Comparing OEM manifolds to Pacesetter shorty headers - Pics inside


New Member
Hello -

My wife has a 2002 V6 and it's had the tick since she bought it; I finally got tired of hearing it (she doesn't care.. :( ) and bought Pacesetter headers to attempt to resolve the problem. At $129 they're less expensive than a pair of replacement OEM's and only a little more $ than just buying the passenger side OEM one.

Since I didn't find much online about them other than a lot of people saying don't bother! and shorty headers don't add power on a v6! I made an account here just to post photos and my direct experience with them, good or bad - just to help the next person who might be googling this sort of thing. I'm not expecting power and I'm not expecting MEGA V8 RUMBLE, my sole expectation is that the engine won't go "TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK" from the exhaust leak it had, and will thereby sound more like a car in good order and less like a beater nobody takes care of. If the car accidentally gets more power or a smoother exhaust tone that's cool but I'm not delusional about bolt-ons.

Here's her car; 2002 V6 with automatic trans, ABS/traction control. We have added Bilsteins, Powerstop z23 brakes, a rear swaybar from a V8 convertible and an aftermarket stereo. Everything else is either factory or replacement factory and other than the cracked pass. exhaust manifold and the whining power steering pump, everything works flawlessly. This is an Arizona car that spent much of its life garaged and has 105k miles.

Enough about that. I started work yesterday after getting home from the office.

Welds are pretty good on the headers, still there is some intrusion from the bead - it doesn't look that bad in the photos but it's meaningfully smaller diameter than the tube behind it.

The merge cone isn't too bad really. I'll jam an abrasive wheel down in there just to clean things up a touch but it's pretty good as delivered.

Cleaning things up. Will it add POWAR? Probably like one inchwormpower. I don't know what that is in horsepower. Nobody will ever know or care, but I will know I did it.

Cleaner now

Here's how much larger that bore is than the OEM one

Here they are in full glory.

Nothing like eating dinner at 11pm on a weeknight on the top of a camper shell in the garage.

I had to call it quits around 2am. Had to be up at 6:30 to get to work - the job isn't finished yet - it should have been finished but I ran into this problem called the dipstick.

If you haven't done headers on a 3.8L Mustang yet, and you're considering them - I strongly urge you to read about the dipstick. If I had this to do over again I would have entirely removed the driver side motor mount right at the very beginning (ended up doing that anyway) and also removed the brake master cylinder (didn't do this.. probably should have) . Ultimately I had to deliberately bend the upper part of the dipstick back and forth (very carefully) a few times to make it possible to get the bottom part of the dipstick out of, and into its home. Easily the most frustrating part of the job so far and I had been worried about the EGR tube (cake so far).

I did take "before" audio samples front and rear, and did two 0-60 runs. Will repeat those after the job is complete and take conclusion photos.

I hope this is helpful to anyone looking for this kind of info.


New Member
I also have the "tick tick tick tick" on the drivers side header but hasn't been very annoying since it goes away after the headers warm up. Still interested to see how it turns out since this may give me motivation to finally replace mine :D


New Member
I had a few (not related to car) setbacks that prevented me from finishing until now but after tightening the last bits up, taking a very long shower and getting dressed I went out and started the car up, no major leaks but I think there is a tiny leak on the driver side. Tomorrow after my wife gets home from work & her car cools off I'll tape the shop vac hose to the end of the exhaust, put it in the "blower" exit of the shop vac and pressurise the exhaust system, then get under there with a spray bottle of soapy water to pinpoint that last little buggar. Hopefully that all won't be a disaster..

The headers were just painted, not ceramic coated but here in Arizona rust doesn't happen a lot so I'm hoping these will be good for a long time. I definitely don't look forward to doing this job again in the future though I guess it'll be faster next time, now that I know the tricks. Still tight, unpleasant work... special highlights of suckitude are the dipstick and all of the oxygen sensors... particularly the electrical connectors for the o2 sensors. I'm a medium sized dude with medium sized hands and they're sore from all the squeezing and cramping and jamming them around in unpleasant positions.

The paint burned off the headers pretty quickly, at least the aromatic/smoke did. Some of it started flaking, I guess after a drive on the highway the rest will come off. Just to be safe I brought a fire extinguisher with me on the inaugural drive because of all the smoke, no fire thankfully and the engine is definitely quieter than before. Now the whining power steering pump is even more annoying since it's the loudest noise coming from the front of the car.

So I'll make one last update here in a day or two after I've had the opportunity to microphone the engine/exhaust sound, run a couple 0-60's and then edit together the before/after bits into a youtube video. That's it for now.


New Member
Oh and the EGR tube? Super easy. One of the easiest parts of the job, second only behind removing/reinstalling the air intake tube.

Phil II

Cone Destroyer
Very nice write up, and good call on bringing the fire extinguisher.

Did the headers come with any papers or stickers stating if the paint was for storage purposes only? Fwiw you could rattle can them. Use a panel of cardboard to control over-spray.


