All exhausts are made of some kind of steel. Stock models and cheap aftermarket parts will typically be aluminized steel, which is hardened against corrosion and high heat, but not for the long haul. When you’re looking to upgrade your 4×4 for off-roading, you really need to invest in a high-quality exhaust system. Fortunately, upgraded stainless steel exhausts offer everything that you need.
What’s the Difference?
Often, people see “stainless steel” and assume that it’s all the same. Some brands don’t specify the type of steel being used or the grade of it, and that can cause you to buy an inferior system if you aren’t careful. Here’s a quick rundown of your options, and which one is best.
Aluminized steel, as mentioned above, is designed for mass production, offering a cheap, yet relatively durable source of exhaust material for general manufacturing and cheap aftermarket models. It’s not the most durable and it certainly isn’t designed to put up with the demands of off-roading.
T409, also known as 409-grade stainless steel is often upsold because it has titanium added to it for durability. Unfortunately, most won’t tell you that this doesn’t really make it a better product. This is medium-strength material, and even with the titanium additive, it still has a nickel content of less than half a percent. Just because the number is higher doesn’t mean that it’s better.
304-grade stainless steel is what you want for off-road exhausts. This steel is much stronger and impervious to rusting, thanks to its chromium content around 20% and nickel content near 10%. This material does have a much lower ferrous content, which means it will typically turn a golden colour over time as it is constantly exposed to high heat. If you want to double-check that you’re getting 304 grade, grab a magnet. If it sticks, it’s not 304 grade, because the low ferrous content means that it won’t have magnetic properties.
Choose the 304-grade material when you need stainless steel exhausts for off-roading. It offers the best corrosion resistance and durability, protecting your system better from emissions, exposure, moisture, and other elements. Bolt-on installations are your best choice for easy upgrades, and fittings and hardware should also be made from the highest quality materials to provide the same durability and corrosion resistance as the exhaust itself. Keep these things in mind when you’re considering off-road exhaust upgrades and you’ll find what you need with ease.