What Are Exhaust Wraps & What Do They Do [Plus Pros & Cons]
Planning to heat wrap your exhaust pipe for that “cool as hell” look?
Well, you aren’t alone. There are plenty of riders who love to change the visual theme of their motorcycle by wrapping up the exhaust.
And the benefits of heat wrapping the exhaust pipe are not limited to aesthetics.
But what does exhaust wrap do – and does it work to improve the performance of your motorcycle alongside adding some pizzazz?
Theoretically, it does improve the performance. But that’s only half of the story.
Let’s dig a little deeper and find out the full answer.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Exhaust Back Pressure
What Are Exhaust Wraps?
The exhaust wrap is a tape made from special materials that are wrapped around the exhaust assembly. Considering how hot the motorcycle exhaust pipes get, these are high heat-resistant materials.
Also, your exhaust wrap will be exposed to the environment and a wide variety of pollutants. That means the material fibers need to be tough.
The common materials used are basalt, fiberglass, aluminum, and silica. In most cases, special coatings are applied to the materials to improve the thermal resistance.
The wrapping won’t melt or catch fire even when temperatures are super high. In fact, some materials can withstand temperatures up to 1500 °F.
Don’t forget, a motorcycle is a weight-sensitive machine. A thick and heavy wrap will affect the balance as well as the engine performance. That means the wrap needs to be lightweight, without compromising its mechanical strength. Other properties include high resistance to water absorption and top-notch flexibility.
But if you’re expecting adamantium-level toughness from exhaust wraps, forget it.
Any wrap or tape for motorcycle exhaust pipes will look tattered and discolored after a period of time. Chances are, it will age faster than your motorcycle. You will need to rewrap the exhaust at regular intervals to maintain the fresh and shiny look. That can be between 1 to 2 years depending on your riding frequency.
Now, what’s the difference between an exhaust wrap and a heat shield?
A heat shield is not wrapping. It’s a specially designed barrier placed on the exhaust pipe, usually an inch away from the pipe surface. It offers protection from burns and also acts as a thermal barrier to stop the dispersion of radiant heat.
What Does Exhaust Wrap Do?
Sometimes I feel the myths about exhausts wraps can easily challenge the domains of Norse mythology.
That makes it necessary to see through the bull.
Here’s a look at some things that exhaust wraps can do.
It protects you from burns
In reality, this is the most practical benefit of a heat wrap or tape for motorcycle exhaust pipes. Moreover, if you’re a racer, there’s hardly any time to let your machine cool off. Anytime you get careless, the high temperatures of the exhaust pipe can give you a nasty burn.
Annoying, isn’t it?
The insulating material of the exhaust wrap will reduce the surface temperature of the pipes and keep your legs protected.
Keep in mind, your exhaust pipe will STILL be hot. But not hot enough to burn your unsuspecting calf.
Better aesthetic appeal
If your exhaust pipe is looking discolored or rusty due to excessive heat, a wrap can work wonders to improve its look.
From stealing glances to open admirations, I have seen a good wrapping job attract all forms of attention.
So, whether you want to make your motorcycle look cool or rugged, using a wrap is a great way of doing it. What’s more, it’s also a cost-efficient solution to make your ride look sleek.
A word of caution: once you apply the exhaust wrap, there’s no undoing it. So, make sure that you do it right.
Raises the temperature of the exhaust gases
Since the material has a high thermal resistance, they provide excellent insulation. This keeps the temperature of the pipe as well as the exhaust gases high. That gives these gases a low density and higher velocity. So, they are able to exit the exhaust assembly at a faster rate.
As a side effect, this also improves the scavenging efficiency of the engine. With higher gas velocities, more exhaust gases are sucked away as the exhaust valve opens. So more fresh charge enters the engine.
The result is a better air/fuel ratio inside the engine cylinder. Combined with a smoother flow of exhaust gases, this definitely acts as a performance booster.
