mechanic holding catalytic converter

The catalytic converter is an essential component in all fuel-powered cars and trucks. Required since 1975 thanks to concerns about air quality, they reduce the number of harmful toxins released via vehicle emissions.

Signs a Catalytic Converter is Failing

Ideally, you’ll get quite a few years or 100,000 miles out of your converter before it starts to go bad. With proper maintenance of your engine and exhaust systems, you can preserve the life of your catalytic converter.

Signs that the catalytic converter isn’t working properly include a sluggish engine that is slow to accelerate. You might also notice the following:

  • Check Engine light comes on
  • Dark exhaust
  • Sulfur (rotten egg) smell coming from the exhaust
  • Rattling noises from under the car
  • The converter looks warped or discolored

Unfortunately, these aren’t definitive signs that there’s just a problem with the converter. Any exhaust system issues can manifest with similar symptoms. It’s best to bring your vehicle in to the auto repair experts at South Ogden Master Muffler if you suspect there are problems with any part of your exhaust system.

What Causes a Catalytic Converter to Go Bad?

A catalytic converter can be affected by a clogged air filter, a clogged fuel filter, or using the wrong fuel. Leaded fuel is a big culprit but, thankfully, it’s no longer readily available in the United States.

Other causes for catalytic converter problems include:

  • Coolant leaks in the combustion system
  • Motor oil leaks in the combustion system
  • Restricted exhaust flow
  • Misfiring spark plugs
  • Leaky exhaust valve
  • Failed oxygen sensor (which can lead to the engine overheating)

Since the catalytic converter is situated under the body of the vehicle as part of the exhaust system, it can also be damaged by driving over rough terrain. 

Why Are Catalytic Converters Stolen?

Another problem with catalytic converters is that they’re a target for thieves. Vehicles such as trucks or SUVs that have more clearance underneath provide easier access to the converter, which can be cut out of the exhaust system. Or, some thieves prefer to target hybrid vehicles because the converter doesn’t work as hard and may be in better condition than one on a fuel-only car.

But why are catalytic converters being stolen? It’s because the precious metals contained inside fetch a price. The metals found in a catalytic converter include palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Once the metals are harvested from the converter, they can be sold to scrap metal dealers. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that a stolen converter can be sold for between $50 and $250.

You can continue to drive your vehicle with a faulty or missing catalytic converter, but it’s not likely you’ll pass your next vehicle emission or inspection test for registration. Without the converter, your vehicle’s emissions are more toxic than is permitted by law.

Catalytic Converter Repair

Unfortunately, it can be very expensive to repair or replace a catalytic converter. Due to their composition of precious metals, new converters can cost over $2,000 not even including the labor required to install them. Here are some car repair options to see if your converter just needs a little tune-up vs a full-blown replacement:

Burn Off Build Up

It’s possible your converter has accumulated some buildup due to regular stop-and-go driving. To help burn off any deposits in your converter, take it out on the open road and accelerate. Run your vehicle at high speeds for a prolonged period.

Add Catalytic Converter Cleaner to Your Fuel

When your gas tank is only ¼ full, add a bottle of catalytic converter cleaner to the tank. Then, top off your fuel and put about 100 miles on your vehicle. If that doesn’t eliminate some of the symptoms of a faulty converter, you should bring your vehicle in for a once-over.

Sometimes these fixes won’t do the trick, though, and you’ll need to bite the bullet and pay for more extensive repairs to address an exhaust leak, wiring problems, or engine trouble that is affecting your catalytic converter’s performance.

It’s only worth replacing the converter if your car is valued high enough. For vehicles less than eight years old, there might be an emissions warranty that can help subsidize the cost of parts and labor. 

Master Muffler South Ogden offers excellent auto repair services for exhaust systems, so if we can help with a problem, get in touch today.

Categories: Mufflers

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