Piston Slap: And the Ideal Aftermarket Mufflers Are … Factory?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap and the ideal aftermarket mufflers are factory

Mike writes:


Is there some solid information out there about how various mufflers perform and sound? Mine are rusted out and need to be replaced (’96 Chevrolet Suburban 5.7-liter, true dual exhaust with crossover). I’m finding lots of baseless opinions, but little fact. Many forum posts keep referencing someone’s test with a Mustang and fifteen mufflers from 2002. Or some chart showing “flow percentage” but with no reference to who or how this “test” was performed. Perhaps you have some direction?

Also, do you or the B&B have suggestions for quality forums for this Suburban? I’ve not owned much ‘Murican stuff before and am a bit overwhelmed at the quantity of forum options.

Sajeev answers:

I used to care about comparing and contrasting aftermarket mufflers, but no more. Here’s why:

  • 2016 Ford Mustang GT horsepower: 435
  • 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS horsepower: 455
  • 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T, SRT 392 horsepower: 485
  • 2016 Ford F-150 5.0-liter V8 horsepower: 385
  • 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 6.2-liter V8 horsepower: 420
  • 2015 RAM 1500 5.7-liter V8 horsepower: 395

I’m sure the same trick works for old school Japanese and German metal looking for more burble-per-buck. Finding them won’t be tough: plenty of folks love the “better” sound, more bling, and a whopping 6 extra horses after spending $800+ to buy/install/dyno test their aftermarket setup.

Their loss is your gain.

Given the amount of real estate on your ride, I reckon a late-model LS-powered truck muffler (avoid the ones with DoD flappers) will drop-in easy. A muffler shop has a few lying around (waiting to be scrapped) so with any luck, you can get them bought and installed for $50-100. Go listen to a new, stock V8 truck at idle and tell me that isn’t a nice rumble. And they don’t drone (at all?) on the highway: good sound, more than enough CFMs, and OEM construction designed for 100,000+ miles.

A win-win. How about you put your money where your mouth is, Sanjeev?

You got it, son.

Here’s my 2011 Ranger with a 2.5-inch 2010 Mustang GT muffler (free) and an uber-rare 2.5-inch Bassani Catback ($75, Craigslist) exiting after the cab a la Ford Lightning. The Bassani muffler’s straight-thru design was far too aggressive, turning a Duratec Ranger into a Duratec Ricer. So I reinstalled my Mustang muffler, sending the Bassani off to TTAC’s turbocharged Ford Sierra project.

The exhaust shop rotated the Mustang muffler to mate to the Bassani’s U-bend tailpipe, then made a new 2.5-inch tube going back to the catalytic converter ($100). Before the Bassani plumbing, the skinny (skinnier than the upstream tubes) factory stuff did a good job keeping the Mustang muffler as quiet as stock on the highway. But now it always makes a 16V Duratec burble, kinda like an NC Miata.

I got the best aftermarket muffler for my application, and it’s a factory part. I should dyno several mufflers to [s]waste my self funded autojourno budget[/s] prove the point, but do you think a stock Duratec Ranger out-horsepowers a 5.0 Coyote V8? Not possible.

I will let the B&B recommend some forums. Have at it!

[Images: © 2016 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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3 of 48 comments
  • MrIcky MrIcky on Mar 09, 2016

    I agree with most of what everyone has said, except: the OP has a 96 with what I'm sure is already a custom exhaust (I think factory those were 2 into 1 in '96- exiting in a single pipe). So the horse has left the barn and probably not going back to stock either way. I don't think anyone independantly tests mufflers because the odds of it being more than 3 hp different is slim. I 'think' the modern suburban has a 2 into 1 that splits back into 2 after the muffler, and the stock single muffler is really big. So although I could be wrong, I don't think using a take off is going to work. And the exhaust for a Camaro is pretty specialized with a tuned resonator. So you're going to be left to wing it based on sound. If you want to improve the HP on the old Suburbans by messing with the exhaust, the exhaust manifold is where to look. The stock one is not great. If you want to talk about intakes- on a 96 all bets are off, but on a modern car it really depends on what car. Many cars are tuned to run quietly, which mean intake resonators and complicated paths. However your typical sports/muscle cars don't make silent running a priority and the stock intake is pretty good. Not that you should change intakes on a Camry, but it actually can make a difference on a Suburban/Tahoe when it's tuned for quiet running. Unless you drag race your car, you'll never know for sure how much an intake means because you can't provide enough air with fans to close the hood at most dyno shops. Open element intakes on NA cars will naturally do better with their hood up but may lose that improvement with the hood down. You can look at the IATs but that doesn't tell the whole story.

