Downpipe Installation Guide: Is It Only For turbo? (& Costs)

By March 1, 2022Downpipe, Turbocharger

Downpipes are tubing parts that connect turbo housing to the exhaust system of the vehicle making the flow of the exhaust gasses smooth from turbo to the exhaust system. Factory downpipes contain a catalytic converter in them that traps the harmful chemicals from the gasses and makes the gasses safe for the environment.

Term downpipe is mostly referred to the turbo charged engine as naturally aspirated engines have front pipes that connect headers to the exhaust system. Front pipes also have a catalytic converter.

Downpipes provide a passage for the exhaust gasses that are used by turbo and pass out from the turbo housing. This passage regulates the exhaust gasses and makes the gasses flow at a smooth rate.

I have used a downpipe on my turbocharged Honda civic. It made my car sound a lot better and also provided a certain change in the power. It was a custom made downpipe that went bolt on to my car and no alterations were done.

In this blog we are going to discuss the installation process of the downpipe and the cost involved. We will also talk about the advantages and disadvantages of downpipe on the turbo as well the naturally aspirated engines.

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What is a downpipe in a turbo engine?

In turbo engines the exhaust gasses enter into the turbo charger and leave the housing after spinning the turbo blades. Downpipe is the tube that carry these gasses from the turbo housing to the exhaust system and then this pass through the exhaust system into the environment

The purpose that downpipe serves in the turbo engine is very important for the exhaust sound and for the horsepower. The stock system is restrictive and narrow so the flow of the gasses is not that good. The downpipe is wide, well-built and has a smooth surface that allows the gasses to pass at a better rate and the flow is smooth making the car sound better. This also improves the horsepower as the gasses pass out quickly and intake stroke happens easily making more power.

Downpipes are easily available for different models that are bolt on and can be a DIY project. But for some older models you may have to custom design a downpipe and for this you need a professional.

Is installing a downpipe easy?

Installing a downpipe is really easy if the downpipe is made for the vehicle you are installing in. The downpipe is just a bolt-on pipe that you replace with your stock pipe and you do not need special tools for the installation.

The downpipe according to your vehicle’s specification can be bought easily from different aftermarket companies. If the downpipe is made specifically for the vehicle you own then this process is a DIY if you have the right tools.

Sometimes the downpipe according to the vehicle’s specs is not available in the market so you have to fabricate one according to your vehicle. In this scenario highly trained and professional workers are needed for the job to be done.

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What are the tools required for the installation of downpipes?

The tools required for the installation of the downpipe are the usual garage tools and no special tools are needed for this. As this is a bolt on replacement so the usual garage tools perform the job well.

If you buy the aftermarket kit for the downpipe then it is a DIY project in your garage and takes no time to put it on.

You need simple garage tools for the installation that are listed below

  • 13 mm socket
  • 6 mm Allen
  • Screw driver
  • 22 mm wrench 
  • Oxygen sensor wrench 
  • 27 mm wrench 

These are the common tools that you need to swap a downpipe in Volkswagen. The tools may vary according to the vehicle but no special tools are needed.

How much does it cost to install a downpipe?

The cost of a downpipe starts from as low as 80$ and goes up to 600$. The cost depends on the material and the manufacturer. It also depends on the model and make of the vehicle.

Some cheap downpipes are available for 80$ or 100$ and usually are catless downpipes. For the installation of these downpipes, you have to check the laws of your state about emission control standards. Good material and well fabricated downpipes cost up to 500$ and these perform an excellent job.

For most of the luxury cars the cost is high and crosses the 500$ as the material is up to the mark and the brand is well known.

If you get a custom downpipe from a local shop the cost is in between 200-400$. The installation of the downpipe from the dealership is usually high and most of the people go to the local shops where you can get it installed in less than 200$

As we know the aftermarket downpipe is a bolt on swap so the people with moderate knowledge of the cars do it by themselves saving the cost for the installation.

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How long does it take to install a downpipe?

Installing a downpipe on the lift takes only 60 minutes or less. On the jack stand it may take up to 2 hours because it’s difficult to work under the car.

As we know the downpipe swap is bolt on and needs no alteration so it’s an easy and quick job to do. If you are working with the lift then the job is not more than a 60 minutes project with the right tools because the lift makes it easy to work under the car and saves time.

While working with the jack stand can take longer because of the difficulties to manage work under the car but still this should not take more than 2 hours.

How to install a turbo downpipe?

Installing a turbo downpipe is so easy and can be done in your garage. If you buy an aftermarket kit then it’s just a bolt on swap.

Before installing the downpipe, you need to make sure you have all the tools needed for the job and the parts you bought are made for your vehicle

Here is the complete guide for the installation process.

