Steel Yourself: Should You Choose Mild Or Stainless Steel For Your Custom-Built Exhaust?

If you're having a custom-built exhaust fabricated and fitted for your vehicle, you are probably already juggling hundreds of potential design choices in your mind and choosing what type of steel your exhaust is made from might seem like a fairly inconsequential decision. However, while both mild steel and stainless steel are considered excellent materials for exhaust fabrication, they do have different properties and performance characteristics, which may make one type of steel more suited for your needs than the other. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing mild steel?

Mild steel (also known as low or plain carbon steel) is steel which contains a small percentage of carbon, giving it limited malleability. The standard choice for most stock exhaust manufacturers, mild steel has a lot going for it as an exhaust material -- it is exceptionally strong and very durable, while its limited flexibility means it tends to dent rather than pierce or shatter when damaged by a rear-ender or other accidents. Perhaps most importantly, it is cheap, and a custom fabricated mild steel exhaust system is likely to cost you far less than a part or full stainless steel setup.

Unfortunately these advantages must come with a few drawbacks, and the greatest disadvantage of choosing mild steel lies in its vulnerability to rust and corrosion. An unprotected mild steel exhaust will quickly fall prey to rust caused by water condensation within the system, so practically every mild steel exhaust is given a protective coating. These coatings can differ wildly in both durability and cost. High-end protective coatings such as ceramics can be expected to last for the life of the exhaust but can potentially add a bundle to the cost of your system. You should also bear in mind that mild steel is somewhat heavier than stainless steel, which can affect the performance of your vehicle.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing stainless steel?

Stainless steel is actually a steel alloy that contains a relatively high percentage of chromium. This added chromium gives stainless steel its two most distinctive qualities -- its shiny, semi-reflective surface, and its practical immunity to rust and corrosion. A stainless steel exhaust system kept in good condition can be expected to last as long as your vehicle does, with a number of coatings and finishes available that can further increase the durability of this useful metal. Stainless steel is also a better insulator of heat than mild steel, allowing the gases running through your exhaust system to stay hot and reducing the likelihood of problems with condensation and soot caking.

Perhaps inevitably, stainless steel is more expensive than mild steel, so you can expect to pay considerably more for a full-stainless steel exhaust array than you would for one made of mild steel. However, you may notice that some fabricators offer mild and stainless steel exhausts at similar price points -- when this is the case, it's usually because the stainless steel used to create your exhaust is significantly thinner, making it more vulnerable to denting and other forms of damage.In addition,  repairing any damage that may occur can be tricky and expensive, as stainless steel is very difficult to weld and requires special equipment and expertise to safely repair. For more information, contact a business such as Genie Performance Exhausts WA.