It lowers the engine temperature
By wrapping up the header, you are preventing the heat from dissipating near the engine block. The heat is carried further downstream and the engine remains protected from overheating. The temperatures near the header can drop significantly if the wrap is applied.
Some reports say that temperatures around the engine can drop by as much as 300 degrees if the wrap is properly applied. Can you believe that?
Especially when the engine is running at higher loads, this can help in preventing heat-related damage to the internal components. Obviously, an engine running at an optimum temperature will perform more efficiently.
Pros and Cons of Motorcycle Exhaust Wraps
Ready to get wrapping?
Hold your horses.
Best take a look at some of the pros and cons of motorcycle exhaust wraps.
- It’s one of the most affordable aftermarket products that can make a big difference in the appearance of your motorcycle. You don’t need to break a bank to buy even the best quality exhaust wrap.
- Besides, they aren’t so difficult to install either. Neither do you need any special tools to get the job done. If tinkering with your bike is your way of spending a few relaxed hours, get going.
- The process of wrapping offers you flexibility. You can wrap the entire exhaust assembly or some parts of the pipe depending on your preference.
- Exhaust wraps reduce the surface temperature of the exhaust assembly. This improves the engine performance and the overall efficiency of the exhaust system.
- With an additional protective layer on the exhaust system, your legs will thank you for protecting them from burns.
- If you think wrapping the exhaust pipe as tight as an Egyptian mummy will make your motorcycle faster than a speeding bullet, think again. Theoretically, it gives the performance a boost. But in the real world, the rise in efficiency is too small to make any noticeable impact on the machine’s performance. Sure, you can measure the performance rise by using a dyno. But if you are a daily driver, I doubt if you will feel any major difference.
- Some evidence suggests that higher exhaust gas temperatures can affect the performance of after-treatment technologies like the catalytic converter. It can even decrease the overall lifespan of the converter. An increase in the exhaust temperature can also raise the overall emission levels. Most importantly, it can raise hydrocarbon levels. And since hydrocarbons are a greenhouse gas, it’s not something an environment-friendly rider like me would recommend.
- Already told you that wrapping helps in keeping exhaust gases hot. That can be very effective in cold conditions. But what about the rising in the heat? When the outside temperatures are high, the wrapping can cause the exhaust gases to overheat. This can affect the performance and also raise maintenance costs.
- The wrapping can trap water inside it which can make the pipes corrode at a faster rate. If you are a regular rider, this isn’t a problem. The heat of the system will cause the water to evaporate rapidly. But if you are planning to store your motorcycle in the garage for a few weeks or months, then this is a factor you can’t overlook.
- Lastly, we have the issue of smell. Yes, you heard it right. Initially, the exhaust wrap will go through a curing process that emits some smoke. And the smell is pretty darn awful! Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it. The process will take a few hours depending on the temperature of your exhaust system. Just make sure that you don’t hotbox your motorcycle after applying a wrap.
Bottomline – Yay or Nay?
So, does applying exhaust wrap work to make your bike perform better?
Long story short, the cons outweigh the pros.
Does this mean you should not apply exhaust wraps?
Not really, no.
What it all boils down to is this…
I wouldn’t recommend using an exhaust wrap if you are looking for a performance-enhancing pill for your motorcycle. There are other more effective ways of improving engine performance.
Basically, there are two main reasons for using a wrap. These are enhancing the look of your motorcycle and better protection from accidental burns.
And above all, make sure to educate yourself about the details of the product before you use it.
It’s your decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of wrapping exhaust?
Exhaust wrapping is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways of adding some wow factor to your motorcycle. It also acts as an insulator to protect your legs from heat burns.
Does exhaust wrap ruin pipes?
The wrapping application process won’t ruin your exhaust pipes. But water and other impurities can seep in through the wrap. If you are not using your motorcycle regularly that can lead to corrosion.
Does exhaust wrap make a difference?
In terms of performance, it does. But motorcycle design engineers will tell you that the performance boost isn’t high enough to make any major difference. However, in terms of aesthetics, an exhaust wrap can do a great job.