Active Member
My driver side header used to have BAD ticks as well that wouldn't go away once the engine warmed up. What I did is took the header to my mechanic - He grinded down all the factory welds and re-welded the header. It came out great, no more ticks or excess noise! The engine bay also seemed quieter in general. Overall, a cheap and easy fix!


6 Pistons, less mass = POWER Potential!!
Sounds like a success so far!! ;)
I'm in Tucson. The headers won't rust - like the gaping holes in cars in the northeast...
But with the hot/cold cycles, and the little moisture in the exhaust, they WILL rust! It'll just be more like a surface coating...

You COULD paint them with engine enamel, or even BBQ paint! ;)
It can handle even more heat.
Just my 2 cents...

Nice write up!


New Member
Final update (assuming no future problems) - header install went well, and I made a youtube video of the before/after results in case anyone is interested.

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New Member
Did the headers come with any papers or stickers stating if the paint was for storage purposes only? Fwiw you could rattle can them. Use a panel of cardboard to control over-spray.

The install sheet said there would be some harmless odor as the "storage oil" burned off... maybe at some point they were sprayed down with a light oil rather than painted and they never changed the instruction sheet when they changed that process to paint. Not a big deal in any case; they're almost paint free by now.


I followed the exact same reasoning and path whe I bought my '03.

I didn't clean any welds, but I did prime, bake, paint & bake with VHT exhaust paint.

It might have lasted a minute or two longer than your factory paint.


better than you
by far the best write up I have seen. Doesnt really relate to my ride but I am getting these same headers put on next week. Loved the isolation at the end. helped really hear the difference.


6 Pistons, less mass = POWER Potential!!
That DID make some difference! The idle is a little deeper, sounds smoother overall.

..... and although it may not have been a HUGE difference in performance, I'll take 2 tenths 0-60 any day!! ;)

If you want a little more "fun"....
A tuner will give you tire barking shifts, harder acceleration overall, and even 1 or 2 more MPG!! :p

Just Sayin'!


New Member
If this was my car I'd probably have craigslisted in an IRS by now which would necessitate a tuner - being the wife's car is a different story.

Actually I wish there was a car club that offered affordable performance driving lessons around here so my wife and I could go. Everyone can improve and it's been a long time since I had the freedom to push a car to its limits outside the context of actual collision avoidance, and my wife has never had the opportunity at all so she drives aggressively but erratically - which scares me for her safety and also is a bit rough on the car. I'd like to see her learn finesse.

There's a car club in southern California (AROSC) that does track education days a few times a year for $300 led by volunteer instructors (they provide a track, a water truck for wet skid, etc and you beat up your own car) and if that existed in my part of the world I'd gladly find the budget for my wife and I to attend. I've been considering driving over there for it, but the time and travel multiplies the cost..

Anyway on the topic of the headers, butt dyno has been confirming what the clock told us previously: I think the car is very slightly faster. I don't drive her car very often but that last little stretch of freeway on-ramp is a memorable and noticeable spot where changes in power tend to stand out and I think the car feels a little more confident there. It's well within the margin of error for a butt dyno and it may just be that I *expected* a fractionally tiny improvement and am imagining it.

All told I am still satisfied & happy with the results.

So on that topic; I am an engineer professionally though in a field entirely unrelated to automobiles - for giggles I'm going to be welding bungs into the exhaust system on my truck and using data acquisition hardware to chart exhaust gas pressure before the Y-pipe, before and after the OEM muffler, and shortly ahead of the tailpipe exit. I am not a talented youtube producer nor very engaging on-camera but I'm hoping that the youtube results of that will at least pay back the $13 in stainless steel 1/4" NPT bungs I bought for that and at the same time teach me and some random other people about exhaust system pressure. One thing of note is that on my truck it's a single 3" pipe from the Y back, and at 2.2CFM/hp a 3" straight pipe can flow around 750cfm which is around 350hp - so at the 395hp the manufacturer quotes for my engine it's a guarantee I'm facing quite a bit of exhaust pressure and there's a lot of low hanging fruit.

If that video happens to catch on and deliver enough ROI, I might convince my wife to let me do the same thing on her car and we can learn exactly how restrictive the OEM V6 exhaust is and from there we can estimate how much benefit is on the table from altering that. Stock v6 mustang tubing I believe is 2.25" which gives us around 400CFM and that means power compression comes into play around 185hp. I would say that indicates just on napkin math there is real potential for low hanging fruit here too.


6 Pistons, less mass = POWER Potential!!
I like your educated reasoning! Your numbers make sense. I've built cars for decades, and using some automotive "science", would come up with similar numbers...
I have learned that on the 3.8s, DUAL 2 1/4" pipe is ample to almost 280.

Bear in mind, the factory, aged cats, are a BIG restriction, that doesn't factor into the straight pipe volumetric efficiency.
Aftermarket Cats make a significant difference there....