Cat Back Exhaust Vs. Axle-Back Exhaust Systems: What’s the Difference?
April 14, 2021 | Car Gambit
An effective vehicle modification that can provide both aesthetic and performance improvements is an aftermarket exhaust system. Generally, bolt-on kits can be installed by the novice to skilled DIYer and come in two popular configurations: axle-back and cat-back. But how do you know which one is right for you? Traditionally, people that are looking for more sound than their stock parts produce turn to the axle-back option, which will increase overall volume and produce a more aggressive sound.
For those looking to not only increase sound and volume but performance as well, the cat-back is the best option. Read along below as we breakdown the features and benefits of both options and discover which one is right for you.
What are Axle-Back Exhaust Systems?
An axle-back exhaust system includes the parts after the rear axle of a vehicle, which usually consists of the muffler, tailpipe and tips. (Axle-back and cat-back configurations are vehicle dependent, and sometimes only one is available for a particular make/model.) Axle-backs are a great choice for a number of reasons
- Focuses on modifying sound quality
- Provides aggressive tone compared to stock system
- Easy bolt-on installation
- Less impact on your wallet due to lower cost
What Are Cat Back Exhaust Systems?
Cat back exhaust systems refer to all of the components that exhaust gasses flow through after exiting the vehicle’s catalytic converter. Typically, that includes a mid-pipe, muffler, tailpipe and tips. Cat-backs generally yield increases in performance, due to the more efficient flow of exhaust through upgraded parts like larger diameter tubing and better flowing mufflers, as well as improved sound and reduced weight.
- Focuses on modifying sound quality and increasing exhaust system performance
- Creates a more aggressive exterior tone
- Easy bolt-on installation
- Improves exhaust flows
- Replaces exhaust system from the catalytic converters back to the mufflers
- Reduces the overall weight of the vehicle
Performance Exhaust Systems
How does a bad exhaust system ruin your life? Let us count the ways. Just kidding, the limit does not exist. Factory exhaust systems do their job, don’t get us wrong, but they aren’t always as efficient or sound as good as a high-performance system. Over time, rust and corrosion can yield them flat-out useless. When it’s time to upgrade, you have a few options. In any case, upgrading the exhaust system on your vehicle could do everything from save you money on gas to give your muffler a tone as deep as Morgan Freeman’s.
Cat back exhaust systems (in case you need a refresher) run from the catalytic converter outlet all the way to the exhaust tip. This includes your mufflers.
An axle-back exhaust, on the other hand, just replaces the mufflers and exhaust tips on your car. If you’re looking for some shorthand: when you’re happy with the exhaust flow and power on your vehicle, an axle-back exhaust will do. It changes the exhaust sound so you can rev the engine and mean it. Want to give the flow an overhaul, too? A cat-back exhaust system it is.
Performance cat back exhaust systems are custom bent for the make, model, and year of your vehicle. In fact, Mandrel-bent tubing can increase exhaust airflow by an impressive 36%. Oh, and high-quality band clamps provide a leak-free seal. But wait, there’s more! 409 stainless steel tubing is resistant to corrosion and provides fast-flowing, efficient exhaust release. Want a smooth growl, not a harsh and bombastic noise when you hit the gas? Look for a cat back exhaust with acoustical-absorbing material (each product page will let you know how loud each system is going to be).
Not only can adding a new axle-back exhaust or cat back exhaust to your vehicle change the sound of your engine, but also free up some back pressure for more power — especially when paired with other modifications. Stainless steel exhausts can handle salty and wet conditions, so, yes, winter might be coming, but it doesn’t stand a chance against your new high-performance set up. Internal diameter consistency means less back pressure, too.
Most of the cat back exhaust systems from AutoAnything have easy, no-hassle installation. That means you can put your welding equipment away for now. Your hand tools are all you need to be the hero of your garage. This is true whether you’re working with a gas or diesel engine. Need a dual-exit system? No problem, many of our low maintenance kits are designed to handle either single or dual exits.
Start browsing our inventory of cat back exhaust and other high-performing exhaust systems now, and you’ll be ready to take care of that inefficient emissions problem once and for all. Be sure to take advantage of our 1-year price match guarantee along the way. And check out our customer reviews to see what real car and truck owners have to say about the cat back exhaust systems available on AutoAnything (spoiler: they say a lot of good stuff).
Benefits of Exhaust Systems
- Replace a worn or faulty system. If your stock exhaust system has seen better days, it’s time to replace it with a new one. A leaky system emits dangerous gases that you do not want to breathe.
