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Ram 1500 Headers Upgrade Guide

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

The Ram 1500 is one of the most iconic trucks in American history. It first debuted in 1981, and got the coveted 5.7L HEMI two decades later in 2003. The 2023 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.7L HEMI boasts 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, and Dodge rates it tow more than 11,000 pounds. And while drivers are generally happy with the Ram’s power delivery and towing capacity, compared with the monster figures from some of the larger gas-powered and diesel engines, the 5.7 Ram 1500 leaves a lot to be desired. One of the most popular options to increase horsepower and torque are Ram 1500 headers upgrades. Read on to find the best headers for the 5.7 HEMI-powered 1500 Ram for performance and cost. 

Previously, we’ve looked at the 5.7 HEMI engine a ton. Make sure to check out our other 5.7 HEMI and Ram 1500 content, including: the Best and Worst Years for the Ram 1500, Ram 1500 Cold Air Intake Upgrades, 5.7 HEMI Throttle Body Upgrades, 5.7 HEMI Camshaft Upgrades, 5.7 HEMI Intake Manifold Upgrades, and the 5 best 5.7 HEMI Upgrades

How do Ram 1500 Headers Work?

Before we talk about the best Ram 1500 headers, let’s briefly look at what they are and how they work. Headers are the part of the exhaust system that connect directly to the cylinder heads. On stock cars, they are usually referred to as exhaust manifolds, and the term headers usually indicates an aftermarket part. Since the Ram 1500 uses the 5.7 HEMI V8 engine with two cylinder heads, that means it uses a set: one header for each cylinder bank. 

Headers consist of two parts, the runners and the merge collector. The runners cover each cylinder, and they all come together at the merge collector. The point of exhaust manifolds and headers is to direct the exhaust gasses out of the engine and through the rest of the exhaust.

The reason people typically upgrade their Ram 1500 headers to aftermarket, is because aftermarket headers increase horsepower and torque on the 5.7 HEMI. They do so by being wider and less restrictive than OEM manifolds, which reduces the amount of back pressure in the exhaust system. Reducing back pressure allows for better exhaust scavenging, which is when spent gasses are replaced with cool and clean air. 

Reduced back pressure and increased exhaust scavenging is what allows for more horsepower and torque. For the 5.7 HEMI-powered Ram 1500, typically horsepower and torque gains are 10-25 horsepower and 5-20 lb-ft of torque. With ECU tuning you will see even more of an increase. Ram 1500 long tube headers will make more than short tube headers, which we’ll get into below. 

Ram 1500 Long-tube Headers vs Short-tube Headers

There are two types of aftermarket headers that are commonly available for the Ram 1500: Long-tube headers and short-tube headers. As their names suggest, the primary difference between the two of them is their length. Short-tube headers only replace the exhaust manifold up to the catalytic converters. In contrast, long-tube headers replace or remove the catalytic converters. 

In terms of performance gains there is no question: Long-tube headers completely outperform short-tube headers. This is primarily because long-tube headers remove the catalytic converter(s) from the exhaust system. Catalytic converters are incredibly restrictive and create massive amounts of back pressure, but are necessary for emissions control. Removing them or replacing them with high-flow versions severely decreases the amount of back pressure in the system, allowing for quicker exhaust flow and more power. 

Short-tube headers will still provide some gains, but nowhere near what long-tubes will bring. However, it is important to consider the legal implications of using catless or high-flow catted exhausts. 

Catless vs High-flow Cat Headers

As we mentioned, the difference between Ram 1500 long-tube headers and Ram 1500 short-tube headers is that the long-tubes either remove or replace the OEM catalytic converters. Unfortunately, in many areas catalytic converters are required for a car to be considered emissions compliant. Also, catless exhausts are notorious for smelling absolutely horrible due to the lack of emissions filtering. 

For this reason, many people will opt to go with long-tube headers that have high-flow catalytic converters on them. These catalytic converters still filter emissions from the vehicle, but are less restrictive (and effective) than the stock converters. They are usually enough to be considered emissions compliant, but they still offer performance gains over the stock units. This is a good half-way point for most people, as it still allows for increased performance while maintaining street legality.

Short-tube headers bolt up directly to the catalytic converter pipe, so they do not remove any emissions equipment. If you live somewhere that requires the use of the stock cats, then short-tube headers may be your only option to swap out your exhaust. 

