Best Exhausts for Harley Softail – Fatboy & All Models

Although Softail started as a series of Harley-Davidson, the tremendous popularity has turned the name into a generic one! Even other brands of motorbikes with hidden rear suspension are generally called Softail! 

Like their design distinctiveness, Harley Softail models require unique exhaust systems too. Without the ideal option, you can’t get the boosted sound performance (controlled yet attractive) you expect while riding. 

The industry is flooded with different exhausts that some people may find confusing when choosing a muffler or entire exhaust system for their Softail. We engaged our experts to research aftermarket Harley Softail exhaust systems. They ended with picking up the following:

Best for Harley Fatboy – Vance & Hines Twin Slash

Best for Softail Standard – Vance & Hines Shortshots

Best for Softail Street Bob – V&H Twin Slash Prime

Best for Softail Lowrider – ‎V&H-16875

Best for Softail Slim – V&H Pro Pipe

Best for Softail Breakout – V&H Big Radius

Best Softail Heritage Classic – Bassani Pro Street

Best 2 into 2 for Softail – V&H Big Radius 2:2

Best for Softail Fat Bob – V&H Hi-Output

Best for Softail Deluxe – Vance & Hines 16879

Why the Softail List is full of Vance & Hines Exhausts?

If you’ve been on a motorcycle for any length of time, you’ve likely heard some pretty amazing claims, including that Vance & Hines is the best in the business. The company has been supplying exhausts for more than 20 years, and has been since it started. Byron Hines and Terry Vance began racing together thirty years ago. Eventually, their exhausts were designed for drag racing, and the company also began building street bikes.

If you’re a Harley Davidson rider, you’ve likely already heard of Vance & Hines motorcycle exhaust systems. These exhausts are great for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but they’re not cheap. Harley-Davidson owners are most likely to use carbon fiber exhausts. Regardless of your style of bike, Vance & Hines exhausts provide you with the best performance on the market.

Using advanced CNC machines and automated welding units, Vance & Hines motorcycle exhausts are built to last a lifetime. These exhausts also come with a heat shield that hides the chrome or gold exhaust pipes. The high quality chrome finish is an extra plus, and you’ll be glad you did. That way, your exhaust will match your motorcycle’s look. Lastly, Vance & Hines exhausts are great for racing!

The performance improvement that Vance & Hines motorcycle exhausts provide is incredible, and they’re designed to look fantastic as well. They come with an aggressive look and add pleasing sound to the bike. These exhausts are incredibly easy to install. And most of them come with complete installation manuals. Installing a Vance & Hines motorcycle exhaust is a breeze. All you have to do is unscrew the stock exhaust and slide the new one on.

Their exhaust systems can really set off a motorcycle. You may not realize it, but a good exhaust system, such as, one from the Vance & Hines, can make all the difference. With it, you can go for performance gains that you can actually feel in the saddle.

Different Softail Models 

Harley Davidson introduced the Softail motorcycle in 1988 to give the bikes a more sport-oriented look and feel. Soon, it became popular because of its classic retro style and modern performance.

Now there are many different types of Softail motorcycles with various customization and performance features. Here are some of the most popular Softail models that you may encounter:

  • Softail Standard (FXST)
  • Softail Custom (FXCW)
  • Softail Heritage Classic FLSTC/FLSTN
  • Softail Slim FLSTS/FLSTN
  • Street Bob
  • Breakout
  • Softail Deluxe