- Boost performance. A new aftermarket exhaust system can reduce back pressure, which automatically puts less pressure on your motor. Less pressure boosts performance and provides better fuel economy.
- Better sound. A new cat back exhaust system can give you a better sound from your engine. This improves the sportiness of your ride and enhances your style.
Types of Exhaust Systems
Cat Back Exhaust
This is the type of exhaust that connects to the system after the last catalytic converter, another key component of the exhaust system. In general, this type of system consists of a muffler, a resonator, and a rear tailpipe. It may also include an X-pipe, a Y-pipe, or an H-pipe and a mid-pipe. Use this system if you do not need or want to replace the catalytic converter.
These are cat back exhaust systems that use one exhaust pipe to transfer all of the exhaust gases out from the exhaust manifolds to the rear of the vehicle and into the open air. Basically, the system consists of a single pipe that transfers the gases and attach on one side of the vehicle. These systems are in contrast to a dual exhaust, which has two pipes that transfer the gases.
These systems transfer exhaust gases from the outlet of a turbocharger to the rear of the vehicle and into the atmosphere. People use these systems primarily on performance cars—cars that have turbochargers on the engine. Together the cat back exhaust system, turbocharger, and other devices produce more power.
This company was founded in 1981 in Southern California, where it focuses on cat back exhaust systems for hot rods and muscle cars. It continues to engineer and produce its cat back exhaust components in Oceanside, Calif. today at a 280,000-square foot plant. Check out the Stainless Steel Performance Exhaust System Kit and the Performance Exhaust Kit they make.
Alex Borla started the company in the 1970s to create exhaust systems that would endure the harsh elements of winter. Borla began working on cars like Rolls Royce, Porsche, and Volkswagen in New York City. Eventually, the company moved to California, where it garnered the attention of the Big Three automakers: Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Today, Borla is located in Johnson City, Tenn. It makes the Cat Back exhaust “S-Type” System Exhaust, the Borla 40359 Muffler, and Rear Section Exhaust System Kit, among others.
MBRP began making exhaust systems almost 20 years ago. Its first product was The Eliminator, the best-selling performance snowmobile muffler. It now hand-welds each exhaust in its Huntsville, Ontario, Canada manufacturing plant. Discover MBRP’s 3″ Cat Back, Single Side Exit Exhaust System and its custom O.D. Dual Wall Angled Exhaust Tip.
Exhaust System Pricing
- $100-$300. Buyers will find basic exhaust systems here that include pipes and clamps for single exhaust systems. The muffler is not necessarily included. Parts are made of steel or aluminized steel.
- $300-$500. You’ll find cat back exhaust and side systems for this price. Most are single exhaust system, although you may find some dual exhaust systems. They are made of stainless steel and aluminized steel. Kits will include pipes and clamps but may or may not include a muffler.
- $500-$5,000. Expect to pay this much for top brands like Borla, Corsa and Flowmaster. Many sports cars and European model cars are included this range, which includes specialized and “loudmouth” exhaust systems.
The number one attribute of these exhaust systems is that they are constructed of stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and aluminized steel. This makes the entire system much less prone to rust and corrosion compared to exhaust systems of the past. These materials also look great and polish up well if they are exposed to salt, moisture, dirt, and grime.
If you have some basic tools, like a hacksaw (for removing the old parts) and socket wrenches, you can install your new exhaust system yourself and save money. Most pipes are pre-bent to fit your vehicle so you don’t need for heating or welding any pipes or for mandrel bends. Carefully follow the instructions after removing the old system and you’ll save money.
Improved Performance and Sound
A new exhaust system can mean reduced back pressure. Less pressure gives you power gains and better fuel economy. A new system can also give you the sound that you prefer from your engine. It may reduce unpleasant noise or it may give you a more guttural, throaty sound if you prefer. Cat back exhaust systems are good.
- Fit. Make certain the exhaust system you want to order will fit your vehicle. Research the specifications regarding the model and year of the vehicle the system is made for, the engine size, and the type of exhaust, such as dual vs. single, side, or cat back exhaust.
- Price. You can spend thousands on an exhaust system and as little as $100. Know what you’re getting for your money. You may find that a $100 system does the job very well or that it’s better to spend a few more dollars to get a system that you’ll be happy with.
- Type of system. For example, a cat back exhaust system is an equipment only back from the catalytic converter, not the entire system. On the other hand, some systems cover everything including the pipes that bolt onto the engine, hangers, the muffler, the mid, and tailpipes.