does not impact gas mileage – you will not lose or gain any mileage.

That being said, many drivers subconsciously rev too much because of the new aggressive sound from their car. This can actually reduce gas mileage. 

This is why some people say straight through mufflers could reduce gas mileage. This is not true. The impact on gas mileage is not noticable.

In fact, if there is any gain, you should improve gas mileage instead. Just because a straight through muffler reduces backpressure – which means more fuel can burn in the combustion chamber and produce optimal combustion.

 

Legal

Straight through mufflers are not legal in many areas because they are extremely loud and are beyond the legal limit.

It’s best to check the local regulations. But if you are living in strict states like California, I can tell you that straight through mufflers are definitely not legal for street use. 

An aftermarket part is usually not legal either because of emission or noise level. Straight through muffler violates the noise level for street use. 

 

Does It Void Warranty?

A straight through muffler voids the warranty of your muffler and exhaust system. It does not void the warranty of your entire car – just related parts like the muffler and exhaust system.

This is again due to the Magnusson-Moss act. A dealer can only void your warranty if they can prove how your aftermarket mod is a direct cause to the issue. 

Which is why you risk voiding warranty for related parts like mufflers and exhausts but not other parts like your sound system, or headlight or coilovers – you get my point. 

 

Cost

A Straight-through muffler will cost you around $50-$300 depending on the brand you choose and material used. Be prepared to pay another $100 for installation fee. 

You can of course install a straight-through muffler by yourself. I am sure you can find many tutorials on YouTube. 

Best case scenario – you just need to unscrew and screw back a few parts. Worst case scenario – you need to cut, weld and order some exhaust clamps. Make sure the straight through muffler fits your exhaust pipe!

4. Resonator

A resonator is a type of muffler that’s designed to reduce drones and hums at low RPM. It’s typically used together with a muffler and may even come equipped with a stock muffler.

Resonator looks like a straight-through muffler but works a bit differently. They are not designed to change exhaust note. But instead, designed to reduce unpleasant noises like drones and hums.

Resonator is typically installed together with a resonator (so you have both a muffler and resonator). Although some people remove their muffler and replace it with a resonator – which makes your car extremely loud.

I will talk more about this in the sound section below. 

  Resonator
Sound Gain Used together with muffler to reduce noise
Horsepower Gain No impact
Mileage No impact
Legal Yes
Void Warranty Partially
Cost $60-$300
Installation $70-$100
Resonator

Resonator is very similar to straight through muffler and contains an insulation tube inside. It’s usually used together with a muffler.

Sound

When a resonator is used together with a muffler, it won’t change the car sound. Instead, it eliminates unpleasant drones and humming at low RPM.

When a resonator is used to replace a muffler, your car will become extremely loud and may be illegal. This is because a resonator alone will not muffle your car sound. 

Replacing a muffler with a resonator is like straight piping your car or installing a straight-through muffler. The car becomes extremely loud because exhaust gases and sound waves can flow straight out.

 

Horsepower

Installing a resonator alongside a stock muffler doesn’t impact horsepower by much and is not noticeable.

However, if you replace a muffler with a resonator, then you can gain horsepower that’s similar to a straight-through muffler – about 5-15% horsepower gain.

 

Mileage

Installing a resonator has no impact on gas mileage. It does not impact backpressure by much. 

 

Legal

Yes, a car resonator is totally legal because it helps in removing unpleasant droning and humming from your exhaust system.

In fact, some cars come equipped with both mufflers and resonators from the  factory.

 

Does It Void Warranty?

Installing an aftermarket resonator can void the warranty of your exhaust system because it may involve cutting and welding.

Same as other muffler types, the Magnusson Moss Warranty act dictates that to void warranty, a dealer needs to prove how your aftermarket part is a direct cause to the issue.

It doesn’t take rocket science to point out that your custom cutting or welding causes issues in your exhaust system (even if it doesn’t, these dealers are more experienced than you).

 

Cost

A resonator ranges from $60 – $300 depending on the price. And you need to chip in an additional $100 for installation fee.

My suggestion is to look up YouTube videos on how to install a resonator. I am sure you can find many videos regarding this.

Make sure the inlet and outlet size of your resonator matches your exhaust pipe. Otherwise, you will need cutting or custom clamps. 

5. Exhaust Baffle

Exhaust baffles are steel pipes that are inserted into a muffler or exhaust tip to further reduce engine sound.

Exhaust baffles are more common in motorcycles, but some people get aftermarket baffles to quiet down their cars even more. 

Here’s the summary table for an exhaust baffle:

  Exhaust Baffle
Sound Gain Used together with muffler to reduce noise
Horsepower Gain No Impact
Mileage No Impact
Legal Yes
Void Warranty No
Cost $50-$250
Installation $70-$120
Exhaust buffle

Exhaust baffle is inserted into muffler or tail pipe to further reduce sound.

Sound

Baffles work really well in reducing noise. You can expect a reduction of about 30%.

The sound of the engine is usually reduced due to the process of diverting the exhaust, causing its vibrations or pulsing caused by gasses exiting from a cylinder are partially absorbed by steel and translocated into the muffler.

 

Horsepower

Exhaust baffles will not impact your horsepower gain.

In theory. exhaust baffles can result in higher back pressure – leading to a decreased horsepower. 

However, the extra backpressure is minimal and is added at the very end of the exhaust system. The power loss should not be noticeable.

 

Mileage

Exhaust baffles will not impact your gas mileage. The changes added by exhaust baffles are minor and are located at the very end of an exhaust system.

 

Legal

It is totally legal to use exhaust baffles to reduce the noises coming from your car’s engine.

With exhaust baffles, you are further reducing your car noise to meet the legal limit and exhaust baffles do not increase emission in any way. 

 

Does It Void Warranty?

An exhaust baffle does not void warranty. You don’t need cutting or welding to install it and you can always quickly remove them before claiming for warranty.

Exhaust baffles are steel tubes that you insert on an exhaust to further reduce sound. The insertion will not cause any damage to your exhaust and will not impact your car warranty.

 

Cost

A typical exhaust baffle will cost you around $50-$250. 

However, the price of an exhaust baffle depends on your car model, and its compatibility with the baffle you intend to buy.

Installation is pretty simple, it’s a matter of inserting the exhaust baffle into your exhaust pipe. You won’t need any cutting or welding. 

Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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