Best Exhausts for Harley Softail – All Models

Best Exhaust for Softail Standard
Vance & Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust Black 47233
Best Exhaust for Harley Fatboy
Vance & Hines Black Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Best Exhaust for Softail Street Bob
Vance & Hines Twin Slash 3&Prime, Round Slip Ons Black 46875
Best Exhaust for Softail Lowrider
Vance & Hines Chrome Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Best Exhaust for Softail Slim
Vance & Hines Pro Pipe Exhaust For Harley Softail 2018 and up 47587 (Black)
Vance & Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust Black 47233
Vance & Hines Black Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Vance & Hines Twin Slash 3&Prime, Round Slip Ons Black 46875
Vance & Hines Chrome Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Vance & Hines Pro Pipe Exhaust For Harley Softail 2018 and up 47587 (Black)
Best Exhaust for Softail Standard
Vance & Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust Black 47233
Vance & Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust Black 47233
Best Exhaust for Harley Fatboy
Vance & Hines Black Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Vance & Hines Black Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Best Exhaust for Softail Street Bob
Vance & Hines Twin Slash 3&Prime, Round Slip Ons Black 46875
Vance & Hines Twin Slash 3&Prime, Round Slip Ons Black 46875
Best Exhaust for Softail Lowrider
Vance & Hines Chrome Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Vance & Hines Chrome Twin Slash 3-Inch Slip-ons for 2018-Newer Softail Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Fat Boy, and Breakout
Best Exhaust for Softail Slim
Vance & Hines Pro Pipe Exhaust For Harley Softail 2018 and up 47587 (Black)
Vance & Hines Pro Pipe Exhaust For Harley Softail 2018 and up 47587 (Black)
Best Exhaust for Softail Breakout
RPM Vance & Hines Big Radius 2018-up Compatible with Harley Softail Breakout & Compatible with Fatboy Black - 46075 Regular
Best for Softail Heritage Classic
Bassani Xhaust Pro Street Turn Out Exhaust (Chrome) for 98-17 Harley FLSTC
Best 2 into 2 Exhaust for Harley Softail
Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 2 Exhaust Black 46065 13-17 Softail
Best Exhaust for Softail Fat Bob
Vance & Hines Hi-Output Slip Ons Matte Black 46547
Best Exhaust for Softail Deluxe
Vance & Hines 16879 Chrome Twin Slash Oval Slip-Ons Mufflers for 2018-Newer Harley M8 Softail Deluxe and Heritage Classic Models
RPM Vance & Hines Big Radius 2018-up Compatible with Harley Softail Breakout & Compatible with Fatboy Black - 46075 Regular
Bassani Xhaust Pro Street Turn Out Exhaust (Chrome) for 98-17 Harley FLSTC
Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 2 Exhaust Black 46065 13-17 Softail
Vance & Hines Hi-Output Slip Ons Matte Black 46547
Vance & Hines 16879 Chrome Twin Slash Oval Slip-Ons Mufflers for 2018-Newer Harley M8 Softail Deluxe and Heritage Classic Models
Best Exhaust for Softail Breakout
RPM Vance & Hines Big Radius 2018-up Compatible with Harley Softail Breakout & Compatible with Fatboy Black - 46075 Regular
RPM Vance & Hines Big Radius 2018-up Compatible with Harley Softail Breakout & Compatible with Fatboy Black - 46075 Regular
Best for Softail Heritage Classic
Bassani Xhaust Pro Street Turn Out Exhaust (Chrome) for 98-17 Harley FLSTC
Bassani Xhaust Pro Street Turn Out Exhaust (Chrome) for 98-17 Harley FLSTC
Best 2 into 2 Exhaust for Harley Softail
Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 2 Exhaust Black 46065 13-17 Softail
Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 2 Exhaust Black 46065 13-17 Softail
Best Exhaust for Softail Fat Bob
Vance & Hines Hi-Output Slip Ons Matte Black 46547
Vance & Hines Hi-Output Slip Ons Matte Black 46547
Best Exhaust for Softail Deluxe
Vance & Hines 16879 Chrome Twin Slash Oval Slip-Ons Mufflers for 2018-Newer Harley M8 Softail Deluxe and Heritage Classic Models
Vance & Hines 16879 Chrome Twin Slash Oval Slip-Ons Mufflers for 2018-Newer Harley M8 Softail Deluxe and Heritage Classic Models

Softail Exhaust: Before 2017 vs. After 2018

The design of a Softail exhaust system remains essentially the same. But how do you tell whether your bike has an older version before 2017 or a new version after 2017? The main difference between the 2017 Softail exhausts and 2018 models is suppression, resulting in lower sound levels. 

Before 2017, the Softail models had a single muffler at the end of a short 2 into 1 system, with the introduction of Milwaukee 8 Engines. This was replaced by a new dual-muffler setup in 2018 that’s similar to the Dyna models. This means they have added an extra pipe after the primary catalytic converter for additional noise reduction.

Harley Softail Exhaust Producing Brands

Like many other motorcycle manufacturers, Harley Davidson has had a partnership with other brands. They are responsible for most of the aftermarket exhausts that you see today on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Some of the most popular brands and models are:

Vance & Hines: They produce custom exhaust systems for motorcycles, cars, trucks and marine applications.

Rinehart: They produce the Slash-cut exhausts for Harley, cruiser and touring.

Bassani: They are known in particular for high-quality motorcycle exhaust pipes that reduce noise while improving the performance of your bike.

Cobra: The Cone Engineering Company is a US-based producer of aftermarket components for cars, bikes and motorcycles. They have a wide product range, including exhausts and air intakes.

Buying a Softail Exhaust – Considerations.

