Unless you’re a big fan of Jeep gear and like to get your hands dirty, you probably don’t even know much about the exhaust system. The naked eye can only see the tip, but the entire system is actually quite complex. The factory Jeep gear is pretty decent, but its efficiency leaves a lot to be desired. A top-notch aftermarket alternative, in turn, will be much more effective in removing exhaust gasses from the engine.
So, in this post, our focus will be on the best third-party exhaust systems for the Wrangler JK. We’ll check out three outstanding offers from leading brands, talk about their pros and cons, and expert recommendations. You’ll also find the answer to the question: Which is the Best Exhaust Type: Axle-Back or Cat-Back? For that, refer to the Buyer’s Guide at the end of the review.
1. RedRock 4×4 Exhaust System
This isn’t one of those cheap and average-at-best products. With the RedRock exhaust system, you’ll get premium-grade build and material quality. That means it won’t break down in the middle of the road or get damaged easily. Another standout feature is the advanced protection against corrosion and rust. The black finish will make sure the individual parts always stay in excellent shape.
On top of that, the company backs the exhaust system with a limited lifetime warranty. Overall, if you’re not on a very tight budget and are looking for a top-notch axle-back exhaust, this one might be a good deal.
Despite the expensive price-tag, the Gibson exhaust will be money well-spent. It is made of high-quality materials and includes brick-strong protection against rust, corrosion, and other types of contamination. As a bonus, you’ll get a mild performance boost, a deep tone, and a stylish addition to your Wrangler JK’s engine system.
2. aFe Power (49-46219) Exhaust System
Some exhaust systems are manufactured outside of the States, while others are only partially a US-made product. However, Scorpion was designed, made, and tested in the US. So, rest assured you won’t have any compatibility, fitment, or quality control issues. aFe offers two different colors to choose from and packs all the necessary hardware for installation.
Most importantly, Scorpion is a highly affordable purchase with excellent value. It’s significantly cheaper than the other two exhaust systems on the list. The only downside – when you push the pedal to the limit, it can get pretty whiny. On the bright side, the system gets noisy only during hard acceleration. Some drivers also report minor rattling.
If you’re not turned away by the not-that-masculine sounds that this exhaust system makes, it might very well be the most reasonable pick. As a US-made low-budget aftermarket gear, it is, indeed, quite an attractive offer. Easy installation, good looks, and durability are a part of the deal as well.
3. Flowmaster 817674 Exhaust System
Last, but not least, Flowmaster will be a considerable purchase for the fans of aggressive sounds. This exhaust system sounds just right and will definitely turn heads both on and off the road. Plus, thanks to the patented Laminar Flow technology, it’s incredibly effective and efficient at removing harmful gases.
A quick note: this is a cat-back exhaust system, and, unlike the other gear on the list, it will increase the JK’s overall performance. Sadly, that also means installation won’t be easy as you might’ve hoped. For a pro, it won’t be a problem, but for a novice, cutting the pipe will be a big deal.
Flowmaster’s exhaust system greatly improves the engine’s sound. And, it does an excellent job of pushing gas fumes away and improving performance (HP and torque). However, unless you know your way around the JK and Jeeps in general, the installation will be a pain. Other than that, fans of cat-back systems might find it to be right up their alley.
If you’re looking for a down-to-Earth guide, or, let’s say, user manual to help you pick the right exhaust system for the JK, I’ve got your back! The following list includes the most important aspects/factors that you’ll need to consider before committing. I’m talking about build quality, clearance, cat/axle, and more.
It’s no secret that the higher the material duality, the longer the exhaust system will serve. Stainless steel is the most popular material for it. The reason – it’s quite expensive, yet flexible and long-lasting. There are two types of steel, and 409 is currently dominating the market. It’s reliable, durable, and will last for up to ten years. The 304 stainless steel, in turn, costs more but boasts enhanced longevity.
Next, we’ve got the coating. Sprayed aluminum coating will make sure rust and corrosion won’t be able to damage the pipes. And don’t forget to check the heat resistance specs of the exhaust system. If it’s capable of handling extreme temperatures, you might want to purchase it.
I’m not even talking about how the new gear will look on your Wrangler, JK, even though that’s also important. First of all, what I mean by design is how easily it will fit. The most advanced (and thought-through) aftermarket parts can be installed with a minimum set of tools. In other cases, pro-grade tools are a must. Plus, you might have to do some cutting and bending to get things done.
This largely depends on the terrain. If you’re a big fan of off-roading and prefer challenging roads over highways and city streets, I recommend going with higher clearance. That way, you won’t have to worry about damaging your gear no matter how tricky or rough the trail is going to be. That’s pretty much all there is to know about clearance.
Admit it: you’re looking for an aggressive sound that will scare all the birds in the forest away when you drive through. Well, the best aftermarket exhaust systems have just the right balance of roaring and calming sounds that fit the JK perfectly. On the other hand, some drivers are frustrated by louder-than-average sounds and prefer something more modest.
I make a habit of checking the sound quality of any engine-related gear that I’m interested in. You can always do that at home using the Internet. Also, read product reviews – they can be pretty useful.
Cat-Back vs. Axle-Back
Here’s what you need to know about the axle-back system: it’s (mostly) rather cheap but doesn’t affect performance much. It will, of course, get rid of the fumes more efficiently, but you won’t see a significant boost in horsepower or torque. The good news is – “axles” are very easy to install and don’t require any cutting or drilling.
The cat-back system, in contrast, can be quite expensive. Yet, with it, drivers can expect to get some extra HP. A cat-back exhaust replaces the catalytic converter, the pipes, and the muffler. That’s how the increase in performance is achieved. On the downside – installation may be a bit tricky and challenging.
Don’t go cheap when shopping for a replacement exhaust system. Always consider the market average before you spend your hard-earned bucks on anything. Next, learn a bit about the manufacturer. If it is based in the US, has a good reputation, and backs its products with a warranty, it’s probably worth investing into.
Comparison Table – Best Exhaust for Jeep JK (Updated March, 2023)
|Product||Product Information||View on Amazon|
1) RedRock 4×4
2) aFe Power (49-46219)
3) Flowmaster 817674
For regular city and highway driving, JK’s factory exhaust system is decent. At the same time, if you’re hitting the off-road regularly, you might want to start checking out some aftermarket systems. The reason – they’ll do a better job of keeping the engine compartment free of all the fumes and burnt gases. Top-of-the-line pipes, manifolds, and converters will make sure the engine isn’t “suffocating” even when pushed to the limit.
If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford the most expensive aftermarket gear, aFe might have exactly what you need. Gibson Performance, in turn, is pretty pricey but does come with a long list of extras that make it worth every penny. Finally, with Flowmaster, you’ll get the golden middle. This exhaust system has one of the best price-quality ratios on the market and can maximize the engine’s performance. So, make your choice wisely!