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Pontiac Sunfire GT RK Sport Header - Heads Up

Installing A Header On Our Sunfire

Apr 1, 1999

It's a beautiful day here in Los Angeles, the home of Super Street. The temp's about 72 degrees, with sunny skies and plenty of natural wildlife prowling the streets of Beverly Hill's Rodeo Drive. It's a perfect day to hop in a modified import car and go cruising for hoochies.

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Too bad we're stuck in the office writing stories. And even if we did have time, we don't have a car to go cruising in. Our current project vehicle, a '98 Pontiac Sunfire GT, sits quarantined in the Petersen paddock. It seems to have contracted a mysterious engine malady during a trip to Las Vegas. We're not sure what's wrong yet. Perhaps the Sunfire partook in some, uh, female attention while in the City of Sin (like Publisher Limbo). Giving it plenty of rest, letting it stay home to watch Springer, and placing a bowl of chicken soup in its glovebox seemed to have minimal effect.

We have a solution, however: ignore the problem. We think only happy thoughts. The buildup on this car started in the Nov. '98 issue with a suspension lowering and resurfaced in the Feb. '99 issue with a wing install, graphics, and intake and exhaust changes. Before the Sunfire went to Vegas, we took it to RK Sport in Oceanside, California. RK Sport is a company that deals exclusively with performance products for Chevrolets. This means Camaros, Corvettes, and Cavaliers. Since our Sunfire is virtually the same thing as a Cavalier, most of RK's parts work on our car.

RK Sport has headers for 2.2L engines and 150hp 2.4L DOHC engines. For the 2.4L, it's a one-piece four-into-one header made of 14-gauge steel. It can be ceramic-coated and comes with the necessary hardware for installation. Being the shameless pigs that we are, we asked if RK would let us put one on our car. No problems there, so we cruised over to Auto Works (also in Oceanside) to have it installed by trained professionals. As usual, we stood around, scarfed doughnuts, and pretended to take pictures while Gerald at Auto Works did all the wrenching.

Installing a header on a 2.4L engine J-body is difficult because of the location of the factory exhaust manifold, which is near the firewall (the air intake manifold is near the radiator). If you are doing this yourself, leave yourself plenty of time for the installation.

We haven't had the opportunity to generate dyno figures yet. But we'll be out cruising for Dynojets and hoochies before you know it. Stay tuned.

Installing the header will be much easier if you have access to a hydraulic lift. If not, support the vehicle on jackstands. Disconnect the battery. Remove the oil dipstick and tube. Unbolt the heatshield from underneath the car.

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Locate the oxygen sensor wiring harness. Disconnect the sensor's plug. This is a lot easier than trying to remove the oxygen sensor from the exhaust manifold.

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Support the catalytic converter with a stand. Separate the factory downpipe from the converter by cutting the pipe with a saw.

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Begin removing the exhaust manifold's and downpipe's fasteners. Some of these bolts and nuts are not easy to get to. Gain access to the nuts from both underneath and above the car, using 13mm and 15mm sockets. You'll also need a long socket extension to reach some of the bolts. Pull out the downpipe.

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To ease the removal of the manifold, move the brake booster vacuum line, the cruise control box, and the fuel line bracket out of the way. Pull out the manifold. Place it in a vice and use a special sensor socket to remove the O2 sensor. Install the sensor to the new RK header.

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Install the header from the top of the vehicle. Be patient. Because of the cramped engine compartment, it's not an easy fit. You'll have to wiggle around quite a bit to slide it in. Install the 10 header nuts, tightening them from the center of the engine block out.

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Tighten the oxygen sensor and reconnect the plug. Replace the oil tube and dipstick, brake hose, fuel line, and cruise control box.

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Using the supplied springs, washers, and bolts, connect the adapter pipe to the header. It will take quite a bit of pressure to compress the springs. Fit the adapter pipe into the catalytic converter (Auto Works recommends welding it).

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