Close up of a car dual exhaust pipe

If you’ve ever wondered how your car exhaust is cleaned before it enters the atmosphere, you may be surprised to find out it has something to do with precious metals.

The negative effects of exhaust go beyond just our personal health; it can have long-term effects on the atmosphere as well. Our Ogden car repair experts expand on this below.

How Exhaust Affects Us

When the automobile was first introduced, little thought was given to the fumes it emitted. Over time, people realized that the toxic exhaust causes eye irritation, respiratory problems, and smoggy air. When you breathe in the carbon monoxide produced in vehicle exhaust, the monoxide replaces the oxygen in your body’s red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This means the blood circulating your body is no longer circulating oxygen to your brain, lungs, heart, or other organs. Since carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, we don’t always know we’re being exposed to it, and can therefore inhale toxic amounts that may lead to tissue damage or death.

1970 Clean Air Act

The chemistry occurring in a car emits exhaust that used to so significantly pollute the air, and visibility would be reduced to mere blocks in some cities. In the 1930s and 40s, people were flocking to hospitals due to respiratory issues, and it was soon discovered that automobiles were one of the main culprits of the poor air quality in major cities.

Research in the 1940s in California determined that a car’s exhaust system emitted carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, oxygen, and unburned fuel. With input from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act of 1970 changed the automobile industry going forward. No solution was offered for car engineers, and they were expected to come up with a way to create a redox reaction on their own.

What is Redox Reaction?

Redox reaction was the goal of the Clean Air Act in relation to automobiles. This term describes the process of reducing the amount of hydrocarbon and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emitted by vehicle exhaust. Some carmakers had more success than others with redox reactions; General Motors was known to be involved in the invention of the catalytic converter, which was proving to be a successful way to reduce oxidation, which emitted harmful gases and particulates from automobiles.

The Catalytic Converter

Early versions of the catalytic converter were more finicky than the ones we have today. They required precision, which was hard to manage before the advent of the technology vehicles have now. Decades later, modern catalytic converters successfully change carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrocarbons into less harmful gasses and vapors. A filter in the converter is coated with precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum, which change the harmful substances into ones that are less harmful. We now have catalytic converters designed specifically for gasoline-powered and diesel-powered engines, and they trap particulate matter found in the exhaust before producing nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor.

The only problem posed by the use of precious metals as filters is that they make catalytic converters valuable. As a result, converters are popular items for thieves. The metals can be scrapped once the converter has been removed from underneath a vehicle. Not only will the loss of the catalytic converter affect your emissions, but you’ll hear a noticeable difference in your car once you start it. If there’s persistent roaring, and the car drives rougher than usual, you might want to have your undercarriage checked for all its parts.

Thanks to the Clean Air Act, it’s illegal to drive without a catalytic converter, so it’s that much more inconvenient if yours is stolen or damaged in any way. Let us know if our Ogden car repair team can help you with your converter in any way to help you meet emissions standards.

Breathing Easy

It’s amazing that despite the hurdles, the automobile industry made progress. Fuel injection systems, catalytic converters, and oxygen sensors were, and still are, helping cars perform well while also reducing the toxins released into the atmosphere. By the 1980s, California mountain ranges were slowly becoming visible again as the smog from vehicle exhaust cleared.

For Ogden car repair from bumper to bumper, contact the team at Master Muffler today.


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