One of the most commonly asked questions that concerns most new car users is whether stainless steel or aluminized exhaust systems are better. My answer is always ‘it depends’ as the real determining factor for this decision is the climate of the area you live in as well as where you drive your vehicle.
For those of us who enjoy the arid, dry wastes of Australia, aluminized systems are by far the better choice, given their low price tag and the absence of moisture, salted winter roads and snow. For the more humid areas and rest of the world, spending an extra buck or two for a full stainless steel exhaust will save you a load of money in the long run.
The real difference between aluminized exhaust systems and stainless steel exhaust systems is their distinct manufacturing process. Aluminized steel involves taking standard-grade steel and putting it through a galvanizing process to coat the unfinished steel in a tough layer of corrosion-resistant aluminum silicon alloy.
Most of these processes are accomplished by bathing the steel in a molten bath of multiple alloyed metals that can reach temperatures of up to 450 degrees Celsius. This aluminum alloy forms a very tight chemical bond with the steel which keeps moisture out and other corrosive elements while still dissipating more heat than other types of galvanized steel. The main benefit of the aluminized exhaust systems is their low cost, light weight and extreme functionality.
Both aluminized and stainless steel don’t offer any definitive performance advantages, so the only consideration regarding which type of system you want to use should be the specific application and the climate in your region. Your driving habits are an important factor just like the weather when it comes to exhaust systems.
For instance, a driver from New England can commute all year round with his car and can manage to completely rust out an aluminized exhaust in just two years. However, others from similar climate zones, who keep their cars in the garage and only use them on tracks, can keep their exhaust looking flawless for the entire life span of the vehicle.
In the end, those who like blizzards and snows and the type of humidity that feels like five tons of bricks balanced on their shoulders, should probably stick with stainless steel. For those who live in the sunny desert parts of Australia and need to look up rain in the dictionary, aluminized exhausts will save you money while being viable for everyday use.