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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

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 long-tube headers and 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 halfway 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

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 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 a 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 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. 

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.

  • American Racing Headers: Long-system Headers
  • Stainless Works Ram 1500 Classic Long-tube Header Kit
  • JBA 1-¾” Long-tube for Ram 5.7L HEMI
  • Ram 1500 Kooks Stainless Long-tube Headers
  • Ram 5.7 HEMI Gibson Performance Shorty Headers

*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.

Our Top Pick – 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 ARHs 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.

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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4 Comments

  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,
      Chandler

  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,
      Chandler

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