Do You Need A Tune For Headers? Notes To Bear In Mind

Do you need a tune for headers?” is one of the most sought-after questions when car owners consider aftermarket modifications or updates. 

Do you need tuning after installing headers? Read my article below and find the answer and related information for your concern.

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Do You Need A Tune For Headers?

do you need a tune for headers

The answer is Yes. You should do the car tuning after you install a new header. It will help to improve the engine’s performance.

Before going into detail, shall we clarify “header”? Headers refer to the aftermarket exhaust component designed to replace the stock manifold.

They work as a major performance modification to the exhaust aspiration of your vehicle’s engine by allowing exhaust gasses to flow better.

As a result, the horsepower and torque are improved, leading to better engine performance.

However, the amount of oxygen becomes extra in the combustion chamber, but the amount of fuel is still the same, requiring small adjustments to the air-to-fuel ratio.

To get the most out of the headers, it is recommended to have a new or updated turn performed on the engine after installing headers.

Tuning your car will help rebalance the amount of oxygen, compensate for the added airflow, and relocate the oxygen sensors.

That is to ensure the engine is running at its optimal level and preventing any potential problems.

Pros Of Having A Tune After Getting Headers

Header Install Tune brings out several advantages.

Adjust The Air-To-Fuel Ratio

As mentioned above, an ECU helps adjust the incorrect air-to-fuel ratio when installing a new header.

Without tuning, your car will receive too much air and not enough fuel, causing running lean.

Prevent The Check Engine Light To Turn On

The check engine light (CEL) probably turns on whenever you have a header installation only. That is because your ECU is affected. If you don’t want it to happen, tuning is highly recommended.

Optimize The Performance Gain

Tuning will maximize the engine performance by increasing horsepower and low-end torque to the highest level that your engine can get.

The driveability and fuel mileage are also improved significantly. Eventually, the goal is to deliver a longer fuel economy and engine life.

When the performance is optimized by tuning, various variables, like the rev limiter and throttle response, can be changed, and your vehicle will be even more aggressive.

What Happens If You Drive Without A Tune?

long tube headers without tune

If you don’t pay much attention to the advantages of tuning, getting headers without tunes is also fine. The choice is up to you.

However, the header is a great addition for car enthusiasts, but the tune is the best value for money.

When you drive without tuning, you may run into an eventual Check Engine Light after a few hundred miles, but it can be fixed, so it’s not a big deal.

The most important problem is that headers without tuning will affect the engine. It cannot gain its optimal level, and you cannot get a better outcome.

The horsepower is about 30 – 50 hp down from where it should be, and so is the throttle response. Besides, you cannot improve fuel mileage due to the unbalanced air/ fuel ratio.

You can get a basic or full tune for your car’s header, and a professional mechanic experienced in turning engines can help you with that installment.

How Can A Tune Affect The Horsepower Gain From Headers?

With A Tune

In this case, I assure you that you will recognize the significant change in your vehicle’s performance generally and in the horsepower specifically.

Let me put it simpler. When you tune your vehicle, the air/fuel ratio will be adjusted to become optimal for better performance.

It’s not to mention the changes in other variables, like updating your engine torque map.

Thus, with a tune, the horsepower on your car will get up to 50 hp. The better the engine’s performance is, the more satisfying your driving experience is.

A tune definitely won’t let you down.

Without A Tune

If you don’t get a tune after installing aftermarket parts for your vehicle, your vehicle’s current performance will decrease, the engine won’t be in optimal condition, and it eventually leads to engine damage.

Besides, the horsepower will be limited. The header will only give you some more horsepower, and that’s all.

Moreover, the parameters will be disordered. Although The ECU can learn new parameters and adapt, it will take some time.

You may also face the problem of the eventual Check Engine Light popping up and lower gas mileage.

How Much HP Do Headers And A Tune Add To The Car?


As mentioned above, a tune can boost the additional horsepower of your car. If your vehicle is a general stock car, with it, your horsepower can get up to 10 – 15 percent.

In case your vehicle is equipped with extra performance parts, it can help boost the horsepower to 50 percent.


Although installing a header doesn’t help make a dramatic increase in horsepower, it still helps improve a couple of horsepower by increasing the engine torque.

Generally, a header installment can lead to a 5 percent increase in horsepower.

If you want a specific number, it depends on the header type, as there are two types: long tube and short tube headers.

Cost For Car Tuning

how long does it take to install headers

The tuning cost for your car depends on what type your car is, what kind of tuning you want, and the results you wish for.

The price range goes from less than $1,000 to $1,500. We will list the three most common types of tuning a car you may need, in ascending order of price.

Performance Chips

If your vehicle is supercharged or turbocharged and you want a tune at a fairly low price, we recommend a performance chip.

There are a number of options with different prices for you to choose a performance chip, even less than $100.

Why is it that cheap? Because it simply overrides the ECU with new engine parameters, and that’s it.

With the low cost of performance chips, of course, they have limitations.

They almost only work with turbocharged or supercharged cars, as they can add up to 50 horsepower. For others, these chips may not work.

ECU Flash

ECU flash is among the easiest ways for car tuning so that car owners can do it themselves without asking for help from a professional or expert.

If you still want the tuning done at the professional mechanic store, it will cost you a couple of hundreds of dollars as the minimum price.

Commonly, the prices for ECU flash at performance shops are around $250 – $500. In return, you can customize the ECU parameters as you wish.

Dyno Tuning

Dyno tuning is considered an advanced type and is recommended only when you want to upgrade your vehicle and bring it to a brand-new level. 

An expert mechanic should do it.

This type of tuning can require you to pay thousands of dollars, usually from $1,000 to $1,500, for the time and effort of checking all the parameters.

If you don’t need to upgrade your car hugely like that, don’t do it.


How Long Can You Drive Without A Tune?

A car with no tune can let you drive about 10,000 -12,000 miles.

If you have a newer car with electronic ignition and fuel injection, your car will likely allow you to drive from 25,000 miles up to approximately 100,000 miles.

Is A Tune Required For Short Tube Headers?

No. For short headers, car tuning is not strictly required. However, it is still recommended.


So, do you need a tune for headers? After reading this article, we are sure you have your own answer and know what is best for your car.

If you are not on a tight budget, let’s get tuning after installing the header. A performance chip is still alright.

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