    • Plumlee0622 Plumlee0622 on Mar 29, 2016

      Even with any pro mod the vehicle will always lose and gain that The variations would be so slight making any cost-effective changes would be taken seriously that any thought other then where can I dump this pile of s*** would be insane. No one can take this seriously even my previous comment on the main page is poorly detailed that I conveyed enough information that any serious inquiries of purchasing aftermarket Mufflers for this vehicle would be nothing more then the purchasers misunderstanding or desire to listen to reason. A muffler on a vehicle of such need of design and probably more than likely engine transmission electrical and even though probably the more reasonable and easiest to understand no aftermarket modification can fix a manufacturers mistake the vehicle was designed with no purpose other than to fit a need for passenger space or work materials its large oversized application the design lacks any and all reason to exist other then to mock a design flaw in ingenuity even in it's time everything about it is un conventional and isnt a reasonable discussion piece for any real debate on aftermarket Muffler performance.when its tank size power to weight is more then enough to be a joke. Lose 1500+ pounds add 200 more hp and change the body down until it can fit to some standard that aerodynamics would mean nothing no performance will be added to this vehicle without serious cash and an idiot with the desire to waste resources on junk. It still all boils down to the opinion and the desire to fix something that shouldn't be concerned and unless it's rusted to the point a clog was eminent in the exhaust and at this point the current owner should decide on purchasing a vehicle that fits hes or her desired need, or want. a toy is a toy a everyday tank exploration while trying to exsplore a better quality muffler is ridiculous.

  • Plumlee0622 Plumlee0622 on Mar 29, 2016

    On my 2014 Chevy Malibu 2.5 liter I took off the stock Muffler added the stock Muffler from the 2014 Chevy Malibu 2.0 Turbo which was more of a performance muffler and fit perfect also changed the cat from the 2.0 the 2.5 liter Chevy Malibu original cat was terrible noticed more output not noticeable sound difference. Also gave me the option for dual. Probably a reason why they discontinued making the original 2014 Chevy Malibu Muffler to the best of my knowledge. test are all done by preference best sound to meet consumers desire reliable family, carpool, gas saving,and meeting the demand 4 gas Improvement and staying with emission standards. Performance cars is putting more money into of course cats Muffler design is optimized for less vibration max airflow. Tested and tested to optimize all performances into 1 fully customized Performance Machine all working together to accomplish the American Dream. The question is pointless 96 suburban at best most likely price ranging in the 700 to $1,900 range spending any money on a muffler would be redundant to the point that the idea of it is a joke rusted Muffler would be the least of your concerns the only reason you would have to put your foot into your vehicle is going up a hill passing or for off-roading saying it's four wheel drive and then again the muffler is the least of your worries even if you're only goal is to drive it until it blows up or falls to pieces you would still be putting money into an overweight 20 year old outclassed by any technological standard 20 years is like 70. If you have any welding experience I would just straight pipe it and call it a day or just walk away ahead and put the money in your savings running like hell before it sucked anymore brain cells, while wasting any other person's time. invest in something worth the energy and time you put in making any money that would be cost-effective and makes sense. spending money to make money not spending money to lose money. Before asking redundant questions ask yourself is it worth it. start a budget around the money wasted on a day-to-day basis every time put gas in. And I guess to finally answer the question. the effort it would take to mass produces the changes of one after another modification after modification after Bend after Bend after test after test.would take more money than any individual would waste when the companies who create new and improved mufflers are paid Millions to clone a system after performance testing each and every change possibly each change more accurate with instruments that read more performance data at one time than any muffler shop. Even though not every vehicle even though same design almost to the last Bolt are the same not all vehicles are designed or put together the same because of human error because like I said the money it would take to do the exact testing to match preexisting vehicles to its exact aftermarket Muffler would be more than the headache. That's why more and more companies design specific aftermarket performance parts for the ideal performance parts consumer much simpler cost effective and does more. Or find a buddy that can do all the work you're wanting and has some basic knowledge have your particular vehicle you have in mind and can do some testing and would have the time to invest and the money to spend on waste and other materials needed to assemble repetitively your chances are better in the lottery then the money you would have and the time you can invest and the lack of team effort put in that is put into specialized custom built for all vehicle application with matched design and functionality the only down side is what limitations they are put to being if it's too raise fuel efficiency noise reduction and HP. It all has to be cost effective. It all just boils down to difference of opinion and falsh marketing sales promises or just what someone esle recommended just because it sounded good. Stock was built for gas efficiency better admissions better quality All to a standard that is monitored by the government. With my muffler and catalytic converter swap I was able to notice not only has sound quality change but better release of air flow that my previous stock Muffler was not designed to achieve but also no record have better gas mileage after application. After all that was done saw the difference deleted a few governors that added Optimum performance to my swap out. All test are inconclusive because I do not have controllable variables to prove any change in fuel economy because too many variables because I can not exactly duplicate each and every application between braking throttle position changing of lanes coasting tire wear transmission fluid spark plug usage airflow air to fuel mixture in the list just keeps piling So is alot of words your 96 Chevy Suburban needs to be crushed so as to open up space for a new vehicle that a muffler replacement question such as this wouldnt exist. If you feel other wise and think anywhere from 6 to 15 mpg top speed 75 down a steep hill (only speculating) but I'm not too far off should even register thoughts I performance aftermarket stock more than $10 should be a sign that someone else should be making decisions I also will add in the Suburban is a toy then why the f*** would it matter if it's a everyday driver proper care or maintenance would have been taken or should have been taken inconsideration. Last thing thank God without truly studying a vehicle from the inside out you can't make true accurate to car mods. It's what makes the average driver the average driver. If every person went in thinking that each Muffler did exactly what the manufacture Muffler shop said race car drivers drag car drivers any car enthusiast mechanic that works on his own vehicle or appreciates the knowledge and experience or just like to get paid to work on cars and do it the right way they know what it takes to perform each test diagnostic under there specific need or want of that desired performance part and most Build design modifications themselves based of want desire no one person has the same option or knowledge or same out come so there for youve been answered. Peace im out.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...