You must be careful when buying an aftermarket exhaust otherwise it may not fit or cause irreparable damage to your motorcycle. The below factors are particularly important when choosing a new motorcycle exhaust.

Compatibility: Your Softail exhaust should be compatible with your model and year of motorcycle.

Sound: Choose an exhaust that has a sound similar to stock unless you’re looking for something louder.

Metal: The exhaust material and coating determine how your Softail will handle under extreme temperature, environmental conditions and engine stress.

Shape: Depending on your preference, you may want a round-shaped exhaust tip or angular one like the custom Vance & Hines pipes.

Diameter and Length: The diameter and length of your pipes can significantly impact your motorcycle’s performance and sound. Longer pipes give a louder tone but decrease overall performance. Short pipes increase horsepower at the expense of exhaust notes.

Finishing: Since a motorcycle is an aesthetic piece, you’ll want to consider how important the look of the exhaust will be in selecting it. Some exhaust systems come fitted with a chrome finish, some with ceramic and others with black.

Cost: You should factor in how much you’ll spend on other motorcycle parts & accessories when choosing an exhaust. Aftermarket pipes can be expensive, but they are far cheaper than replacing your entire stock system or having someone do it for you. 

Accessories: You can buy exhaust accessories to protect your pipes and make them easier to install. For example, you might want bar risers or engine guards if you’re going for a longer pipe system.

Current Bestsellers

Bestseller No. 1
Vance & Hines Chrome Shortshots Staggered Exhaust 86-11 Harley Softail 17221
  • A revolution in blue-proof exhaust technology, vance & hines delivers the short, fat, straight-pipe look with twin slash-cut ends
  • High style and performance combined with unbeatable value
  • 1 3/4in. headpipes stepped to 2 1/8in. muffler bodies and 220 degrees coverage heat shields
  • Includes removable baffles, mounting hardware and instructions
  • Made in the usa
Bestseller No. 2
TARAZON Chrome 36 Inch Dual Slip-On Fishtail Exhaust Pipes for Harley Davidson Softail 2007-2017, Fatboy Deluxe Slim Springer Heritage Classic Breakout Night Train Cross Bones Heritage Softail
  • Fishtail slip ons for Harley-Davidson Softail 2007-2017 dual exhaust system. Including Fatboy Springer Heritage Classic Breakout Night Train Cross Bones Heritage Softail
  • 36" Fishtail Exhaust is straight, free-flowing pipe. Look great, provide a classic dual-exit look while increasing performance
  • Very distinct sound from fishtails, sound deep and throaty, but not obnoxious noise, you will not be disappointed with the sound
  • Easy to install, direct replacement. Slip-on Mufflers, just need loosen the bolts, get the old ones off and get these new on
  • A very good option if you're after the looks of fishtail exhaust without having to fork over several hundreds of dollars
Bestseller No. 3
Vance and Hines Shortshots Staggered Full System Exhaust for Harley Davidson 2004-13 Sportster Models
  • Signature Twin Slash End Treatment
  • Full Coverage Heat Shields
  • Optional Quiet Baffle Available
  • Fits 2004-2013 Sportster Models
  • Made in the USA
Bestseller No. 4
Slip on Softail Exhaust Mufflers for Harley 1986-2017 Softail Slim, Breakout, Fat Boy, Bad Boy, Heritage, Deuce, Deluxe, Convertible, Springer...Loud Rumble Tone by Handmo (Chrome (1986-2017 Softail))
  • 2.NICE LOUD AMAZING TONE: Aggressive loud sound aftermarket Harley Softail black exhaust. Designed for people who need loud sound for the Harley Softail bike. Short baffled Softail exhaust not cost too much but can create a great upgraded loud sound still have the Harley Tone.
  • 2.NICE LOUD AMAZING TONE: Aggressive loud sound aftermarket Harley Softail chrome exhaust. Designed for people who need loud sound for the Harley Softail bike. Short baffled Softail exhaust not cost too much but can create a great upgraded loud sound still have the Harley Tone.
  • 3.COST-EFFECTIVE UPGRADE THE SOUND SYSTEM: Quality GP shorty exhaust for harley softail with killing look.Designed for aftermarket Harley softail exhaust slip ons. (Bluing and/or discoloration is a result of improper tuning, cam timing, engine timing, jetting, overheating, etc. It is not a defective manufacturing problem.)
  • 4.KILLING APPEARANCE: Shark attacking is always an aggressive image making your adrenaline surge. That’s the inspiration coming from of this Softail shorty exhaust. Unique shark hunting mouth design, roaring with a great growl sound makes your Softail bike standing out from the crowd.
  • 5.WHAT YOU GET: 2 PCS slip on shorty gp exhaust for Harley Softail, 2 PCS of clamps for installing, and excellent after-sale service. We are always standing behind our products.
Bestseller No. 5
Radiant Cycles Shorty GP Exhaust Motorcycle Slipon 2018-2020 Harley Davidson Softail Slim FLSL 107 Chrome
  • Fitment: 2018-2020 Harley Davidson Softail Slim FLSL 107 - The First & The Original - Equip your ride with a legit shorty motorcycle muffler that combines form and function. Founded in 2006, our brand is the pioneer in making slip-on motorcycle GP shorty exhausts.
  • A Sleek, Clean Look - Give your motorbike a striking appearance with this exhaust. It shows off a powder-coated chrome finish, which complements the color of your motorcycle's factory parts.
  • Fuss-Free Installation - Installing this motorcycle exhaust muffler won't take all day. Just remove your motorcycle's stock muffler, replace it with this exhaust, tighten the clamp, and you're all set!
  • Heavy Duty Motorcycle Mods - You need a muffler that can keep up with you. This shorty GP exhaust is welded construction and designed to withstand the formation of rust or corrosion.
  • Customer Satisfaction - If, for any reason, you are unhappy with the quality of our shorty GP slip on exhaust, let us know within 60 days of purchase so we can provide a full refund or a replacement.

