Posted on March 27, 2015 at 8:47 pm
By Jeff Smith
Springtime means getting the car out of storage but it also means having to endure the annual ritual of repainting those corroded headers for another season of cruising. NitroPlate is a Specialty Coatings company that offers ceramic coatings for headers to make that corroded look a thing of the past. We recently pulled a set of fuzzy brown headers off an early Chevelle. The original plan was to install the modified tubes to ensure they fit the chassis properly before we had them coated. That was a temporary fix that had become permanent. That was roughly 10 years ago and the headers have been subjected to thousands of heat cycles that completely transformed the exterior for the header tubing to rust brown. It was time to step up.
If you’re considering having a set of headers coated, there are more advantages to ceramic coating than just a polished appearance. We’ve been running ceramic-coated headers on performance engines for years and not only does the coating look good, but it also does a great job of holding the heat in the tubes. This offers several advantages. You can actually measure this with an infrared heat gun. Just check the skin temperature of a non-coated header versus a NitroPlate coated header and you can see a measurable difference. NitroPlate’s own testing revealed a 200 degree F difference in peak surface temperature, measured roughly three inches from the cylinder head flange. A very practical advantage to this cooler surface temperature is that NitroPlated headers cool off much quicker than a non-coated header, which means you can work on the engine much sooner without frying your skin.
These cooler running headers also reduce under-hood temperatures. This may not seem like a big deal, but even older cars on a hot day experience under-hood temperatures in excess of 150 degrees. Here’s a tip, the coating will help reduce the under-hood temperatures even though you still have hot air exiting the radiator. But even a slight underhood reduction by 25 degrees could be advantageous. An OE field study found that reducing inlet air temperature by 25 degrees will reduce octane requirements by one full point. That’s significant.
So with all these advantages in our favor, we yanked the headers out of our ’65 Chevelle and shot some photos before sending them off to NitroPlate for their rejuvenation. The process involves first being thermally degreased which is less abrasive on the parts than a chemical degrees, then they head off for surface preparation removing all corrosion and contaminates from the existing headers. From there the coating is applied and into the ovens they go to be fully cured, this is a large advantage as we will not have to worry about break-in procedures when we get them back. If new headers are in the works, you might consider installing them first like we did to check fitment in case there may be some modifications required before you have them coated. This way, you know they will be right after the coating process.
As for colors, you have several choices. We chose the classic NitroPlate Bright, but there’s also a High Temp Matte Black (Stainless Steel Only), Satin and Gray Cast Iron that will give a stock manifold that OE look. Some of these coatings are better applied to intake manifolds or other parts as opposed to headers. Give NitroPlate a call if you have any questions.
Once our headers returned, we knew we were in for something special even as we pulled the headers out of the box. They were professionally packaged in several layers of protective bubble wrap and foam coatings that kept our headers from banging around inside the box. Once they were out, the transformation was amazing. Our once-rusty headers looked near new. Sure, they had some surface dimpling that was the result of previous surface rust, but otherwise, the treatment was a tremendous improvement.
We combined our coated headers with new gaskets and a set of stainless ARP bolts for both the flanges and the three-bolt collectors. Don’t use stainless nuts with stainless collector bolts as stainless-on-stainless will the easily gall the threads. Instead, use a set of plated regular steel nuts with a heavy coating of anti-seize on the threads. This will keep the threads from rusting and make removal a bunch easier. Also note that you shouldn’t break-in a new flat tappet cam with a virgin pair of coated headers. Running the engine for 20 minutes without being tuned 100% “Timing &Jetting” plus not having the benefit of additional cooling air from a moving vehicle could discolor the coating from excessive heat. If you must break in a new flat tappet cam with new coated headers, keep the run time to about five minutes and then allow the headers to cool completely before running the engine again. This procedure will prevent excessive heat buildup in the headers. Otherwise, bolt on your shiny new headers and then look for any excuse to open the hood so your friends can see your nice new Nitroplate enhanced headers.
Bolted on the small-block that is going back into our Chevelle, we now have a set of headers we can be proud of instead of making excuses for rusty metal. Life is good!
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