Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
The difference Between 304 and 321
While searching for upipes I noticed basically 3 different materials being used. Cast-iron, 304 and 321 stainless steel. The difference between stainless steel and cast-iron is obvious but what about the difference between 304 and 321? Well, here is what I found:
321 and 347 are known as stabilized grades of stainless. These are alloyed with either titanium (321) or columbium (347), both of which have a much stronger affinity for carbon than does chromium at elevated temperatures. This eliminates carbide precipitation leaving the chromium where it belongs for corrosion protection. Both 321 and 347 are top choices for exhaust headers, especially turbocharger systems and rotary engines. Since 321 is much more available than 347, that leaves 321 as the first choice, with no sacrifice in needed qualities.
304 is the most inexpensive and available stainless in the 300 series. It is suitable for normally-aspirated header applications, and has been successfully used by many racing teams. It does not have the high temperature fatigue resistance that 321 does, but is considerably less costly and much more available. Most 304 tubing these days has the dual designation of 304/304L.
Practically speaking, there are overlapping applications of 304 and 321 stainless in header construction, but knowing you've got the insurance of the aircraft-grade 321 for the job is definitely worth consideration of the extra cost... if your application requires it.
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