Ramping Up The Ram With Headers, Exhaust, and a Tune

RAM57We know that performance is not always the main objective of an OE vehicle manufacturer these days. Exhaust systems are designed to remove the expelled gasses from the engine’s cylinders quietly and efficiently, while passing the tight restrictions set forth by the EPA. Most people that have looked at the exhaust on their stock vehicle will usually have some questions as to why it was done the way it was. Basically, it comes down to fit, function, and cost effectiveness.

For those of us that are always looking for more power, there are companies out there that build upon the clean slate the manufacturer has given us as. In this article we are going to take a 2012 Ram pickup truck that was in dire need of more power and a more aggressive exhaust note, and see if we can’t make that happen. This Ram is equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI engine, rated at 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque at the engine. 

While these are impressive numbers out of a stock powerplant, as performance enthusiasts, we had to search for more. To aid in the search for more power, we turned to American Racing Headers, Flowmaster, and DiabloSport to put together a package that would wake up all 5.7-liters.

Decisions, Decisions

In order to achieve more power, we must look at efficiency–getting the exhaust gasses out of the combustion chamber as quickly and easily as possible. We did some research and picked American Racing Headers for a set of its 304 stainless steel long-tube headers for 2009 and up Ram trucks. These headers are a piece of art, truly beautiful to look at and a shame that they cannot be seen from the upper side of the vehicle.

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Just a slight difference between the factory manifolds and the ARH long tube headers.

American Racing Headers’ Ram system features 3/8-inch thick flanges with TIG welded and hand-ported inlets, optimized tube length with a choice of 1-3/4-inch or 1-7/8-inch primaries, merge collectors with scavenger spikes, and a true two-into-one merged three-inch Y-pipe. We chose the 1-3/4-inch primary because we knew that the owner would not be doing any type of forced induction or further engine modifications.

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Here you can see the scavenger spikes ARH installs in the collector of the headers.

We noticed scavenger spikes in the headers, and when asked about them, Nick Filippides at American Racing Headers remarked, “Our headers’  scavenger spikes help direct exhaust to the center of the collector where the merge is. Exhaust velocity increases at the merge, increasing scavenging. The spike shape acts as an extension of the primary and follows the taper of the collector as it leads to the merge. The spikes also allow us to use a fully welded, non slip-on style collector, a huge plus on late model applications where air leaks can pose a problem.”

While the American Racing Headers kit is a complete system that will bolt up to the factory muffler and tail pipes, we decided to up the ante a bit with a new muffler to add a more aggressive tone and more power. One of the American Thunder 409 stainless steel, direct fit muffler systems from Flowmaster Mufflers looked like just the thing.

We chose the option of muffler-only over complete exhaust to try and keep the decibel level and drone down when the MDS kicks in. The tech at Flowmaster informed us that leaving the factory resonators on would help to keep the drone to a minimum since we were adding long tube headers that can add to the exhaust note and make it louder than the standard muffler install. 

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The stock muffler is very large and consists of a single three-inch inlet and dual 2 1/4-inch outlets. The Flowmaster replacement muffler is configured the same way as to bolt up to the stock exhaust system if someone only wanted to replace just the muffler and not the whole exhaust system.

David Turner from Flowmaster told us, “The exhaust system is custom designed for the performance enthusiast looking for a great sound and great performance. Sound quality is especially important with the Ram 5.7 that uses cylinder deactivation resulting in cabin resonance issues.”

To pull all of this together we needed to address the tuning aspect of the engine with the extra air that would be moving through the system. We contacted DiabloSport and they recommended their top of the line Trinity T1000 tuner. Not only does the Trinity allow us to make minor changes to the basic tune up that comes with the unit, but it allows for full custom tunes to be imported with ease from your CMR tuner of choice.

It sports a full line of gauges that are fully customizable by look, layout, data read, or screen to appear on. There are hundreds of inputs to read depending on what you are trying to accomplish and the vehicle that it is installed on. With all of this information available it would be useless without a way to look at it later for analyzing, for this the Trinity has a built in memory along with an external SD Card slot or the ability to download directly to your PC using Diablosport’s proprietary viewing software. All of this makes data logging as simple as choosing the parameters you want to log and pushing a button.

If something goes wrong and you get a check engine light, the Trinity has a diagnostic code reader built in to read and erase fault codes. It also gives you the option to set parameter warnings to alert you if something is wrong or out of range. You can connect external sensors to monitor devices that were not originally installed on the vehicle, like a boost sensor, EGT sensor, etc.

Along with all of the above useful information the Trinity has another spectacular tool included – Racing Mode. This mode allows you to measure the performance of your vehicle including 0-60 or 0-100 mph, eighth-mile and quarter-mile times, your best reaction time, and more. This tuner is definitely a fully functioning unit that can do all that you need.

First Things First

Before starting our installation we ran the Ram on our in-house Dynojet Dynamometer, and it showed rear-wheel power numbers of 319.9 hp and 340.6 lb-ft of torque. This baseline is what we will use to compare our performance numbers against once the installation of the Trinity T1000 tuner, American Racing Headers exhaust manifold, and Flowmaster Exhaust muffler system is complete. 

We began the job by removing the factory Y-pipe and catalytic converters. Nothing special was needed, just a little WD-40 on all of the nuts and bolts to help keep them from seizing up and breaking off. Once the Y-pipe was out of the way, the factory heat shields that cover the exhaust manifolds can be removed, along with the manifolds themselves. This was a fairly simple operation. 

