Exhaust headers on a race car face a tough life. Extreme heat and extreme abuse can make for a very short lifespan. It can be tough enough for headers made from stainless steel, which is more resistant to heat and impervious to rust, but rules for most Saturday night racing classes require headers made of mild steel to help contain costs.

While they are more affordable than stainless, mild steel headers do need to be protected from rusting. Extreme heat cycles and water from cleaning can speed up the oxidation process. There are several options available to racers—many of which we covered in previous issues of Circle Track. High-temperature paint is usually the most popular option for slowing the onset of rust, but no matter how high the quality, the paint always seems to burn off in the hottest zone near the exhaust ports and must constantly be reapplied. There are do-it-yourself coatings that can work well when applied properly, but the application process is often finicky and tough to get right. We've even shown you an effective—and cheap—way to keep rust at bay by applying ATF fluid to new headers and burning it off. But that process must be repeated regularly.

Jet Hot High Performance Coatings has developed a process that has become one of the most effective methods for protecting headers from rust degradation. The process has become quite popular among racers and seems to hold up quite well over time. In our experience, the Jet Hot coating holds up excellently until the headers are invariably damaged in a wreck. Even then, the coating is flexible enough that small dents can be worked out without causing cracks or flaking in the coating.

Besides protection from rust, the coating also helps control heat. Keeping the heat of combustion inside the headers not only makes working around the engine between heats easier, it also keeps the air temps under the hood cooler, meaning the air going into the engine is cooler, and denser, to make more power. Finally, Jet Hot is unique in that it also coats the inside of all the headers it works with on the interior as well. Coated headers help protect the exterior of the headers from rusting, but that doesn't keep the rust from eating away the header tubes from the inside out. How they manage to get a consistent layer through the inside of the tubes as they snake around is a Jet Hot secret, which the company declined to share. In fact, Jet Hot asked us not to even photograph that part of the process, but for the rest we were given complete access to help you decide if a coating like this will be useful to you and your racing program.

The headers to be coated are a set of tri-Y mild steel tube headers from Schoenfeld Headers. The Schoenfeld headers are quite nice and the race teams wants to treat them better than simply a coat of black paint and hope. The first step is to assemble all the pieces (tri-Y headers have several removable lengths of tubing along the collectors) and make sure everything fits in the car as it should. Now is the time to make any modifications if necessary, not after the headers have been coated.

While they are more affordable than stainless, mild steel headers do need to be protected from rusting
The company is understandably tight-lipped about what's in the coating, but Jet Hot did tell us it's ceramic based with aluminum ...
Schoenfeld Headers
Jet Hot Coatings