It’s always a great debate whether aluminized exhaust systems or stainless steel ones are the better option when choosing a system for your vehicle. There are a lot of factors that play a role in the decision, the most important ones being your budget, climate and the type of driving you mostly do with your vehicle. For those of us who live in the arid, dry wastes of Australia, an aluminized exhaust is the better choice given its lower price and the absence of snow, humidity and salted winter roads. For people who live in a highly humid area near the ocean, I recommend that you spend the extra cash on a full stainless steel exhaust that will save you a lot of money in the long run.
The real difference between the two types lays in their very distinct manufacturing process. Aluminized exhaust systems involve taking some kind of standard-grade steel and hot-dipping it in a galvanizing process to coat the unfinished steel in a corrosion-resistant, tough aluminum-silicon alloy. This process is accomplished by bathing the standard grade steel in a molten bath of alloyed metals that can reach very high temperatures.
The aluminum alloy forms a chemical bond with the steel which keeps out corrosive elements and moisture out while still dissipating more heat than other types of galvanized steel. The key benefits of aluminized exhaust systems are their low cost, light weight and extreme functionality. It’s important that you don’t compromise on quality. It’s imperative for the aluminum alloy layer to not be scratched so that the steel underneath it is exposed, else this will allow dirt and moisture to begin the corrosion process.
Aluminized exhaust systems don’t offer a definitive performance advantage, so the only consideration when opting for one should be whether it suits the climate you live in and how you use your vehicle. Your driving habits are also important. For instance, if you drive a Landcruiser through a lot of high humidity areas and wet weather, the exhaust is very likely to rust in a few years. Other Landcruise owners with aluminized exhaust systems that rarely drive or drive in dry areas can keep an aluminized exhaust in a good condition for the entire lifespan of the vehicle.
You generally get what you pay for with aluminized steel. With proper maintenance and good driving habits, the exhaust can last you about 10 years. Don’t compromise on quality just for the sake of saving a few bucks as you’ll probably have to do a lot more maintenance down the road and end up spending much more money.