Before, during, and after installation. Thanks to the engine bay that's designed to house the Cummins motor, there is a surprising amount of room to aid in the installation process. The install is fairly straightforward however a can of WD-40 is needed to prevent any bolts from breaking.

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With the ARH long tubes installed you can see there is plenty of room all the way around. They did a great job making these as to not interfere with anything.

Once the manifolds were removed, we made sure to clean the surface of the head so the new gaskets would seal properly. As you can see there is plenty of room for the new headers to be put into place. On the driver’s side, the transmission cable needs to be moved out of the way and the oil dipstick tube needs to be moved to clear the header tube, otherwise it’s a straight-forward install. The new headers were then installed, and the Y-pipe bolted in place, using the supplied hardware.

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We decided to remove the factory tailpipes and resonators to make the installation easier – even though it is not required.

We then turned to the Flowmaster muffler. This is a direct replacement for the factory muffler and goes into place using the factory mounts and newly supplied hose clamps. We chose to remove the rear tailpipes to make the installation easier, because there is not a lot of wiggle room when you start getting close to the rear axle. It was easier to just remove them and re-install them once the new muffler is mounted in place. 

Careful Cutting

At this point we needed to measure the amount of factory tubing we would need to make up the distance from the new Y-pipe to the new Flowmaster muffler. Be sure when removing the original exhaust system you do not cut the header-to-muffler section. It’s needed for all muffler installs, and the length of tube varies based on the cab model of truck you have. 

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Install complete, everything fits neatly with plenty of clearance.

Once the Flowmaster muffler and the header-to-muffler section of tube was installed, we lined everything up with the tailpipes re-installed and tightened all exhaust system bolts to spec. We then heat cycled the complete system and re-torqued all of the fasteners. The exhaust system installation was an easy job. Everything fit the way it was supposed to, and nothing other than the header-to-muffler tube mentioned above needed to be re-engineered, and that is a tall feat these days.

Tuned Up

Next we moved to the DiabloSport Trinity T1000 tuner. Being the smart guys that we are, all the initial downloads and updates to the T1000 had been accomplished the night before and completed, as this does take some time at a computer. Because that had already been done, we were able to quickly perform the program uploads into the truck’s ECM.

The quarter-mile drag race mode will give you accurate quarter mile times along as serves as a great visual representation of your pass.

The quarter-mile drag race mode will give you accurate quarter mile times along as serves as a great visual representation of your pass.

The Trinity T1000 was plugged into the OBD port located under the dash, and we simply followed the directions as it went through its upload. This may also take a few minutes, so be patient and let the tuner go through its operations unmolested. You can’t rush it, and if you interrupt it, you’ll have to start all over again. 

From left to right: Choose the type of race you want to record your time for. The main menu shows the six main options housed within the T1000 including performance tunes, data logging, racing mode, and monitoring mode for day to day driving. Find and clear trouble codes. Choose what parameters you want displayed during normal driving from a wide variety including ECT, throttle position, transmission oil temp, and more.

With Trinity’s T1000, the driver has a lot of options of what information they want to display at any given time. The menu system is very intuitive and easy to navigate, even for first time users of tuners. From quarter mile time to EGT monitoring, the T1000 has a diverse lineup of features that give the driver a lot of insight into how their vehicle is functioning.

The Numbers

Once all the installations were complete, the Ram was strapped down on the Dynojet dynamometer again for our proofing run. The Diablo Trinity T1000 tuner, American Racing Headers, and Flowmaster muffler really kicked up the power coming out of the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI. The Ram gained 22.8 hp and 37.9 lb-ft of torque at peak power, recording a peak of 342.8 hp at 5,350 rpm and 378.6 lb-ft of torque at 4,090 rpm.

Before n AfterKeep in mind that these are peak numbers. There are similar gains along the entire power curve. These numbers are pretty impressive for just an exhaust system install with the DiabloSport Trinity T1000 used to make adjustments at particular points to smooth out the power curve. Notice how smooth the “after” curve is compared to the “stock” run.

In addition, the Diablo Trinity T1000 tuner, American Racing Headers exhaust manifold, and Flowmaster muffler installation we performed on this 2012 Ram pickup with a 5.7-liter V8 HEMI engine helped make driving the truck a completely new experience. It not only has more power overall, but the power band is broader; and the DiabloSport Trinity tuner’s “Throttle Booster” function allowed us to increase pedal sensitivity, making a big difference in drivability we really noticed during everyday driving and acceleration.

Final Thoughts

So how does 342.8 hp and 378.6 lb-ft of torque sound? There are spots along the curve that had huge gains and made driving the truck a completely different experience. The truck accelerates easier while using less throttle and definitely has way more power for passing slower vehicles. In addition, the exhaust note now has an authoritive rumble at idle without any annoying drone at cruising speed, (remember we left the stock resonator’s in), but when you smash the throttle open, it will surely get your attention.

Article Sources

About the author

David Lukason

Growing up in the five liter (5.0L) heyday and as co-owner of Powertrain Dynamics, David has built and raced all kinds of late model Mustangs and Camaros. His passion for anything that goes fast has led him from street racing, off-shore boat racing, high speed desert racing, to the unfortunate, but occasional trip to jail. Now older and wiser, with his license re-instated, he looks to bring his passion to the eyes of readers everywhere.
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