Another thing to consider about Ram 1500 long-tube headers is that they require the use of a custom cat-back. They will not bolt up to the rest of the factory exhaust without modification, so you will either need some welding done or to purchase an entirely new cat-back.

Benefits of Long-tube Headers Ram 1500

Stainless Works Ram 1500 Headers

Most enthusiasts looking at Ram 1500 header upgrades are concerned with power gains, but there are several other benefits, too. Some of the gains from Ram 1500 header upgrades are:

  • +10-25 horsepower
  • +5-20 lb-ft of torque
  • Improved throttle response
  • Reduced back pressure
  • Increased exhaust scavenging
  • Improved exhaust sound

A set of headers for the Ram 1500 will give gains of ~10-25 horsepower and ~5-20 lb-ft of torque. But before we look at power improvements, let’s look at some of the other benefits from header installs.

One of the biggest advantages of Ram 1500 header upgrades is reduced back-pressure and increased scavenging effectiveness we went over earlier. OEM manifolds are only as effective as necessary for stock power levels and are made as cheap as possible. Aftermarket headers reduce back-pressure and increase scavenging at higher than factory power levels.

Another feature of header upgrades is the change in exhaust volume and tone. Aftermarket headers will seriously increase the volume of one’s exhaust. Depending on the brand, they can also create a raspier, more guttural, and more aggressive tone. Long-tube headers exacerbate both effects more than short-tube headers. The difference is most notable under wide open throttle and on cold starts, but even at idle the change is obvious.

Ram 1500 Headers Horsepower Gains

Now, let’s get back to the most important part about Ram 1500 header upgrades: horsepower and torque. As mentioned before, long-tube headers will typically give gains of 10-25 horsepower and 10-20 torque. ECU calibration is highly recommended for any header upgrades on the Ram 1500. This is both to maximize power gains and make sure they are running safely. 

Ram 1500 long-tube headers will provide more power throughout the rpm range over shorty headers on the Ram 1500, for the reasons we mentioned earlier. However, they will also be sometimes 2-5 times more expensive. 

Headers are a great upgrade for getting extra power and volume out of an exhaust. When coupled with other mods for flow, like intakes or cat-back exhausts, you will see even more performance gains. In addition to just delivering better peak performance, you’ll also notice that the throttle is much more responsive, and that the entire power band is much bigger after headers for the Ram 1500. 

Best Ram 1500 Headers Upgrades

Ram 1500 headers American racing headers
Ram 1500 headers American Racing Headers

Now for some recommendations for Ram 1500 headers. This list is not aimed to be exhaustive or comprehensive, as there are so many options out there. In addition, not all exhausts fit all truck model years, so make sure you double check both before you purchase. The list has both long-tube and short-tube headers, keeping in mind a variety of budgets, setups, and power goals. Let’s look at the top-five header upgrades for the Ram 1500’s 5.7L HEMI, in no particular order.

*It is always a great idea to purchase new OEM gaskets when installing new headers on the Ram 1500. It is not advisable to reuse old ones under any conditions as they are prone to breaking and leaking.

1) American Racing Headers: Long-system Headers

Price: $1,926.57–$2,054.79

Fits: 2006-2022 (6-Speed); 2006-2008, 2013-2022 (8-speed)

Design: Long-tube

The first entry on the list are the American Racing Headers’ Ram 1500 Long-tube, Long-system Headers. American Racing Headers (ARH) are the top of the line Ram 1500 long-tube header manufacturers, and our #1 pick. They have incredible craftsmanship and superb welds.

Pricewise, the ARH long-tubes are going to set you back a bit, but you are definitely paying for quality. They produce an aggressive tone and buyers can pair them with an ARH cat back for optimal fit, performance, and sound.

The ARH’s cover all head configurations and feature T304 stainless steel construction, and they come in both 1-¾” x 3” and 1-⅞” x 3” primaries. They also have a 3” Y-pipe that merges both primaries into a single exit. The ARH long-tubes for the Ram 1500 are 100% made in the U.S. and have 200 cell cats. Users can expect 10-25 wheel-horsepower and 10-20 wheel-torque from these headers on the Ram 1500’s 5.7L HEMI.

2) Stainless Works Ram 1500 Classic Long-tube Header Kit

Price: $2,056.00–$2,191.00

Fits: 2009-2023

Design: Long-tube

Stainless Works’ Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers (2009-2019) [or (2019-2023)] are our second entry on the list. They are another top-option for 5.7 HEMI headers and provide fantastic performance. Users can expect 10-20 wheel-horsepower from these headers as well as fantastic and aggressive tones.

