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Motorcycle Exhaust Gaskets

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Motorcycle Exhaust Gasket Replacement

Do I need to replace my exhaust gaskets?

In a word, yes. If you are asking yourself this question, just do it. If you are considering replacing your exhaust gaskets due to age, because you hear a leak, or most likely because you are installing new pipes (or reinstalling your pipes after service), you should be installing fresh exhaust gaskets upon reassembly. Anytime the headers come off the exhaust ports, they should go back on with fresh gaskets. Motorcycle exhaust gaskets are designed to create a good seal by being crushed as you tighten the nuts on the exhaust studs, and they only do this job right once. They are inexpensive (and like most other gaskets) not intended to be reused. It is just not worth the time and effort to have to do the job twice because you didn’t replace the gaskets and the old ones leak! It is also crucial to make sure you completely remove the old gaskets from the exhaust ports. They crush in tight and can be camouflaged in black deposits from combustion, so use a pick and carefully and gently dig the old gaskets out completely to ensure you have a clean mating surface for the new gaskets to seal to.

What type of exhaust gaskets should I use?

You can’t go wrong replacing your exhaust gaskets with the same style and material as what came stock on your machine, but for many models, especially Harley-Davidson motorcycles, there are several different types, styles and materials to choose from. It can be baffling (exhaust pun intended) to try and determine what kind you need. As long as they are an exact fit for your motorcycle and your aftermarket exhaust system doesn’t call for a particular gasket (in which case they are often included anyway), you really can’t go wrong. It is a matter of personal preference what you are comfortable working with and running on your bike. Harley stock exhaust gaskets are a tapered cone style graphite wire construction. They are a little more difficult to work with as they must be carefully nestled flush into the exhaust ports (made easier with a bearing driver tool or similar), but they make a great seal. Probably the most popular aftermarket alternative is a flat ring style graphite wire mesh exhaust gasket, as it still provides an excellent seal but is easier to install for the home mechanic. Copper crush ring exhaust gaskets have been in use for a long time and work very well for most applications too, and stainless steel wire mesh exhaust gaskets are also available as an alternative to graphite. When replacing your gaskets, you should also take time to inspect your flanges for corrosion or damage, retaining rings/flange clips for warpage, as well as your exhaust stud threads, hex nuts or chrome acorn nuts. You can get exhaust gasket kits that come with hardware, spring steel retaining rings and sometimes even the flanges themselves to refresh everything you might need to do the job right the first time.