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How to: Install a New Motorcycle Exhaust System

>> Ashley Benson

You've got some bite, so you want your motorcycle's bark to match. The best way to turn your motorcycle from sounding like a kitten to a pit bull is by throwing on some new pipes. Plus those pieces can really change up the look of your ride; chrome, stainless steel, nickel and so many more materials to make your monster look the part. So why keep those puppies stock? If your pocket book is the problem, grab a shiny new exhaust system from to get some for a heck of a lot cheaper and throw them on your bike yourself. Don't know how? Let us show you.

Switching out the exhaust can be a very different process from bike to bike. Cruisers tend to slap on full exhaust systems while sport bikes and off-road rides are commonly fitted with slip-ons. How you're going to install your exhaust is very dependant on the type of bike you ride and what type of exhaust you're sticking on it.

Full Pipes

So you think those slip-ons are for wimps. The only thing you'd ever put on your bike is a full set of chromed out pipes. And when you get that package with your bike's new set of lungs, it's like Christmas morning. But before you can mount them on your bike, be sure to take an extra few minutes inspecting the exhaust system right after it gets out of the package. You'll want to make sure that there are no scratches, dents or blemishes. It's the worst when you get those things on your ride and notice a ding. You'll also want to make sure that the pipes are going to fit well on your bike without getting in the way of other parts such as passenger foot pegs.

Look good? Great! Now bite the ego bullet and read the instructions. Yeah, we know how hard this may be for some people, but this isn't a road trip. You're about to play with some very expensive parts that would be a bummer to mess up. And while we may rock at telling you the best way to generally mount your pipes, it's no surprise that all sets vary depending on the style, manufacturer or your type of bike. We'd like to be able to point out all of these differences and explain how to work with them, but not only would that take forever, no one would actually want to read it. So do a quick once over of the instructions for your new exhaust system (don't worry, we won't tell your friends) and get familiar with them before trying to set them up on your bike.

The Removal

In order to get the new pipes on, you'll need to remove the old ones. To do so, remove any parts that are between you and your exhaust system. A lot of cruisers will require you to take off the floorboard or a fender first. If your bike has an oxygen sensor, you'll need to detach any sensors that are plugged into the wiring harness and remove the cable ties to free it up. There may be both a front and rear sensor. The front is typically plugged into the inside of the plastic box that is above the regular. The Rear, however, is plugged in under the oil tank on the right side of your bike. Don't know if your bike has them or still can't find them? Check your owner's manual.

To remove the pipes, start with the two nuts holding the header in place. This is the piece attached directly to your engine. There should be two bolts holding it on. Remove these and set them aside. Then you'll need to remove the two bolts (or nuts) that are holding your exhaust mounting brackets to the frame of your motorcycle. Some bikes will also have studs that will need to be removed.

If you had to detach some oxygen sensors earlier, you'll also want to remove them from the old pipes in order to reinstall them on the new ones. Some models may also have a bracket on the right side of the lower transmission cover. After you've removed this, you should be able to carefully slide the exhaust pipes from their ports and lift them off of your bike. We recommend hanging on to them even if you have no intent to use them again. You may find yourself on the wrong side of a noise law that requires you to change your pipes back or you might find it easier to sell you bike later on with the stock pipes. You never know.

Finally, use pliers to remove any snap rings or flanges from the pipes or your bike and set them aside. You'll probably be using them again with your new pipes so inspect them for damage. Any bent or corroded parts should be replaced.

The Installation

Now comes the fun part: putting the new pipes on your bike. But first, whatever you do, do not scratch them during the install. You've already done the inspection of them so those puppies should be pristine. Let's keep them that way.

Hopefully you picked up a few extra crush gaskets. Anytime you switch out your pipe, no matter how long it has been, it's a good idea to switch out the gaskets as well. We recommend using crush gaskets such or these K&L Exhaust Gaskets because they'll give you a great seal and keep you from having any leaks in your exhaust system.

If you had removed any oxygen sensors, reinstall them into the new pipes as well as any snap rings or flanges. Then go ahead and slip the pipes up to the cylinder heads. Carefully place the pipes into their ports while being sure to not damage the new gaskets. With the new pipes in place, tighten the bolts of the head pipe enough to hold the exhaust pipes in place then tighten any other bolts starting from the back and working your way forward until you reach the head pipe. With all the bolts cinched down, replace any parts that you had to remove to get to your pipes such as foot pegs.

Fire her up and listen to that rumble. Let your engine run for a few minutes and check for any leaks in the system. And be sure to check your bolts after the first few times you ride to make sure that nothing comes loose.

Slip On's

Slip-on exhaust systems are much more common with the off-road and sport bike variety. But with so many different types of these bikes comes a million different types of exhaust system set ups. Depending on what yours is, it could severely alter the way you need to change out your exhaust. For instance, you may only need to remove one or two parts to get to an off-road exhaust system whereas some sport bikes require you to take off the entire seat and rear end. Either way, don't be discouraged, it's a whole lot easier than it seems.

Start simply by removing everything in the way of you getting to those pipes. For specifics on all of the parts in between you and you r exhaust system, check your owner's manual.

If it's the first time that a slip on system is being put on your bike, you might have to convert your stock pipes into slip on's. This means that you will need to buy a slip on system that comes with a mid pipe and head pipe that is more slip on conducive. When putting one of these systems on you'll need to remove the entire stock system including the mid pip and header. Start with the bolts at the back and work your way up to the engine. Be sure to replace that gasket in order to get a proper seal.

Once you've got the old system off, loosely attach the head pipe and tighten it just enough to keep it in place. Then, attach the mid pipe and secure it with the clamp. Last but definitely not least, slide on the slip on and its clamp and tighten it down. Check the way the pipe sits to make sure that it's not in the way of any important parts that you had to remove such as the passenger foot peg. Some systems will actually have mounting hardware that will attach to the actual foot peg but since each can be different, check with the instructions to see how this should be done.

If the new system is looking good, tighten down all of the clamps and bolts and let your engine roar. Once again, check for leaks in the connections and be sure to check your bolts and clamps after the first few rides to make sure nothing dislodges itself.

Bike already have the mid and head pipe that are rearing and ready to go? Switching out the slip on is so easy, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. All you'll need is the actual slip on portion of the pipe. Simply remove any mounting hardware, loosen the clamp and slide the old exhaust system off. Then just slide the new slip on onto the mid pipe and bolt down its hardware and clamp. And presto! You've got a whole new look and sound.

Still somehow confused? Check your installation instructions for some clarity or watch Steve Matthes do the job on an off-road bike in this video:

Sound Emissions

You may love the roaring of your motorcycle but that doesn't mean that your neighbors will. And while you may not care if their car alarm goes off every time you blow past, it's quite possible that the state has already put laws into effect that limit how loud your bike can be. Be sure to know what the laws are in your area or you may end up having to do this whole process again while being really glad that you kept those stock pipes. If there aren't any laws, keep it that way. Try not to irritate the neighborhood too much so that they don't start a petition to shut you up.

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