Exhaust systems are designed to remove excess gas from the engine after combustion so the next cycle can begin. The faster this process is, the more efficiently a vehicle can operate. Car owners who want to increase their automobile's performance can tweak the exhaust system just as they could install performance brake pads or suspension components. For the most part, this type of upgrade will involve removing and replacing most, if not all, of the factory-installed exhaust system.

There are two main methods of improving a vehicle's performance by way of upgrading the exhaust system. Increasing the efficiency of removing noxious gases from the engine allows for the reduction of back pressure, which can increase the power output of combustion engines.

A performance system can also reduce the amount of heat being lost under the hood in the exhaust system. When exhaust gas temperatures drop too soon, it can hinder the system's ability to remove them efficiently. An aftermarket system is designed to help retain the temperature, which can protect heat-sensitive parts and will contribute to reducing back pressure.