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Exhaust Maintenance/Woes Print E-mail

Exhaust Maintenance/Woes

Virtually all of us have an after-market 4-1 exhaust system on our cycles. These were added in the early years because the bike was still one of the fastest motorcycles around and XS Eleven owners wanted to maximize performance by putting on a lighter exhaust that reduced back-pressure and increased performance. Carbs were often re-jetted as well.

Today, most of us have old, beat-up exhaust systems that need to be replaced. We'd like to be able to return to the nice balanced look of the stock exhaust. However, Yamaha lists the stock exhaust as four separate parts that total over $1100! Since our motorcycles are not worth a whole lot more than that as they are, it's hard to justify spending that much on an exhaust system. The only other solution appears to be the few after-market systems available from Mac, Jardine, etc. (~$200-$400). I recently put on a Jardine 4-2 and am relatively satisfied.

David Hansen

If you have one of the black after-market steel 4-into-1 systems they need some special maintenance. This should be done yearly or more often if needed.


  1. Remove the pipes, this is normally done by removing the header nuts which on my 81 midnight are allens.
  2. Unbolt the muffler from the frame and separate it from the tailpipe, that way you won't have to try pulling it through the center stand.
  3. Strip the pipes and muffler down to bare metal, getting all the rust and crud off.
  4. Pick a nice quiet day with no wind [or do it inside] and wipe the pipes down with prep-sol, this stuff will remove any dust,loose paint and grease. Do NOT touch the pipes with your bare hands after this step. Actually you might want to have them hanging from the ceiling prior to doing this step.
  5. Using a slow steady arm put a thin coat of HIGH HEAT Header paint [VHT is one] on the headers and muffler. Do this 4 times with 1 hour drying time between coats.
  6. Depending on how thin your coats are [the thinner the better], you can stop after you are satisfied with the finish.
  7. If the pipes are NEW, spray some high heat paint down each header to coat the inside of the pipe, this is a trick I was told about by an HD owner who got tired of his chrome pipes turning blue. Allow the pipes plenty of time to dry before putting them back on.
  8. During disassembly you probably had a fit trying to separate the header from the muffler, be sure to use some "anti-seize" compound upon reassembly, this stuff will also work on the header bolts/nuts. Also use NEW donut gaskets, don't try to reuse the old ones, they get squeezed down after the first install.


Make sure you used HEADER Paint, not engine paint [Unless you really want someone to call the fire dept saying their neighbor's motorcycle is either on fire or someone dropped a smoke bomb under it].

NOTE: For a good gloss black paint to use on the frame, etc., use Harley Davidson spray paint. It comes in an orange can and their gloss black is really nice.

NOTE: ALL OF YOU are going to try wire brushes, wire brushes on drills, power sanders or some other "quick strip " method, what you're going to end up doing is using some good emery cloth and holding the header between your knees which will allow you to move it to different angles. The only other tried and true method of really stripping those pipes is to either sand blast or glass bead em [This is what I do now], the machine shop charges me $5 for the headers, the muffler usually does not need anything.

Richard Pierson



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