Want to Wrap Your Motorcycle's Exhaust? Here's How You Do It
It’s mostly aesthetic—but it can also save your leg from an incredibly painful burn.
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Danger is part of the game with motorcycles, but it doesn’t begin with the twist of the throttle—it begins while you’re sitting in your driveway, on the street, or in the parking lot. As soon as you turn the key or press the start button, you enter the danger zone. The fuel starts pumping, the gases start flowing, and the exhaust pipes wait patiently to see if they’ll have the chance to do their best Michael Kelso impression. BURN!
When you throw your leg over the motorcycle, you need to be keenly aware of where you’re putting your legs, your feet, and your ankles. They should already be covered in kevlar motorcycle pants, high socks, and motorcycle boots, but in the event that they aren’t, they might be branded like cattle by the scarring effects of hot metal on delicate skin.
In addition to the protection from the gear you should be wearing every time you ride, you might also want to protect yourself from your piping hot exhaust system by wrapping it. Motorcycle exhaust wrap is a fairly simple mod that serves a functional purpose and also gives your ride a custom look. Some people and brands also claim adding one can increase performance, but that’s up for debate. If wrapping your motorcycle exhaust is something you’ve considered, the Guides & Gear editors here at The Drive have assembled a guide to dispel rumors, help you figure out what you need, and support you as you attempt to wrap your bike's exhaust at home.
Let’s figure this out together.
What Are Wraps Made Of?
A large majority of motorcycle exhaust wraps will be made of fiberglass composite. Some kits come with an additional stainless steel layer, and some are also labeled as “titanium” that are actually made from “crushed volcanic rock.” Yeah, we know, that’s not titanium.
Does a Motorcycle Exhaust Wrap Improve Performance, or Is That Just Marketing?
If you look at the labels of motorcycle exhaust wrap packaging, you might see a statement that says these wraps could increase the power and performance of your machine. The theory is that the wrap keeps gas inside the exhaust pipes hotter, which allows them to move quicker, which allows them to exit the exhaust quicker, the force of which could potentially help the engine to suck in air and fuel quicker for the next combustion cycle. This, theoretically, means more power. It's known as the scavenging effect. Additionally, by getting exhaust gases out of the engine quicker, it could theoretically reduce engine temperature.
However, even if this is true—we’re very dubious after speaking to a few race engineers—and it did increase the power, you’d likely only be able to tell the difference on a dyno. The change would most likely be negligible, and you wouldn’t actually notice any difference during daily driving.
The point is, do not wrap your motorcycle for the reason of increasing your performance. Wrap it if you want to protect your legs and/or change the look of the motorcycle. Consider the following.
Pros of Wrapping a Motorcycle Exhaust
- Prevents burns on feet, ankles, and legs
- Adds a custom look and feel
- Covers up rust
- Covers up dents
Cons of Wrapping a Motorcycle Exhaust
- Wraps could trap moisture and dirt
- Excessive heat could lead to premature exhaust wear
- Doesn’t last long, requires rewrapping
- Color fades fairly quickly
- Covers damage you might need to address
Should I Silicone Spray the Wrap?
There are two trains of thought about using high-temperature silicone spray to coat the wrap. On one hand, it could help keep it in place, help lock in heat, and protect the wrap.
On the other hand, spraying the wrap could potentially trap invading water inside and up against the metal, which could eventually lead to damage. It might also potentially wear the exhaust down quicker due to extended high temperatures. So, that’s up to you.
What About Titanium Exhausts?
Titanium is a more delicate metal than steel, so for this reason, it is not recommended to wrap titanium exhaust systems. By trapping the heat, the wrap could potentially lead to premature exhaust system breakdown and wear.
How Much Wrap Do I Need?
After you determine whether or not you want a one-inch wrap or two-inch wrap, the most common types, you can use a tape measure and Design Engineering’s wrap length calculator to determine how much you need to buy.
How To Install a Motorcycle Exhaust Wrap
Unfortunately, you cannot properly wrap an exhaust while it is on the motorcycle. You’ll need to take it off.
The Basics of Wrapping a Motorcycle Exhaust
- Estimated Time Needed: A couple of hours
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Vehicle System: Exhaust
Motorcycle Exhaust Wrapping Safety
Working with exhaust systems can be extremely dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, get maimed, or get zapped back to the future—hopefully.
Everything You’ll Need to Wrap Your Motorcycle's Exhaust
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.
- Socket Set
- Screwdriver set
- Torque wrench
- Needle nose pliers
- Metal cutters or pliers
- Clamps and/or vice
- Penetrating oil
- Brake and contact cleaner
- Non-abrasive cleaner scrubber
- Razor blade
- Shop rags
- Motorcycle wrap
- Metal ties/clamps
- Exhaust gaskets
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You don't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
Park your motorcycle in a shaded area out of the way of traffic or foot traffic and let it cool down. Then it’s time to get to it!
