EL vs UEL - Your Guide To The Best Subaru BRZ Exhaust Headers

The Subaru BRZ is one of the best sportscars created in the last decade, gaining a large following among car enthusiasts because of its impressive handling and sleek design. Engineered for performance, the Subaru BRZ is a great platform for Subaru owners who love to improve their cars and make them even better. 

This comprehensive guide aims to be the perfect resource for owners on the hunt for a quality aftermarket header for your Subaru BRZ, with a focus on highlighting specific details like better performance, sound quality, and more.

If you're looking for an exhaust header for your BRZ, let us help you find the perfect UEL or EL header to complete your full exhaust upgrade! Let’s get started.

Choosing The Best Subaru BRZ Headers

We've handpicked the best headers for your Subaru BRZ based on four key factors: performance, cost, quality, and owner reviews. Our list of exhaust headers is proven to improve horsepower and torque, offer great value for your money, and come highly recommended by BRZ enthusiasts.

Tomei Unequal Length Header

Tomei Unequal Length Header Subaru BRZ
Tomei Unequal Length Header

Engineered for improved performance, the Tomei Unequal Length Header is a game-changer for your Subaru BRZ. With SUS304 stainless steel pipes and a design that minimizes exhaust resistance, this header promises high performance throughout the entire RPM range. Improved engine response and superb sound quality make it an irresistible upgrade for your exhaust system. If you're looking to experience the best of the best, the Tomei UEL Header is your ticket to unparalleled performance.

Beatrush Equal Length Exhaust Manifold

Beatrush Equal Length Exhaust Manifold Subaru BRZ
Beatrush Equal Length Exhaust Manifold

For those seeking a perfect balance of power and sound, the Beatrush Equal Length Exhaust Manifold is a great choice. Made of high-quality stainless steel, this header is designed for the FA20/FA24 engine found in the Subaru BRZ. It not only offers a smooth exhaust note but also provides a dyno-proven increase of 22 horsepower on a stock engine. If you're searching for a seamless blend of daily drivability and track-worthy performance, the Beatrush EL header can provide the power gains you looking for.

HKS Super Exhaust Manifold

HKS Super Exhaust Manifold Subaru BRZ
HKS Super Exhaust Manifold

The HKS Super Exhaust Manifold is a high-performance solution for your BRZ, designed to overcome the limitations of the stock exhaust manifold. With a 4-2-1 layout and an integrated catalytic converter, this header delivers increased power across the entire RPM range. For those who want to enjoy an improved powerband and an incredible exhaust note, the HKS Super Manifold is your go-to choice for your next BRZ exhaust header.

JDL 4-2-1 Equal Length Header

JDL Equal Length Header Subaru BRZ
JDL 4-2-1 Equal Length Header

If you're tired of the same old exhaust note and want more power from your naturally aspirated engine, the JDL 4-2-1 Equal Length Header has you covered. Made from 16-gauge US Stainless Steel, this header offers a distinct boxer rumble. With the JDL header, you're not just getting a unique sound and improved performance, you're also investing in a quality performance part that will last a lifetime.

PLM UEL Unequal Length Header

PLM UEL Unequal Length Header Subaru BRZ
PLM UEL Unequal Length Header

The PLM UEL Unequal Length Header is the best value UEL header on the market today, offering a true 4-1 merge collector and a revised V2 design for 100% leak-free long-term durability. With a confirmed fit for +2022 models and a one-year warranty, the PLM UEL header is a top choice for all Subaru BRZ builds, from daily drivers to full-blown race cars.

Skunk2 Alpha Header

Skunk2 Alpha Header Subaru BRZ
Skunk2 Alpha Header

The Skunk2 Alpha Header for the Subaru BRZ is designed for those who want race-proven performance without breaking the bank. With a weight of just 12 LBS compared to the OEM header’s 20 LBS, this header not only ensures precise fitment but also offers improved performance at a price that your wallet can live with!

ACE A350 4-2-1 Header

ACE A350 4-2-1 Merge Header Subaru BRZ
ACE A350 4-2-1 Header

The ACE A350 4-2-1 Header is one of the best headers on the market for those looking for more power. With a newly designed header that provides smoother airflow and improves the FA20/FA24 engine's linear torque band, this header will get rid of the dreaded torque dip and improve performance. If you're looking for one of the best performance headers for the BRZ available, the ACE A350 4-2-1 Header should be at the top of your list.

As you can see, each of these headers offers unique features and benefits. That’s why it's important to choose a performance header that aligns with your performance goals. Whether your BRZ is a daily driver or a track weapon, there's a header out there that's perfect for your build.

Understanding Aftermarket Exhaust Headers and Their Role

What is an Aftermarket Exhaust Header?

An exhaust manifold serves as the initial segment of your BRZ's exhaust system, directly connected to the engine's cylinder head. Unlike a stock exhaust manifold, which can restrict airflow, an aftermarket header facilitates smoother, more efficient gas flow from the engine to the rest of your exhaust, increasing your vehicle's performance capabilities.

