Q: Exhaust manifold leak. Headers or stock manifold?

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I have a 2003 Ford Expedition with a 5.4 2WD. It has a slight exhaust leak from the exhaust manifold. I noticed that there is one nut missing from either side. So each side has a stud missing a nut. They are rusted and very hard to reach since there is little clearance especially with the strut towers. I ordered a set of JBA shorty headers and the muffler shop I took it to l, took off the wheel fenders to look closer and he told me he wouldn't do it. He said not to put headers on cause I would have lots of problems down the road with the gaskets cause I can't retighten the bolts. Can you tell me if you can at least replace the gaskets? Should I just return the headers and get stock manifolds?

Thanks Reuben

My car has 183000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

The manifolds on this engine warp and would need to be replaced to stop the leak. The manifold studs would also need to be replaced with the newer stainless steel type of studs and nuts. I agree with the muffler shop about the headers. On another note, the headers would be even noisier then the original manifolds. I recommend having a mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, inspect the leak and replace the manifolds for you if needed.

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