So what is a cutout?
It is a Y-pipe that’s installed in the exhaust system, one part of the Y-pipe being in-line with the exhaust system and the other part splits off and lets the exhaust come out unimpeded by mufflers, additional catalytic converters and resonators. This part of the Y-pipe can be opened and closed, electronically (with a valve) or manually (with a block-off-plate). When opened exhaust will naturally follow the path of least resistance and bypass the remainder of the exhaust system, when closed the truck will utilize the exhaust system and sound more civilized for daily driving duties.
Example of an Electronic Cutout, you can see a wire coming off that leads to a switch in the cab so that the valve can be opened and closed.
What do I mean by more civilized?
When you open the valve on your cutout your truck (or car) will get very loud as your exhaust normally gets routed through resonators and mufflers. These help to quiet down the exhaust note of your engine, in addition to that, they eliminate drone. You’ll definitely only want to open the cutout when you need it, as the droning that your stock exhaust system eliminates would be very annoying and I imagine the noise would get rather unbearable as well. On top of that, it is likely illegal to run your truck that loud.
So cutouts are definitely meant for part-time use, most of those times likely being at a track or showing off to your friends. If you are merely looking to alter the sound of your exhaust you may want to look into just upgrading your mufflers and/resonators. Or you could look into an aftermarket exhaust system to gain both performance and a meaner sound, but you won’t gain quite the performance that a cutout provides and you don’t get the flexibility of switching from quiet and well-behaved, to loud, ferocious and more powerful.
Diagram of an Exhaust Cutout
So why exactly does this help your truck be more powerful?
As I mentioned before, when you activate your cutout your exhaust follows the path of least resistance. By not going through your mufflers/cats/resonators you exhaust is less restricted, or to put it another way, there is less back-pressure. On a turbocharged F-150 this means the turbo can spin up quicker providing more power earlier on in the RPM range and there will also be more power overall throughout the RPM range. In some applications, 30-40 horsepower was gained by doing this on an EcoBoost 3.5 liter powered F-150.
Electronic Cutout vs Aftermarket Performance Exhaust
This is really a tough comparison. It really comes down to preference. Some just love the sound of a particular brand of muffler so much, they are willing to give up performance gains for that sound, while others just want flat outperformance no matter how much hearing loss it causes. Could an Electronic Cutout be the best of both worlds? I think the best way we can do both these setups justice is to just describe the pros and cons of each.
- Best exhaust flow of any exhaust system on the market.
- Will offer the highest horsepower of any exhaust setup.
- Most aggressive exhaust sound on the market.
- Decibels of sound are adjustable
- None, unless you are going after a specific sound for your car.
- Can offer a specific engine sound.
- Can be a lighter set-up than the stock exhaust.
- Can offer more power than the factory stock exhaust.
- Not as free-flowing as a Cutout therefore not as much power.
- Not as quiet as a stock exhaust, and therefore can “drone” at certain speeds.
Here are a couple exhaust cut-outs that you should try. One is manual while the other is electronic. The manual control is nice for solid reliability. But the electric cutout is more convenient.
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