How Does an Aftermarket Exhaust Header Affect Performance?

By streamlining the flow of exhaust gases from the engine's cylinders, a well-designed header can significantly improve your BRZ's horsepower and torque. The improved exhaust flow reduces back pressure, allowing the engine to breathe easier and generate more power. This translates to quicker acceleration, more responsive throttle control, and an overall enhanced driving experience.

How an Aftermarket Header Changes Your Exhaust Note

In addition to performance gains, a header plays a pivotal role in terms of changing the exhaust note of your Subaru BRZ. The design and material of the aftermarket header influence the exhaust’s sound, adding a distinct sound to your exhaust system. Whether you're aiming for a deep, throaty growl or a subtle, refined sound, the right header can make a big difference.

Types of Exhaust Headers For The Subaru BRZ

4-1 Exhaust Headers

Performance Benefits

Opting for a 4-1 header design means prioritizing peak horsepower. In this configuration, all four exhaust pipes merge into a single collector, promoting higher RPM performance. Ideal for track days and spirited driving, 4-1 headers unleash the full potential of your BRZ's high-revving engine.

Sound Characteristics

The 4-1 header design produces a sharp, aggressive exhaust note, particularly at higher RPMs. This makes it a favorite among BRZ owners who want a race-inspired auditory experience to match their modified BRZ’s performance capabilities.

4-2-1 Exhaust Headers

Performance Benefits

If you're looking for a balanced improvement across the RPM range, 4-2-1 headers are your go-to choice. These headers feature two pairs of pipes that merge into two collectors, which then combine into a single outlet. This design enhances low to mid-range torque, making it well-suited for daily driving conditions.

Sound Characteristics

The 4-2-1 header configuration yields a more subdued but sporty exhaust tone. It offers a fuller sound profile, with a blend of boxer rumble and an aggressive exhaust note at high rpms, making it perfect for various driving scenarios.

Equal Length vs Unequal Length Headers

Comparing Performance - EL vs UEL Headers

Equal-length headers offer a consistent exhaust flow from each cylinder, optimizing performance and throttle response. On the other hand, unequal-length headers may sacrifice a bit of performance for a unique, boxer-engine sound that Subaru owners love.

Comparing Sound - Boxer Rumble or Refined Exhaust Note?

Equal-length headers produce a smooth, consistent exhaust note, often described as "refined" or "sophisticated." Unequal-length headers, conversely, deliver that iconic Subaru "rumble," a sound that is both distinct and beloved within the automotive community.

How Does A Subaru BRZ Header Improve Performance?

More Horsepower

Switching to an aftermarket header can significantly boost your BRZ's horsepower, often adding anywhere from 15 to 30 horsepower depending on the design and material. If you're looking to add more power to your BRZ, a header upgrade is a step in the right direction.

No More Torque Dip

In addition to adding horsepower, aftermarket headers can significantly improve your Subaru BRZ's torque, typically adding between 10 to 20 lb-ft. Aftermarket headers are particularly effective at eliminating the notorious torque dip that many FA20-equipped BRZs experience around the 4k rpm mark. By resolving this issue, the headers not only increase your car's overall torque but also dramatically improve acceleration and responsiveness. The result is a BRZ that's not only faster but also more engaging and enjoyable to drive.

How Much Does The Average BRZ Header Cost

100 Dollar Bills Scattered

The cost of a BRZ header can vary widely, ranging from $300 for budget-friendly options to upwards of $1700 for high-end, hand-welded headers. Your choice will depend on your specific performance goals and budget constraints.

Installation Costs

Expect to pay between $200 and $400 for professional installation. While some enthusiasts opt for a DIY approach, those unfamiliar with car mechanics may find the investment in professional installation to be well worth it.

Long-term Maintenance Costs

Generally low, maintenance costs can include occasional cleaning and gasket replacement, usually not exceeding $50 annually.

How To Install Your Subaru BRZ Header

Tools Needed

You'll need a set of wrenches, a socket set, jack stands, and a torque wrench for the installation.

Pre-installation Steps

Before you begin, make sure to disconnect the battery and elevate the car safely on jack stands. The exhaust should be cold to the touch to ensure you don’t burn yourself during the removal process of the stock exhaust manifold.

Step-by-Step Installation Process

Start by removing the old header, followed by installing the new gaskets and header. Tighten all bolts to the manufacturer's specifications, reconnect the O2 sensors, and finally, reconnect the battery and start the car to check for any leaks.

How To Maintain Your Subaru BRZ Header

Subaru BRZ with Header Installed

The most frequent issues you'll encounter with aftermarket Subaru BRZ header are exhaust leaks and rust. An exhaust leak can often be identified by a hissing sound or a noticeable drop in performance. Rust, on the other hand, is usually visible during a routine inspection. Both issues should be addressed promptly to prevent further complications. For leaks, replacing the gaskets or tightening the bolts can often solve the problem. For rust, it may be necessary to replace the header entirely, especially if the rust has compromised the structural integrity of the unit.