2 into 1 Exhaust – Is it Better for Softails?

2 into 1 exhaust are still on some Softail today because of its low cost and easy installation. But you’re losing a lot in terms of sound quality as well as performance. Rather than improving overall performance, your bike will become louder, jerkier and decrease fuel economy.

It’s not worth the performance and fuel economy loss. If you’re looking to improve your Softail’s performance, keep it stock or upgrade to a 2 into 2 exhaust system.

When and How to Replace Your Softail Exhaust?

It’s more of a general question than for Softails because they come with a 2 into 1 system from the factory. But here are some instances you need to check for.

If your exhaust was damaged when you crashed or dropped your bike, you should consider replacing it. But usually, if the damage is not too extensive, bent pipes and weld cracks can be fixed instead of throwing out the whole system.

If you’re planning on upgrading other parts of the bike like the air intake system, it may be worth replacing your stock pipes with a new set of aftermarket ones.

As with any motorcycle exhausts, if there’s too much noise or power loss due to engine damage, it’s probably time for a replacement system. 

Installation of a Softail Exhaust?

Installation of exhausts and air intakes is not too difficult if you have some basic mechanical knowledge. You can usually do it yourself, but sometimes it may be best to hire a local mechanic for installation.

If you plan to use it as a DIY project, go over every part of the motorcycle exhaust system thoroughly before buying one. Read customer reviews about different parts and make sure everything is compatible.

Take note of the following things before installation:

Ensure any upgrades like new pipes come with all required parts. Check for the right-sized wrench. Remember that exhausts are heavy, so you’ll need someone to help you lift them in place or use a jack to secure them on the bike and an extra set of hands.

When installing your new pipes, make sure they’re clamped tightly on the muffler supports and other points along their length. Check that there are no loose parts or uneven surfaces.

If you’re replacing your muffler as well, take note of its bolts since some are longer than others and go on in a particular order. Check the length and diameter of new pipes to ensure they’ll fit inside the frame before installation.

Is Fatboy a Softail?  

Yes, Fatboy is a Softail. It’s an FXST/FXCW with a long travel suspension to mimic the retro chopper look and sound. Other features include larger diameter tubular handlebars, 7-inch rear wheel and longer fenders & chain guard. By the way, every rider should invest in the best exhaust for Harley Fatboy if they need their two-wheeler roaring deep yet pleasing while riding.

Can You Fit a Dyna Exhaust on Softail?

Yes, it is possible to fit a Dyna-style exhaust system on the Softail models. Although it may be possible, you need to ensure some things before trying to fit an off-brand or aftermarket pipe. You also need to know the differences between the Softail and Dyna models to get the best exhaust for your bike.

Concluding Remarks

You will want to have various choices regarding your motorcycle exhaust. Make sure that everything is in order before going for it. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that cannot do what it is supposed to do.

If possible, try to get as much information about any bike exhaust product that you can find. You have to make sure that you will be picking the best one before you proceed with your purchase. Good luck and happy riding!

Last update on 2022-05-12  / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Writer @ Motorcycleall.

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