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F-250 Exhaust System Explained & How to Upgrade

Why wouldn’t you want to upgrade the exhaust of your F-250? Even for those who aren’t interested in sound quality, many other benefits exist. An aftermarket exhaust system enhances engine performance and efficiency. This translates to gains in power, potential fuel economy gains, extended exhaust system life, and an all-around better-running engine.

Most F-250 owners will look to upgrade the exhaust in an effort to raise the sound level - basically, they want the bark to match the bite of their truck. Though, it goes without saying all should at least consider an aftermarket exhaust on account of all the benefits brought to the table.

Magnaflow 4inch Exhaust Eystem (Side Exit) for 2017 2019 6.7L F250 Superduty

Table of Contents
  1. Basic Exhaust Breakdown
  2. Differences Between Gas and Diesel
  3. How a Diesel Exhaust Brake Works
  4. Which Upgrades Increase Power? And Which Upgrade Sound?
  5. Where Should the Exhaust Exit?

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Basic Exhaust Breakdown

To understand what improvements can be made to the exhaust system of your F-250, you first need to know about the basics. Starting from the cylinder heads, the first thing you will find are exhaust manifolds. Behind the manifolds, you will find the exhaust system itself. The system will feature catalytic converters and mufflers. These units will be incorporated into the routing of the exhaust pipes, which lead the exhaust pipes through to the rear of the truck. In stock form, the F-250 features single exhaust pipes where both manifolds are tied together prior to the muffler.

Basic Exhaust Components

  • - Manifolds
  • - Exhaust Pipes
  • - Catalytic Converters
  • - Muffler

Differences Between Gas and Diesel

Exhaust systems, regardless of the engine type, serve the same purpose. The goal is to extract exhaust gases from the combustion chamber during the exhaust cycle no matter the engine.

Diesel engines will have a few more components tied to the system. The biggest difference will be the addition of a turbocharger. A turbocharger is designed to provide forced induction to the engine, but it gets the turbine spinning by the force of the exhaust gases being pushed from the engine. Other features you will find in a diesel exhaust is the fluid system (which works to reduce NOX emissions) and an exhaust brake system.

How a Diesel Exhaust Brake Works

F-250s are heavy trucks, and they are hard to stop with low gearing and standard braking when a trailer is added. Exhaust brakes are put in place to reduce wear and tear on these mechanical components during towing situations. In an F-250, the exhaust brake is set to engage when the operator puts it into “auto” mode.

The exhaust brake is nothing more than a butterfly valve built into the system that partially closes when the throttle is let off. As this butterfly valve restricts the passage of exhaust in the system, back pressure builds up in the cylinders.

This pressure makes it difficult for the engine to turn which will slow the vehicle down. This feature is incredibly useful for those towing large trailers downhill as they won’t have to reduce the gear or work the brakes manually.

Which Upgrades Increase Power? And Which Upgrade Sound?

Many F-250 exhaust upgrades are available, and you can really have a field day selecting the right system for your truck. Before randomly buying kits, you should take a look at your ultimate end goal. Do you want the truck to be louder? Do you want to make more power? Are you planning on dealing with emissions regulations?

If more power is your goal, it’s important to remember bigger pipes aren’t always better. A little bit of backpressure is good for producing torque. There is also the issue of an exhaust system simply not being wide enough to work with the amount of power being produced. This means you will want to balance pipe size with power output. But one should also keep in mind the routing of an aftermarket exhaust system and the addition of free-flowing mufflers, cats and headers, even the factory pipe size will work to produce greater power. 

In the case power is not of concern, and a louder exhaust is desired, the same aftermarket parts will help one achieve an advantage. Though, going large will be the biggest contributor that separates the two exhaust types.

If the vehicle is going to be used strictly for off-road purposes, one will be able to ditch certain parts of the exhaust holding back the system from producing the best sound or power possible. Cat delete kits, DEF delete kits, and skipping the mufflers will be an option in these instances only.

Where Should the Exhaust Exit?

Aftermarket exhaust systems are provided in a variety of configurations. One thing you will want to be aware of is the exhaust exit point. Choosing the exit point should be balanced with the vehicle’s intended use.

If your F-250 will primarily be used for street use, taking the exhaust to the rear of the rear wheels and exiting to the side is the best option as it will reduce the amount of cabin noise. Though, with a street truck, one can truly have a field day as long as they are okay with the residual noises that may be produced.

For off-road trucks getting the exhaust as far away from the rear bumper as possible is ideal. On steep inclines, if the exhaust is too close to the bumper one runs the risk of pinching it shut. Many off-road exhaust kits available are designed to avoid this issue.

If you are running off-road and plan on building your own exhaust, you will be able to choose where the exhaust exits. It’s not uncommon to have the exhaust dump just before the rear axle. This completely avoids the rear bumper but can produce another issue in which fumes are getting into the cabin. To be safe, one should put turn downs on the end of the system and point them to the side of the vehicle at a downward angle.