  • Before installing the downpipe make sure the vehicle is completely cold because you are going to deal with the hottest part of the vehicle.
  • First of all remove the connector from the lower end of the stock pipe that is connecting the pipe with the exhaust system.
  • Disconnect the oxygen sensor wire and make sure the wire doesn’t get stuck with anything in the engine bay compartment when removing the pipe.
  • Disconnect the pipe from the turbo housing 
  • Remove the damper brackets that are holding the pipe in place.
  • Remove the factory pipe from the vehicle to make sure the oxygen sensor wire is not getting any damage.
  • Check the gaskets on the turbo housing and on the exhaust system. If the vehicle is old you may need to change the gaskets. If these are good then you can reuse them.
  • Now place the oxygen sensor on the downpipe but keep it loose as you may have to adjust it accordingly.
  • Put the downpipe in its place and tighten the clamps on both ends. Make sure the clamps are properly covering the joint and it’s not leaking at all.
  • Now adjust the oxygen sensor in such a way that it’s not touching anything in the engine compartment.
  • Connect the wires for the oxygen sensor.
  • Place the dampener bracket in place.
  • Make sure all the joints are properly tightened.
  • Start the vehicle and check for the exhaust leak but do not touch anything as this gets hot very quickly.

Almost every vehicle has the same process to install the downpipe but it may vary a bit from vehicle to vehicle. The basic process is the same for almost every vehicle.

After the installation you may feel some oil burning smell or some smoke but do not worry about it as it is the oil residue that is burning and will vanish in a minute after you start driving the car.

The installation of a custom downpipe may require some professionals because it may need some adjustments to be made according to the vehicle.

Why do I need to install the downpipe?

Installing a downpipe gives you a lot of benefits from sound to performance. Installing a downpipe on turbo is the only modification that can be done in less time and is also cost effective.

Down piping the turbo setup provides major benefits for the performance of the car. The major purpose the downpipe serves is the smooth flow of the exhaust gasses that cause the gasses to leave the system quickly and give the turbo extra spin and it prevents the turbo to spool quickly preventing turbo lags. No turbo lags give the car instant power and that can be felt easily just by swapping the downpipe.

The other major benefit you are going to get is the sound of the car. If you feel your car doesn’t sound good the downpipe is the thing that can get your car sound well because the sound waves do not overlap and you feel the perfect sound because of the smooth flow of the gasses. 

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Can you install a downpipe on a naturally aspirated engine?

Downpipe is only used for turbo cars. Naturally aspirated cars have headers that connect the exhaust chamber to the exhaust system. So, upgrading the headers will let your engine gain more power.

The term downpipe is used only for the turbo charged engines and the naturally aspirated cars have headers or may sometimes those be referred as front pipes. If you want to upgrade this system you have to upgrade the headers that will allow you to gain power.

The stock headers are narrow and the flow of the gasses is not smooth so in order to pass the gasses quickly and smoothly you have to increase the diameter of the headers and the material should be smooth surfaced. This process helps the exhaust gasses to pass out quickly and you get the desired power.

Most of the time you have to upgrade the whole exhaust system in order to get the power out of the engine as by upgrading only the front pipe does not do the desired job. So, this process costs a lot as compared to downpipe alone.

Is it legal to install a downpipe?

Downpipe is not legal because the catalytic converter installed in them is high flow and it does not match the standard emission control laws thus making the downpipe illegal.

The downpipe without a catalytic converter is totally illegal as they do not pass the yearly inspection standards. But the one with a catalytic converter may cause problems in certain states where the laws are strict because it may not pass the standard test.

Most of the people usually swap the downpipe for the performance purpose and use it for the drift or drag purpose. So, it’s not street legal and cannot be used daily.

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From all the discussion above we can conclude that downpipe is the easiest mode that can be done on any turbo vehicle to gain more power. It is cost efficient, easy to install and requires very few skills. All these characteristics make it worth having in the turbo vehicles to boost the power and a fun to drive vehicle. Most of the people want to make less modification but want some fun with the ride so this is the perfect solution for them

Downpipe has no harm to the engine or to the vehicle and this plus point attracts most of the people who want to make power and want their car and engine to be reliable. 

For the naturally aspirated cars this is not the solution to get the power out of the stock engine so you have to deal with a lot of modifications to extract the desired power and is not cost friendly. This may also cause many problems to the engine also, so if reliability is your concern, you must not go for it on a naturally aspirated engine.   

Chai WJ.

Chai WJ.

I am a car enthusiast and a passionate rider who loves to discover new places. Since the pandemic, I can't go to places and I started to blog and share information that I learned. I'm not easily distracted, I just... OMG, do I hear a Supra?

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