White Lightning Exhaust Coatings

Like all of Swain Tech’s coatings, White Lightning™ is a performance improving coating. What makes White Lightning™ the best performance exhaust coating?

  1. White Lightning™ really is ceramic so the material is a superior insulating material.
  2. White Lightning is applied much thicker than any of the cosmetic coatings. White Lightning™ is applied about .015” thick compared to about .002” thick for the cosmetic coatings. Because White Lightning™ is the best insulating material and it is applied thicker than any other coating, White Lightning™ offers performance improvements that cannot be matched.

Many companies apply the shiny or colored paint based coatings and call them ceramic. Those thin shiny coatings are very different than Swain Tech’s White Lightning™.

Whereas it would be more accurate to call those thin shiny coatings good high temperature paints that may have a very small amount added to them, Swain really uses a ceramic coating that is applied molten where it bonds and cools directly on the substrate.

After heat has performed its function in the combustion chamber, it travels out the exhaust port and into the exhaust header or manifold. If the gases are allowed to cool they lose velocity and the scavenging effect is reduced. By insulating the exhaust system, gases inside are kept at the highest possible temperature resulting in greater exhaust gas velocity and higher efficiency.

Close-up of White Lightning™ exhaust coatingWhite Lightning™ insulating headers typically reduces radiant heat by about 35-55%. This reduction in radiant temperature will decrease under hood and cockpit temperatures. Lower under hood temperatures lead to lower intake temperatures. A 10°F reduction in intake air temperature provides a 1% increase in horsepower. A 30°F reduction equates to a 3% horsepower increase.

Because White Lightning™ really is a ceramic, it is not possible to offer color choices like you can get with paint based coatings. However, the white textured finish of White Lightning™ makes it an ideal base for a good high temperature paint if you want to change the color of the coating. The high temperature paints bond well to the natural textured finish of White Lightning and the paint will not impact the effectiveness or durability of the White Lightning™ coating.

How durable is the coating? It is so durable that you would need to grind it off to remove it and it would take a significant amount of time to grind the coating off in one small area. If you mar the coating with wrenches you tighten up the header to the motor or against the frame rails when you guide the motor into place you will not damage the coating. You can make that area that was marred shiny, but it will not damage the coating or degrade its insulating value.

Swain Tech Coatings does not give White Lightning™ an official “temperature rating” because temperature ratings really mean nothing when dealing with exhaust parts. The melting point of White Lightning™ is over 3,000°F and there are applications where the coating would stay completely intact at temperatures well above temperatures that can be reached on exhaust parts. However, what can damage our coating or any coating, no matter what the “temperature rating” is would be if the base metal of there is a differential of expansion between the base metal and the coating greater than what any coating can expand. If the base metal does get hot enough to expand more than what a coating can expand, there is the possibility any coating can fracture. Whether the coating is rated for 1,300°, 1,400°, 2,000°F, or in the case of White Lightning™, about 3,000°F, it is possible that a coating will get damaged if your parts get hot enough to glow. If you ask around to those who have had coatings done with temperature ratings, it is easy to find people who will confirm that the temperature ratings really mean little in a real world environment.

On naturally aspirated motors (non-turbo), we will typically coat the inside of headers as deep as possible. However, if we think the coating will interfere with the fit of the header to the motor or the header to the mating exhaust part, we will typically mask off those surfaces. Remember our coating is about .015” thick, not a thin paint. If there is masking you want to have done, be sure to let us know by marking this right on the part with a marker so we know what you want. If you want us to coat the inside of the part, let us know so we can process the part the way you want. We do not coat the inside of mufflers, catalytic converters or expansion chambers because they are not very accessible and there is very little coating that would bond to the inside of the parts.

The most critical step in getting a coating to achieve a tenacious bond to the base metal of an exhaust part is by applying a good abrasive blast on the part at about a 90° angle to the substrate. Simply put, there are few exhaust parts that are open and accessible enough to apply this type of blast. If a good blast cannot be obtained there is no possible way a permanent bond will be achieved. This is why we take the time to mask off the interior surfaces of turbo parts. For the small amount of area that a good bond can be achieved on, it is not worth taking the risk of coating the inside where the coating could come off and damage the turbo.

It is much easier to simply coat a part all over instead of taking the time to mask a part and process it properly. At Swain Tech Coatings, we would only coat the inside of a part if it makes sense to coat it or if it has been requested by the customer. If it does not make sense to coat it or if it has not been requested by the customer, we will take the time and effort to mask the part.

When choosing which exhaust coating to have applied to your exhaust parts you should consider what you want the coating to do for you. If you want the best insulating and most durable exhaust coating available, Swain Tech’s White Lightning™ is the only coating to consider. It simply is not possible for the .002” thick paint based coatings that many other companies offer to insulate nearly as well as the .015” thick true ceramic White Lightning™ coating that Swain Tech offers. However, if the look of the coating is the primary purpose for the coating, White Lightning may not be your best choice. Though White Lightning™ is an attractive white textured coating it cannot provide you with the brilliant shine that can be achieved with the paint-based coatings. If the shiny look is more important than the function of the coating, there are now many companies that offer that service. Swain Tech Coatings would recommend using a company with a national presence that has been around for a while.

If performance is what you are after and you consider the facts about coating materials, the effectiveness of coating the inside of parts (or lack of), and temperature ratings, it is easy to see that White Lightning™ is the only choice. For those only wanting a shiny look, we actually recommend that they not use our coating. With more than 25 years of developing and applying the leading performance improving coatings, Swain Tech Coatings will give you the coatings and honest advice needed to get the best coating for your specific application.