The Stainless Works Ram 1500 headers are on the more expensive side for headers, but they are worth it. They come in two configurations, the most popular is a y-pipe that merges both primaries into a single exit. The other is an X-pipe that offers a true dual exit and connects to the Stainless Works’ cat back.

They are manufactured 100% in the U.S. and offer either 1-¾” x 3” or 1-⅞” x 3” primaries. They are highly regarded for the Ram 1500 for their excellent fit and incredible craftsmanship and welding. The Stainless works are only available as a high-flow cat option. Another top-shelf entry, but again at top-shelf prices.

3) JBA 1-¾” Long-tube for Ram 5.7L HEMI

Price: $659.00–$968.00 (with Y-pipe)

Fits: 2009-2018

Design: Long-tube

Next up are the JBA Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers. The JBA’s are a budget option for the 5.7L HEMI as far as headers go. They come with an optional 3” Y-pipe, which costs another $309 on top of the original $660.

The JBAs won’t give you the performance of the Stainless Works or ARHs, but you can still see good gains. Users can expect 8-20 wheel-horsepower and 5-15 wheel-torque after installing these headers on the Ram 1500.

Reviews on the JBAs are generally positive, though some people report issues with fitment and quality. Some people love them and have run them for 100,000s of miles, while others have had less fortunate experiences. We still recommend them, as they have shown to be quality headers overall.

4) Ram 1500 Kooks Stainless Long-tube Headers

Price: $1,750.62–$3,518.90

Fits: 2009-2023

Design: Long-tube

Our fourth entry on the list are the Kooks Headers Ram 1500 Long-Tube Headers. Kooks has been offering performance exhaust systems for decades and are well known in the industry.

Price-wise these headers can be deceiving. The long-tubes by themselves are $1750.62, but they do not come with a y-pipe like the ARHs or Stainless Works. The additional high-flow catted y-pipe is $1,768.28. This makes this full long-system by far the most expensive, though the catless y-pipe is less at $1,018.35. Without the y-pipe, welding and modification will be necessary.

Users can expect 10-20 wheel-horsepower and 5-20 wheel-torque after putting these long-tubes on. The welding and craftsmanship is top-notch as expected, and fitment should be second-to-none. The entire system is T304 stainless steel and is 1-¾” x 3”.

5) Ram 5.7 HEMI Gibson Performance Shorty Headers

Price: $936.27

Fits: 2003-2008

Design: Short-tube

The final entry on our list is the Gibson Performance Exhausts Ram 1500 Short-Tube Headers. The main reason these are on the list is they are one of the few available for the pre-2009 model years.

Being short-tubes, the performance will not compare with the other entries on the list. However, they can still be capable of some noticeable gains. Users can expect a bump of 5-10 wheel-horsepower and 5-8 wheel-torque after putting these on.

Gibson short-tubes are direct fits and attach snugly to the OEM crossover pipe. In addition, these are also CARB compliant, making them a great choice for those needing to pass those strict regulations.

Ram 1500 Headers Upgrade FAQ

What are the best 5.7 HEMI Ram 1500 Headers?

The top 5.7 HEMI Ram 1500 Headers are from American Racing Headers. Their long-tube headers have solid performance gains and excellent welding.

Why upgrade the Headers on my Ram 1500?

Upgrading Ram 1500 Headers increases horsepower and torque, making the truck more responsive and capable of towing more.

How much horsepower do Ram 1500 long-tube headers gain?

Ram 1500 long-tube headers will pick up approximately 10-25 horsepower and 10-20 lb-ft of torque. With other mods, like tuning, an intake, and a cat-back exhaust, you can see even more gains.

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  1. You forgot Pacesetter longtubes for the 03-08 models. They are a very effective and comparably inexpensive option for the early hemi Rams.

    1. TonyB,
      Thanks for the recommendation. You are correct, the PaceSetter Long-tubes are also high-performing and inexpensive headers for the Ram 5.7!

      All the best,

  2. Can the Stainless Works Ram 1500 Classic Long-tube Header Kit be paired with the flowmaster outlaw cat back exhaust system?

    1. Sergio,
      From what I can tell, the Flowmaster outlaw connects to the factory headers, and the Stainless LTs connect to the factory cat back. So my guess is that the Flowmaster has the same connection as stock, so I think they will work.
      However, I would suggest calling both Flowmaster and Stainless Works to make sure before any purchases.
      Best of luck,

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