Exhaust clamps vs. welding: Which method should I choose?

If you’re in the market for something new or just discovered your exhaust pipes broken, you’re faced with a tough choice; using exhaust clamps vs. welding.

Although your preferences will ultimately guide any decision you make, it’s still important to know what your options are. After all, making sure your exhaust system functions optimally is essential.

Welding and exhaust clamps are both great options to explore. Here’s a concise review of both and what they offer, should you choose either.

Read more: White smoke from the exhaust when idling: What is the situation?

Overview

It’s difficult for many vehicle owners to choose a clear winner between welding and exhaust clamps. This is because both methods of fixing your exhaust system have appealing benefits.

Exhaust clamps are specifically employed to hold two pipes together, and, there are different kinds of clamps. As a result, you want to make sure you use one that keeps your muffler pipes tight and ensures there is very little noise.

You can also tighten or loosen the exhaust clamp to meet the needs at hand. Using exhaust clamps is usually easy enough for most vehicle owners to try out on their own successfully.

On the other hand, welding is used to combine two pieces of metal, creating a much stronger bond in the process. This process typically involves raising the temperature of two metals to the melting point before introducing a filler material.

Welding often requires specific tools and a certain level of expertise to execute. Just like with exhaust clamps, there are different types of welding at your disposal.

Clamps vs. welding

Bond strength

Both methods do a great job of keeping your exhaust system firm and in perfect operating condition. But, there are observable differences when it comes to the level of bond strength each offers.

Welding is more likely to give you an exhaust system with significantly greater bond strength compared to clamps. The reason for this is due to how the process takes place.

As opposed to simply holding the pipes in place like exhaust clamps, welding melds the materials together, effectively making them a single item. This doesn’t make clamps less safe in any way. It just means that welding affords you superior bond strength, should you need it.

Durability

If you intend to put your exhaust system to use on normal city roads with the proper set of tires, you will get the same level of durability from a welded or clamped system.

Clamps will offer you substantial sturdiness because they reduce exhaust gas leaks and noise. You also have the added advantage of not needing to weld or disconnect your exhaust clamp.

But that said, welded tubing is considerably more potent, making it more damage-resistant than its counterpart. The solid bond it forms between the pipes hold them firmly in place and more resistant to damage.

If you have smaller tires on your vehicle, welding offers your exhaust system an extra level of protection. However, keep in mind that under bad conditions, welded tubes tend to become very brittle and weak.

You usually have to change an exhaust clamp after it has exceeded its lifespan. This is about four years for regular drivers. Exhaust welding on the other hand can last as long as eight years or more.

Ease of installation, repair, and removal

In terms of installation, exhaust clamps are the way to go. As opposed to welding, you don’t need extra tools or extensive knowledge to put the clamps in place.

Also, it can be challenging to weld the entire exhaust system, even for professionals. Apart from the fact that you have to go through the hassle of building enough heat to melt the filler metal, there is also the welding process itself to consider.

Accessing the entire joint is difficult. The positioning of the car exhaust system makes it hard to reach. What’s more, if your exhaust pipes are severely corroded, you could mistakenly blow a hole in them.

Because of this, most vehicle owners opt to use clamps. It is considerably more convenient to repair and remove clamps without damaging the rest of the exhaust system.

Cost

Exhaust clamps are also more affordable because, most times, all you have to do is procure the clamps themselves and fix them. Each type has a specific price but they all range between $4-30.

On the other hand, you have to get all the special equipment needed for welding before successfully carrying out this exercise. Between the hacksaw, the grinder, the circular chain saw, and a welding mask, it may cost you $135, give or take.

The cost of this process changes significantly if you don’t have any experience or expertise required to execute welding. In this case, you have to enlist the aid of a professional. On average, this service costs about $100.

Pros and cons

exhaust clamp vs weld
Exhaust clamps and welding each has its own pros and cons. E.g., exhaust clamps are less durable but much more affordable

Types of clamps and welding for exhaust pipes

Exhaust clamps

Band clamps

EVIL ENERGY Exhaust Band Clamp

EVIL ENERGY Exhaust Band Clamp

Rating

Price range: $9-$29

These types of exhaust clamps are typically made out of aluminum or stainless steel. As a result, they are highly durable. Also, unlike other clamps which are installed temporarily, these clamps are permanent.

