http://www.centuryperformance.com/heatwraps.aspthe internets said:THE FACTS:
Header wraps are designed to keep the heat in the header to improve scavenging of the cylinders. Keeping the heat in the header allows the exhaust speed to remain high. (the right idea)
There are no header manufacturers that I know of that will warranty their headers if any header wraps are installed on their products.
In most cases the header wrap damages the headers beyond repair. (I will explain below)
If you run a lean mixture, you "may" see a slim performance gain using header wraps. A rich mixture may show slim to absolutely NO gain in performance.
If you do not mind replacing your headers and header gaskets regularly, and you like that ugly look of a wrapped header, go ahead and use the heat wrap.
In the past, almost all NASCAR and other racing engine builders used the header wraps for the added power gains. But, after having to replace the headers after each race due to the wrap being about the only thing holding the header together, they do not promote the practice any longer! They now utilize the thermal coatings that are chemically and electrically applied to the headers. Those include Airborn, Jet Hot, HPC, and others.
Imagine having to replace a $1200.00 plus set of headers after each race weekend! Few but the most financially well-off race teams can afford to do this. But, it is also in the downtime for remaking a custom set of headers. Most custom header makers do not have copies readily available.
I believe that the wraps are good to protect various items from heat, but not to hold the heat in the header. For example: you can use the wrapping for the protection of fuel and oil lines, wiring, etc.
Cool air needs to be around the header, and insulating it with a wrap to hold exhaust heat in makes the header material temperatures near molten. When you wrap the header you trap the heat in the header, but also in the material that needs to breathe to dissipate heat for it's own survival.
Engineers, Metallurgists, and other experts out there will state that there is no way that the material can fail because it can withstand, and it was designed to withstand, the internal temperatures of exhaust gases. TRUE! But, when the header is not allowed to cool so as to dissipate those extreme temperatures that the wrap is controlling, you have now developed a heat absorption that compares to thermal friction which will will continue to gain in temperature beyond the normal exhaust gas temperatures (EGT's). This is the same as with most any insulation.
Try this experiment ... launder a load of bath towels and then dry them. Immediately pull them out of the dryer and just toss them in a snug pile on your bed. Now leave them there for a day and then open them. You will find that there is still a considerable amount of heat left in the center towels. This heat, even though the outer towels and bed are normal room temperature have been able to contain their heat. This is a simple thermal insulation test, but with your headers you have an internal heat supply coming from the engine. The heat on the outside portion of the header material is trapped between the warp and the header and will continue to fatigue the header. This build of heat is amplified by the wrap. Towels do not need to breathe, header material does.
The EGTs stay the same but the properties of the header material changes in a way of amplifying the temperatures because of the insulation. This action goes against normal laws of thermal dynamics, but this effect is fact, and you have to pull the ears off most engineers before they believe you. This is the trouble with plenty of education, but NO "common sense"!