How To

How to Choose The Right Exhaust System for Dodge RAM 1500

Along with the engine, battery, and air intake system, the exhaust is one of the most important parts of the powertrain. It gets rid of the toxic fumes, transforms the sound, and ensures a long and prosperous life for the engine. Now, if it’s time for a replacement, and you’re a bit lost because there are so many different brands and exhausts, this guide will help you with the choice.

A premium-quality Exhaust System for Dodge RAM 1500 will not only remove the bad vapors, but also improve the MPG ratio, boost the throttle response, and add extra HP/torque. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so, let’s get right to it. We’ll talk about the different exhaust types, the importance of build quality, what gains to expect, fitment, compatibility, and more!

#1: Axle-Back vs. Cat-Back

This is the first, and the most important decision that you’ll have to make. Both cat- and axle-back systems have their strong sides and weaknesses. Go ahead and take a closer look at each exhaust type so that you know what to expect. In many ways, they are the same; yet, there are still differences between the two:

  • Axle-Back. If you’re on a tight budget but need a replacement exhaust ASAP, axle-back will be the best option for you. First of all, it is really cheap and won’t break your bank. Secondly, it requires very little time to install it. The whole process will take less than an hour. Plus, axle-backs usually have a milder, non-aggressive sound compared to cat-backs. But, you’ll only get a muffler and an exhaust pipe/tip, nothing more.
  • Axle-Back vs. Cat-BackCat-Back. In contrast to the axle-back exhaust systems, cat-backs consist of a rather longer list of components, including mufflers, tips, tailpipes, and mid-pipes. Depending on the configuration, you might also get a catalytic converter, but, mostly, it’s everything AFTER the converter. With a cat-back, you’ll get a boost in HP, torque, and overall performance, along with a beefy tone.

#2: Single, or Dual Exhaust?

Right now, the market is overwhelmed with single exhausts. They are cheaper, more available, easier to install, and are officially supported by pretty much all brands and models. For the RAM 1500, a single-exhaust system will be a very decent purchase, as it will fit perfectly and introduce a lot of positive changes. This is achieved via premium-quality materials, bigger (or, rather, wider) pipes, and a performance-oriented design.

Dodge Ram 1500-Dual ExhaustIf you’re a big fan of off-roading and have been on dozens of trips into the wilderness with the RAM truck, a new single-exhaust system will be right up your alley. So, what does the dual-exhaust configuration have to offer? Will you get two converters, mufflers, resonators, and pipes? For the most part, the answer is no.

The system will include two exhaust tips, but that’s pretty much it. And, for the average driver, this won’t make much of a difference. True, the efficiency of such an exhaust can be pretty high, but, unless you’re an avid rally pilot or NASCAR driver, the extra cost of a dual-tip setup won’t be justified.

#3: Material/Engineering Quality

MaterialEngineering Quality - Stainless SteelSteel – that’s what 99% of manufacturers craft their exhaust systems from. You still need to be careful when ordering a new exhaust, though, because, say, stainless steel is widely superior to mild steel. First of all, it’s very resistant to rust and corrosion. Secondly, it’s a more durable and flexible material. In my opinion, the best option right now is aluminized steel.

With it, you won’t have to worry about the wind, rain, snow, mud, slush, or any other natural elements ruining your exhaust. Mild steel, in turn, can get overwhelmed in the blink of an eye. On the RAM 1500, the exhaust system sits pretty low, which means it will constantly be in contact with the road. If you’re ready to commit with your wallet, go with 304 steel. It’s much stronger and more reliable than, say, the 409 steel (which is still better than mild steel).

#4: Performance Gains?

Let’s face it: most drivers think about buying an aftermarket exhaust for performance gains. But how big will the powertrain boost actually be, though? And, will it be worth the trouble, or not? Let’s talk facts: on average, you can expect a 3% increase in horsepower and torque. That way, a Dodge truck with 395HP under the hood will go over 405 “horses” with the new exhaust.

Performance GainsSo, no, the boost won’t be a game-changer. But on the MPG front, things are a lot more exciting. Depending on the engine, transmission system, air intake, and other factors, the increase in mileage can reach 10% (3-5% on average). And that can save you 150-200 US dollars a year, or more.

In my experience, it’s always better to bet on fuel efficiency rather than on HP/torque. Again, unless you’re a pro driver, you won’t feel much of a difference when you go from -400 to +400 HP. But with the MPG (miles per gallon) ratio, you’ll be on the winning side, no matter what.

#5: Perfect Fitment + Easy Installation

Always look for a third-party exhaust that’s 100% compatible with your truck; that’s the #1 rule. Many experts talk a lot about HP gains, the materials, and different configurations, but they don’t tell you how to choose the right exhaust in terms of compatibility. My advice to you – ONLY consider buying an exhaust system that is a perfect fit for your truck. It won’t take much effort to find it, by the way.

Check the fitment chart at an online store. Or, if you’re shopping “offline”, ask the staff members to help you get an exhaust that is officially supported by your vehicle. If you see “direct, bolt-on OE installation” in the specifications, and the gear is compatible with your vehicle, it might just be exactly what the RAM 1500 needs. That way, the installation will take 1-2 hours max and won’t involve drilling, trimming, or visiting the closest auto shop.

#6: And what about the Sound?

There are no right or wrong decisions here – it all depends on what you’re looking for. As I mentioned briefly, cat-backs tend to have a more “in-your-face” tone because they change all of the factory pipes. An axle-back, in turn, won’t be as aggressive. For city driving, I recommend choosing an exhaust with a dampened sound. But, for off-roading, the louder the engine, the better!


Exhaust systems aren’t very complex, but there are still a lot of factors to consider if you want to get the best deal for your money. The new exhaust needs to be a perfect fit with your RAM 1500’s make, model, and year, improve the overall performance and sound like a million bucks. And let’s not forget about the build quality, engineering, and materials.

The good news is – once you master this guide, it will be much easier to navigate through the countless exhaust systems and find the one that suits your vehicle best. Will it be a cat-back or an axle-back configuration? Do you go with single, or dual exhausts? What does the perfect aftermarket exhaust for Dodge’s RAM 1500 look like? It’s up to you to decide!

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