Trying to figure out ways to make your motorcycle look cleaner and more up to date can be a stressful task. You don’t want to do something to it that will make it look stupid, or worse, ruin some part of your motorcycle and have to replace it.
Motorcycle exhaust wrap is one of those things a lot of motorcyclists debate about whether or not they should get it. There really is no simple answer as to whether or not someone should use exhaust wrap, but it’s good to know the pros and cons to it before deciding to use it.
What are the pros and cons to using motorcycle exhaust wrap? The pros of using exhaust wrap on your motorcycle include decreasing your engine temperature, improving cosmetics, feet protection, and how easily it can be installed. The cons include it looking bad if not installed right, that it’s not interchangeable, it can cause rusting, and that it smokes and smells after installation.
I have used exhaust wrap dozens of times on my motorcycle restorations. I’ve been able to see what it’s like having them on a motorcycle and what it’s like going without. These are the pros and cons I have come up with that can hopefully help you make your decision.
The Pros And Cons To Motorcycle Exhaust Wrap
When I first started restoring motorcycles, I wasn’t very sure of what exhaust wrap was in the first place. I had restored a few motorcycles before I actually discovered what it was and what it was meant for. I started using it on some of my restorations and was quite pleased.
The first pro for using exhaust wrap on a motorcycle is that it decreases the engine temperature. The more heat you can dissipate away from the engine the better and exhaust wrap keeps the heat in the pipe and assists with the exhaust pipe’s functionality of pushing out the smoke and heat.
Without exhaust wrap on the exhaust pipes, the heat inside the pipes can bake off and transfer through the side of the metal and back onto the engine. This in turn can increase horsepower because a cooler engine can function more efficiently.
The second pro of using exhaust wrap I’d like to point out is how well it can make the motorcycle look cosmetically if it is put on right. The constant heat the exhaust pipes are under can sometimes discolor them which doesn’t look very good. Exhaust wrap does an excellent job at covering up those blemishes while giving your motorcycle that extra look that people like.
Using wrap on your motorcycle exhaust pipes can also be a protective factor. While you’re out riding, your feet are close to those extremely hot pipes and it’s not unheard of to burn your feet or ankles or ruin a pair of boots. Exhaust wrap, though still hot to the touch while running, can greatly decrease your chances of getting a burn.
One of my favorite things about using exhaust wrap is how easily it can be installed by anyone in the comfort of their own garage. It can be done within an hour. There’s not a lot of tasks you can do to a motorcycle within that small amount of time that makes such a huge difference to the look of it.
Now that we’ve discussed the pros of using exhaust wrap, let’s talk about the cons and disadvantages of using it. The first one I’d like to point out is that applying the wrap to your motorcycle has to be done exactly right or it can look really bad or even a little trashy. Ultimately it can make your motorcycle look worse if it’s done wrong.
The second con I’d like to point out is that once you decide to put exhaust wrap on your motorcycle exhaust, you can’t really go back. What I mean is that once the wrap has cured, it’ll leave little checker marks on your pipes that comes from the fiber on that wraps that are permanent.
This is something you can’t do interchangeably. Though I have heard it does help spraying your pipes with some silicone beforehand, but I have never tried that and I’m not sure if that works or not.
If you don’t ride your motorcycle very often and water finds it’s way between the pipe and the wrap, it can cause your pipes to rust faster. Regular riding will combat this as it will dissipate the water. But for those who don’t ride very often, you’ll probably have to start up your motorcycle occasionally to get any residual water out from underneath the wraps. That can be pretty annoying.
The last con and disadvantage of using exhaust wrap on your motorcycle is that after you install it, it smokes a lot and smells pretty bad for a little while. This is normal and considered part of the curing process, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant. It usually takes a few hours of riding for that to resolve itself and there’s nothing you can do to initially stop it.
How To Install Exhaust Wrap On Your Motorcycle
As I had mentioned before, putting header wrap on your motorcycle can be an easy task, but it must be done right the first time in order for it to look good. This is not something you can just “wing” and call it good.
Luckily for you, I have installed exhaust wrap dozens of times and can tell you exactly how to do it. The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your exhaust pipes are accessible with nothing in the way. Temporarily remove any parts that may get in the way of you installing the wrap properly.
Next, you’ll need to wear some rubber gloves especially if you’re installing the fiberglass wraps. Otherwise you’ll likely get little sores on your hands and they’ll itch like crazy.
Take the plastic sleeve off the exhaust wrap and soak the whole thing in water for several minutes. This will help it stretch a little which will give it a tighter fit while you’re wrapping it. Once the exhaust wrap has soaked for a few minutes, you’re ready to wrap it around your motorcycle exhaust pipes.
The ends come frayed just a little bit. You’ll need to fold in the end about a half inch so the fray is not visible. Start wrapping it around the header as tightly as you can and overlap each wrap about halfway. Wrap it all the way down the pipe and use a stainless steel zip tie to fasten it down. Now you can start wrapping down the other pipe and use another wire tie to fasten the end down. Use a stainless steel zip tie on all ends of the pipes to ensure the security of the wrap.
If you’re wanting to prevent the wrap from staining the headers in case you want to take the wraps off in the future, you can try spraying your pipes with a high heat silicone coating before applying the wrap.
I have created an entire videos series about restoring a motorcycle. Within this series includes a detailed video on how to install motorcycle exhaust wrap. In addition, the series includes detailed videos on how to do a complete carb rebuild, body work (fixing, sanding, painting, etc. the tank and frame), and electrical. I share dozens of tips and tricks you won’t be able to find anywhere else online. Click here for more info if you’re interested in building your dream motorcycle!
The Cost Of Exhaust Wrap
Along with the easy installation of wrapping the headers, doing a cosmetic change like this is actually pretty inexpensive. That’s always a plus in my book when I’m trying to find ways to improve the look of my motorcycle.
Fiberglass wraps are usually around $20 for a 50 foot roll. I generally like to get two rolls in case the first one goes out while I’m using it. And it also depends on how tightly you wind your wrap around the pipes. For a thicker look, you’ll need more wrap because you’re doing the binding a lot tighter and doing a lot of overlap.
You’ll also need stainless steal zip ties. You can usually get a bundle (which will be more than enough for this project) for around $5 at an auto parts store or home improvement store. If you choose to spray your pipes with silicone before applying the wrap, that will cost around $15. Altogether, this project shouldn’t cost more than $60.
What Is The Best Exhaust Wrap For A Motorcycle?
The idea of whether or not to use exhaust wrap on your motorcycle is a debate in itself. As a side debate, many wonder whether fiberglass wraps or titanium wraps are better. I personally find them both to work about the same, but the fiberglass wraps are a little less expensive so that’s what I usually go with.
I frequently use wraps like the EZ Auto Wrap. To see the one I specifically recommend, click here to see it in my list of recommended upgrades. This is a fiberglass wrap that I’ve used many times and have found that it works great with my motorcycles.
All in all, I can see why some may not want to use exhaust wraps on their motorcycle, but I personally feel like it looks good and the pros outweigh the cons. Hopefully this read has helped make your decision a little easier.
Can I paint motorcycle wheels or is it better to powder coat them? Painting motorcycle wheels is completely possible and can look great for years to come if it is done right. Powder coating can also look great, but it does cost more and can possibly change the molecular structure of the rims. See my article here for more information.
If the exhaust wrap fades, can I paint it? It’s somewhat common for exhaust wrap to fade in color, so painting the wrap is an option. It’s best to use a high heat silicone spray so it can withstand the heat the pipes are emitting. This will also smoke for a little bit after you spray it on.