Band clamps are capable of withstanding high force and have the added advantage of being very beginner-friendly. All you have to do is find the size that fits your current demands and use a clamping tool to adjust it accordingly.

Due to these numerous perks, they’re regarded as one of the best and valuable clamps in circulation today.

Watch this video to see how you can use band clamps on your exhaust pipe

U-bolt clamps

Exhaust-Mate Heavy Duty U-Bolt Exhaust Clamp

Exhaust-Mate Heavy Duty U-Bolt Exhaust Clamp

Rating

Price range: $4-$14

Named after its shape, the U-bolt clamp is one of the most common clamps on the market. The U-bolt is designed with a bolt in the clamp. Thanks to this feature, the pipe effectively stays in place and doesn’t turn or tear.

The downside of this design is that it makes the disassembly of the exhaust system more complex. That being said, the rigidness it affords makes it feature heavily in many aftermarket systems and vehicle mufflers.

This video shows you how to install U-bolt clamps

V-band clamp

EVIL ENERGY Exhaust V Band Clamp

EVIL ENERGY Exhaust V Band Clamp

Rating

Price range: $19-$29

The last on this list, the V-band clamp, boasts two different interlocking rings. These are the parts you connect to the exhaust pipe to ensure it stays in place and doesn’t suffer leakages.

Usually found in high-end cars with powerful turbo exhaust systems, this clamp is considerably more expensive than the other entrants on this list. However, the job it does is impeccable.

The only notable drawback with the V-band clamp is that it needs to be welded to the end of the pipes to function as intended.

Watch how to install a V-band clamp in this video

Welding

TIG welding

TIG is short for Tungsten Inert Gas welding.

Used to melt strong metals like titanium alloys and stainless steel, TIG is regarded as the most common type of exhaust welding in use today. You can use TIG welding while it’s hot without fear of melting because it leverages non-consumable electrodes.

When you are through carrying out the welding process, TIG creates an arc shape. To efficiently use this style of welding, however, there are several instruments you need to have at hand, such as a backing system, power source, and the necessary protective equipment.

While it provides you with a better weld than other methods, TIG is slower and requires a more complex setup. 

Watch how TIG welding is done

MIG welding

Also known as Metal Inert Gas welding, MIG shares many similarities with TIG welding, barring a few key differences. For instance, instead of using a non-consumable electrode, a metal cathode is used here to fuse the metals. Also, the setup for using MIG welding is less complicated than that for TIG.

MIG is arguably the best for welding sheet metal. Because it is automated and easy to do, you can readily find it in most automotive garages.

One major drawback you’re likely to face, though, is that you can’t do it outside. This is because the wind might push the inert gas away and cause oxidation to occur.

Watch this video to see how MIG welding is executed

Stick welding

Similar to MIG welding, you need consumable electrodes for this process as well. However, here, you don’t need an additional gas supply. All you need to carry out stick welding effectively is a stable DC generator, two electric cables, and a sturdy metal table.

The arc that stick welding creates is strong enough to melt various metals with ease. It is safe to use because the flux coating generated from the electrode also serves as a reliable gas shield protection.

Watch to find out how stick welding is done

Flux cored arc welding

The electrode melt in this type of welding is remarkably different from the others described on this list. One reason for this is that Flux core welding requires a tabular wire.

But, like the other welding types, an arc is formed when your workpiece comes in contact with the electrode. You can then use the welding torch to melt any metal.

There are generally two types of Flux-cored arc welding. They are:

  • Self-shielded flux-cored arc – This uses the flux as a protected shield.
  • Gas-shielded metal arc welding – This uses the gas as a protector.

Either type will provide a solid welding joint when used.

Watch this video for the Flux cored arc welding process

Conclusion

Exhaust clamps vs. welding – which is the right way to go?

This depends entirely on what you want. If you don’t need more than a quick temporary fix, exhaust clamps are usually the way to go. They’re easy to use, don’t cost too much, and give outstanding results.

Similarly, if a more permanent, rigid, and robust joint is what you want, the best option is welding. But it can be a bit expensive, requires experience and several unique tools.

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