Flamed Exhaust Tips

Written by richard rowe
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Flamed Exhaust Tips
Fire can be any colour of the rainbow. (fire flame image by Anh Nguyen from Fotolia.com)

To a certain extent, almost any vehicle with a short enough exhaust system will shoot flames out of the exhaust pipes. These flames result from still-burning fuel exiting through the engine's exhaust valves, often associated with the sound and fury of purpose-built race cars. Customizers long ago developed a few tricks that would allow any car to spew flames with the flick of a switch. Modern systems have become more complex, but the principles remain the same.

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Basic Requirements

An old-school flame-thrower system is a two-way switch that shuts off power to the engine's ignition coil and reroutes it to an ignition coil and spark plug(s) mounted in the tail pipe. The driver revs the engine, lifts off the throttle and flips the two-way switch.The engine continues ingesting fuel, but that fuel goes through the engine and out the tailpipes, where the spark plug ignites it. Unfortunately, this approach will usually only work with carburated engines; cutting the ignition off in a computer-controlled car will result in a reduction in fuel delivery and little or no flames.

Injection System

If you have a computer-controlled car, the simplest approach involves a supplementary fuel system that provides sustenance for the flames. Many people will tap into the engine's existing fuel line to siphon some fuel away, which travels to a back-angled, fixed-orifice injector tube about a foot from the tailpipe tip. Also use this approach if you want sustained flames, since it doesn't require cutting power to the engine. Though not often necessary, cutting power to the engine will provide more oxygen for ignition in the pipes, resulting in higher flame volume and velocity/range.

Moderate Engine RPM

As you might expect, turning your car into a flame-thrower isn't completely foolproof. The exhaust's velocity keeps the flames from travelling back up the tubes, resulting in blown-out mufflers and possibly damaging the engine. To prevent this scenario, do not allow engine revolutions per minute (rpm) to drop below about 1,500 after the cut.

Add Color

Not all flames are created equally. If you decide to use a supplementary fuel system with its own dedicated tank and pump, you can add effects to your hot pipes. A number of fuel-soluble metal salts will change the colour of the flames. Sodium chloride (table salt) creates a bright yellow, sodium borate (sold as Borax) yields a lime green, copper chloride gives you an eerie swamp-fire green, cubric chloride makes a sapphire blue and calcium chloride burns traffic-cone orange.

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