Should You Heat Wrap Your Motorcycle Exhaust? Pros & Cons

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Last updated: 30 October 2022

I love listening to people debate the pros and cons of heat-wrapping their exhausts! Like soft vs hard luggage, or textiles vs leathers, there really is no right or wrong option.

That said, enthusiasts across the globe still love to debate the use of exhaust heat wraps on forums, over social media, or over a few beers.

There are definitely pros and cons to an exhaust heat wrap. For a start, it looks cool. It’s easy to install, you can have a bash at it in your own garage, and it costs next to nothing.

But it isn’t just cosmetic benefits. An exhaust heat wrap helps improve the running of your bike by decreasing engine and exhaust temperatures.

Exhaust Heat Wrap And Temperature

The benefit of an exhaust heat wrap is that it reduces engine temperature. And the more heat you can remove from the bike, the better it will run.

A heat wrap keeps the heat in the exhaust. From here, the exhaust can do a better job dispelling it, resulting in a better running engine.

As cooler engines run more efficiently, you effectively get an increase in horsepower.

The downside is how your bike may run in the winter months.

It’s all well and good reducing engine temperature and boosting horsepower in the summer months. But there is a good chance your bike will struggle to reach engine temperature in the cooler months.

This means your bike’s acceleration profile could change. And it will likely put an additional load on your catalytic converter.

The Aesthetics Of an Exhaust Heat Wrap

It goes without saying that an exhaust heat wrap looks cool. It just does! When applied correctly, it’s functional whilst giving your bike a rugged, adventurey look.

You’ve probably noticed on your own bikes that exhausts can become discoloured and manky over time. And the first thing everybody sees on a bike is a shitty exhaust.

Heat wrap covers this up nicely and keeps your bike looking fresh. Conversely, using the wrong heat wrap (or simply making a hash of putting it on) can make your bike look a mess.

If you’re going to put it on, take your time and do it properly. Because once it’s on, there’s no coming back. You can’t take it off again.

mechanic fitting exhaust heat wrap
Image: AsphaltRequired/YouTube

Protects You, Corrodes Your Pipes

Heat wrap can protect you from accidental burns whilst riding (or after riding.) We’ve all swung a leg over to get off the bike only to imprint the shape of our exhaust on an unsuspecting calf.

Even while riding, I can often feel heat wafting dangerously close to my ankle.

Whilst your exhaust will still be hot to the touch with an exhaust heat wrap, it won’t be anywhere near as hot as it would be without it.

But whilst a heat wrap may do an excellent job of altering the heat profile of your bike and preventing you from burning yourself, it might not be so great for your pipes.

If you have long periods off the bike (or do a bad job of installing the wrap), there is a chance you will get a build-up of moisture beneath the wrap.

Over time, this will cause corrosion. You can counteract this, of course, by riding regularly. Or, at the very least, starting it up every now and then to dispel residual water.

Installation & Post-Installation

One of the best things about an exhaust heat wrap is that you can have a bash at it yourself. You don’t need any special tools, and the wrap itself is easy to find and cheap to buy.

Installing your own exhaust heat wrap is a nice way to waste away a sunny weekend afternoon. Is there anything better than tinkering with your bike (or cleaning your leathers) in the sunshine whilst enjoying a cold beer?

It’ll probably take you an hour or two to do it properly. But as mentioned, get it right the first time because there is no going back!

If you don’t want to mess it up, any mechanic should be able to do it for you. Watch how they do it, and then you can have a go yourself next time. It’s not all beer and sunny afternoons, however.

exhaust heat wrap when finished
Image: Riding Digital/YouTube

Smell & Smoke

You’ll notice after installation that your bike leaves a trail of smoke behind you as you ride. And it will absolutely stink!

Fear not, intrepid tinkerer. This is all part of the curing process and is accepted as part of the deal.

It doesn’t last forever, but it will take a good few hours of ride time until the smoke (and the smell) dissipates.

There are plenty of instruction aids online such as this one which should help you.

Exhaust Heat Wrap: Conclusion

A high-quality exhaust heat wrap will reduce engine temperature, decrease exhaust temperature, and boost horsepower.

It can give a lovely new look to your bike. But it can also make it look like a mess if you do it wrong. Plus, it isn’t reversible.

So if you’re going to do it, take your time and do it right. Because if you get it wrong, there’s not much you can do!

Top image: Car Bibles

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