Part 1: Remove the Exhaust Pipe
- Spray the exhaust pipe bolts with penetrating oil and let them sit for a few minutes.
- Remove the exhaust pipe bolts at the front and rear of the pipe, as well as any bolts holding the exhaust to the frame. Label the bolts if you need to.
- Remove the pipe, remove any flanges, and put the bolts in a safe place.
Part 2: Prep the Pipe
- Use a razor blade to scrape off any plastic, vinyl, or rubber that has melted from your boots and clothes and onto the pipe.
- Use brake and contact cleaner to clean the surface of the pipe. If you have any rust spots, this is a good time to treat those as well.
- If you don’t have a helpful friend on hand, position the pipe in a stable position on a table using a vice and/or clamps.
Part 3: Prep the Wrap
- Do not soak the wrap, as some types have protective coatings that could be washed away by completely submerging and rinsing the wrap.
- Instead, use a hose or faucet to wet the material lightly.
- While doing so, slightly loosen the wrap while retaining the roll shape and allow the water to disperse itself throughout the wrap. This will soften the wrap and allow you to wrap it tightly and securely.
- Cut off the frayed end.
Part 4: Wrapping the Pipe
You’ll want to wrap from the back to the front. This is due to the way the seams will lie when the job is done. In this direction, the overlapping seams will face back and down, which is much less likely to collect dirt and grime than the other way around.
Additionally, while you are wrapping, the overlap should be at least one-half or three-quarters of an inch. On a one-inch wrap, that’s overlapping half of the material.
- Make sure the flanges are in the correct position. You don’t want to trap them on the wrong sides of the pipes because they can’t fit over the wrap.
- Fold the frayed part of the wrap underneath itself then place it on the pipe.
- Slowly and carefully roll the wrap around the pipe using tight tension to make sure the wrap is secure and completely fitted. For the first row, wrap it entirely over itself.
- Once the first row is complete, secure the end/edge with a metal clamp provided in the kit. If this is your first time, you might want to have a couple extra of these on hand, just in case something goes wrong and you have to start over or remove the wrap.
- Continue wrapping until you get to a bend. Around bends, you will want to overlap a bit more than usual to navigate the difference of material needed around the curves. Make sure not to leave any gaps!
- Continue wrapping until you reach the end.
- Fold the frayed edge underneath and apply a metal clamp/tie.
- Check your work to make sure there are no gaps and everything is tightly covered. If there is any play or gaps in the wrap, you will need to unwrap and start over.
- For added security, you can add extra clamps/ties where you please, but make sure they won’t interfere with the rest of the motorcycle when you reinstall it.
- Use pliers to tighten the clamps all the way and remove excess metal.
- Repeat for additional pipes or sections.
Part 5: Reinstalling the exhaust
- Clean up the nuts and bolts to remove any rust or road grime.
- With new exhaust pipe gaskets, reinstall the piping. Be careful not to catch the wrap on anything sharp or pointy.
- Use a torque wrench where necessary. Consult your owner’s manual for exact specs.
- Well done! Your bike is now leg-friendly and has a custom look to it.
FAQs About Motorcycle Exhaust Wrapping
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q: How much does motorcycle exhaust wrap cost?
A: Motorcycle exhaust wrap kits could cost roughly $20 to $100+ depending on the company, design, materials used, and what’s included in the kit.
Q: How long does motorcycle exhaust wrap last?
A: This is difficult to nail down to a specific time period. It largely depends on the condition of the exhaust, the riding climate, the terrain the bike drives through, how well the wrap was applied, and where the motorcycle is stored, among other things.
Q: What size wrap should I use?
A: This largely comes down to preference of looks.
Q: Does motorcycle exhaust wrap reduce noise?
A: Not always, but it’s possible the wrap could mute the exhaust sound to some degree.
Q: Is a smoking exhaust wrap normal?
A: Yes, manufacturers state that it’s completely normal for the wrap to smoke for up to a week while it acclimates to the heat of the exhaust.
Q: Does motorcycle exhaust wrap change color?
A: It almost certainly will. Because of the wear and tear of the exhaust heat and outside conditions, the wrap will likely change color, whether that’s a tan wrap getting darker or a black wrap turning gray.
Q: Is ceramic coating better than exhaust wraps?
A: Better is subjective, but ceramic coating technically might last longer than exhaust wraps, which will eventually wear down and require replacement. Some people also don’t like the look of the wraps.
Q: What About Dual Pipes With Forks?
A: These will take longer, but they shouldn’t be any more difficult. Wrap the two pipes first, then wrap the primary large pipe and overlap the fork a few inches.
Learn more about installing motorcycle exhaust wraps with this helpful clip.
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