Regular inspections can help you catch these problems before they escalate. If you notice any of these issues, it's important to address them immediately before they get worse and cause other potential issues.

Other Subaru BRZ Modifications

Red 2022 Subaru BRZ with ARK Exhaust

Cold Air Intakes

A cold air intake can further improve your BRZ's performance by allowing the engine to breathe more easily, often resulting in horsepower gains. This is an easy performance upgrade that usually doesn’t cost much and can be done in a few hours.

Catback Exhaust

A catback exhaust system can complement your new header, offering additional horsepower gains and a more aggressive exhaust note. We highly recommend buying a catback exhaust with your aftermarket header if you don’t already have one to take full advantage of your upgrades.

ECU Tune

An ECU tune can optimize your engine's performance parameters to take full advantage of your new header, cold air intake, and catback exhaust, making it the final piece in the performance puzzle for your BRZ. We also recommend getting your car tuned to prevent potential performance issues if you happen to be running a catless exhaust and want to prevent a check engine light.

OverRev’s Subaru BRZ Exhaust Header Guide

HKS Super Exhaust Manifold Subaru BRZ

Thank you for reading our in-depth guide on Subaru BRZ headers. We genuinely hope that the information presented here has not only answered your questions but also helped you make a well-informed decision for your BRZ's performance upgrade. Our goal is to help you unlock your Subaru's full potential, ensuring that you get the most out of every drive. Whether you're a seasoned car enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of automotive tuning, we believe that the right knowledge is the key to improving your driving experience.

But the journey doesn't stop here. If you're interested in other Subaru BRZ modifications, you should check out our other performance guides that you won't want to miss. From our exhaust guide that dives into the nuances of performance gains and exhaust notes, to our air intake guide that helps you understand how to make your FA20 or FA24 breathe better, we've got you covered. And that's not all; we also offer specialized guides on turbo kits and superchargers for those looking to seriously boost their BRZ's power output. For a holistic approach to transforming your BRZ into a true performance machine, make sure to also check out our comprehensive Subaru BRZ tuning guide. 

Each of these guides is meticulously crafted to provide you with accurate, actionable information, empowering you to make the best choices for your BRZ. Happy wrenching and we hope you come back soon for more BRZ info!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between 4-1 and 4-2-1 headers for a Subaru BRZ?

For the Subaru BRZ, 4-1 headers are generally favored by those who frequently engage in high RPM activities like track racing. They offer a more aggressive exhaust note and are optimized for high RPM performance. On the flip side, 4-2-1 headers are more suited for daily BRZ drivers who want a balance of low to mid-range torque and a less aggressive, more refined exhaust note.

How do I know if a header is legal for my Subaru BRZ in my state?

The legality of aftermarket headers varies by state, mainly due to differing emissions regulations. For Subaru BRZ owners, it's crucial to consult your state's specific laws or a local Subaru specialist to ensure the header you're considering is compliant with local and federal emissions standards.

Can I install a header myself on my Subaru BRZ or should I get professional help?

Installing a header on a Subaru BRZ is a manageable DIY project for those with some mechanical experience and the right tools. However, given the BRZ's boxer engine layout and the importance of proper installation for optimal performance, many owners opt for professional installation to ensure everything is done correctly.

What are the signs of a failing header in a Subaru BRZ?

For Subaru BRZ owners, signs of a failing header can include a noticeable drop in both horsepower and torque, an unusually loud or raspy exhaust note, and visible signs of wear such as cracks or rust on the header itself. If you notice any of these symptoms, immediate inspection and potential replacement are advised.

How often should I service my Subaru BRZ's header?

The frequency of header maintenance for a Subaru BRZ depends on several factors, including the material of the header and how hard you drive your car. As a general rule, it's advisable to inspect your header for signs of wear, rust, or leakage at least once a year or before any major driving event like a track day.

What type of material is best for a Subaru BRZ header?

When it comes to Subaru BRZ headers, stainless steel is often considered the best material due to its resistance to rust and corrosion. It also tends to offer better performance gains compared to other materials like mild steel.

Does changing the header affect the Subaru BRZ's famous "boxer rumble"?

Yes, changing the header can significantly affect the iconic "boxer rumble" that Subaru BRZs are known for. Unequal-length headers tend to preserve this unique sound, while equal-length headers may make the exhaust note more uniform and less distinct.

Will installing an aftermarket header void my Subaru BRZ's warranty?

Installing an aftermarket header on your Subaru BRZ may void the warranty, particularly if it leads to a failure of related parts. It's essential to check the terms of your warranty and consult with your Subaru dealer before making any significant modifications.

Do I need to tune my Subaru BRZ after installing a new header?

After installing a new header on your Subaru BRZ, it's highly recommended to get an ECU tune. This ensures that the engine's computer settings are optimized for the new exhaust flow characteristics, maximizing your performance gains.

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