Why your car needs heat shielding
There are many forces that combine to negatively affect your car's performance, but if you are into drag racing, drifting, track racing - or simply a car enthusiast, you will know that heat is one of the most prevalent.
From disrupting ignition to reducing power output, breaking down fluids, and increasing wear & tear to just creating a huge mess, it's pretty accurate to state that heat is a car's biggest enemy.
Older cars have a very modest amount of heat protection, such as floor insulation, firewall and hood, and perhaps even a certain amount of exhaust heat reflection. That, however, is where it ends.
The materials and the way they were used might be just fine for low-powered stock cars, but the extra power output of performance cars intensifies the production of heat, and this quickly exceeds the standard protection provided by the factory.
Most people are not aware that even the finest internal combustion engines are only about 15% efficient at converting fuel into horsepower. All of the rest is lost in the form of heat. The more you push your car's engine, the more heat will be generated, and it will quickly spread to other parts of the vehicle - including the cabin. Unfortunately our love for more horsepower makes the heat problem ever bigger.
Luckily there are ways to combat excessive heat buildup.
Below are some of the most common:
While the engine block certainly gets very hot, the most important source of heat under the bonnet of any vehicle is the exhaust. With exhaust gas temperatures often reaching several hundred degrees under throttle (a turbo housing's hot side can reach up to 1,500 degrees), it's not difficult to see shy.
There's not much one can do to prevent this heat buildup, but there are ways to contain it to the pipes and from there channel it outwards to prevent it from affecting other systems. A very effective way is to wrap those areas that get particularly hot, e.g. exhaust manifolds headers, with insulation.
Copper Header Wrap provides up to 30% more heat protection that similar technologies. It can handle continuous temperatures of as high as 2,000 degrees, so it works great with turbo systems. Tests show that copper also increases exhaust scavenging, which boosts power output.
Coating the manifolds or headers is another favorite that works by trapping the heat inside the pipe instead of allowing it to radiate outwards. How these coatings essentially work is to make the steel itself less of a heat conductor. They offer the additional benefit of offering robust protection against corrosion.
Electrical parts do not react well to heat, and high heat levels in the ignition system can cause various problems, including arcing, misfiring and even the materials themselves breaking down. Direct contact with high temperatures can burn spark plug wires and instantly result in arcing, causing reduced power and fuel economy.
A good starter heat shield will help protect the starter's solenoids and motor windings against high temperatures and reflect as much as 90% of radiant heat, in the process drastically extending the starter's lifespan and making sure your car starts every time, no matter how hot the engine gets.
The oil in any mechanical system isn't only there to provide lubrication, but it also serves as a heat sink. Even the finest oils though have an operating range at which they work best. Exceed this temperature and you can expect the protective film to break down.
The answer is to fit an oil cooler. Cooler oil will result in increased oil change intervals, less heat stress on all engine components - including the engine compartment, and improved longevity for the systems it has to lubricate.
Hose wraps operate in two different ways: they protect engine hoses as well as their contents against heat, and they protect you from the heat generated inside these hoses. This type of hoses have been tested with the direct flame from a butane lighter for extended periods of time and passed the test with flying colors.
The best wraps on the market are for all practical purposes impervious to anything else than nuclear fission, and is particularly effective at protecting electrical connections and fluid lines from excessive exhaust heat.
This is the biggest category in the field of heat shielding and it contains more applications and products than we could possibly discuss here. It's also a particularly effective category of products, since it not only focuses on offering a heat shield for critical components, but it also helps to keep heat away from the car's occupants.
For the DIY enthusiast heat shield material can also be bought in sheets of various sizes. It provides thermal insulation in a lightweight format and can be used wherever heat shielding is required.