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8 Signs Of A Bad Catalytic Converter – How To Tell If The Catalytic Converter Is Bad? 

Catalytic Converter Scrap Value by Serial Number

The catalytic converter has a major rule in your vehicle; It converts the harmful emissions into less toxic pollutants as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Like any component of your vehicle, the catalytic converter can get clocked, damaged, or broken. Therefore, you must get it inspected an install a new part if necessary. 

The catalytic converter will tell you that it's about to fail before it completely fails. 

In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the catalytic converter role in your vehicle. Then, we will highlight the top 8 signs of a bad catalytic converter. Finally, we will answer the most frequently asked questions related to bad catalytic converters. 

What is a catalytic converter, and what does it do? 


The catalytic converter is part of your there vehicle exhaust system. This converter converts harmful emissions to less-toxic to the environment. This converter converts about 90% of the harmful emissions into better pollutants that could then be released to the environment. When a particulate filter is added to the catalytic converter, the emissions can be reduced by about 99%, as this filter catches the ultrafine particles. 

You will find the catalytic converter in gasoline or diesel vehicles that are run to buy combustion engines. The catalytic converter is usually located between the muffler and the headers. 

Catalytic converters were added to the vehicles since 1975 to comply with the US environment's self-protection agency regulations related to exhaust emissions. Depending on the vehicle's make, model, or year, the location of the catalytic converter varies; some vehicles have dual exhaust systems that consist of two catalytic converters. 

8 Signs of a bad catalytic converter 


Automobile experts suggest that the catalytic converter lasts up to 10 years under normal operations. However, as the catalytic converter gets older, it is expected to tear, wear, clog, and get damaged at some point to require installing a new catalytic converter. Even if the catalytic converter was not completely damaged, if you don't take action and fix it, you will not receive the top efficiency, and the vehicle will experience issues when driving. 

The mechanical components of your vehicle tell you that they are about to fail before they even completely fail. Here is a list of signs of a bad catalytic converter: 



  • It will be hard to start your vehicle 



If your vehicle's catalytic converter is bad, the exhaust system will not be able the convert the toxic gases into less-toxic pollutants to be released out. As a result, these gases will be built up, causing high pressure on the engine, and therefore, the engine will start stalling and making it hard to start. 


  • Your vehicles fuel efficiency will drop drastically 



While the reduction in fuel efficiency can happen due to many factors, one of these factors could be a bad catalytic converter. 

When the catalytic converter goes bad, the engine will not receive the required amount of oxygen needed. As a result, the engine will start consuming more fuel, and therefore, you will notice a drop in fuel efficiency. That's why you will need to refill the fuel tank much more often than before. 


  • The check engine light will illuminate 



Your vehicle's internal computer uses the check engine light to indicate internal issues with the vehicle. If the catalytic converter goes bad, the air to fuel ratio will be affected, causing a high emission of toxic pollutants.

Therefore, don't be surprised when the mechanic tells you that it's the Catholic converter causing the check engine light to illuminate. 


  • The vehicle will fail the emission test 



As we mentioned earlier, the primary role of the catalytic converter is to ensure that there is not a lot of better missions coming out of your vehicle. 

Unsurprisingly, if the catalytic converter is not doing its job, then the vehicle will fail the emission test. In most states in the United States, the emission test must be performed once every year. Thus, you must maintain a healthy catalytic converter in your vehicle to ensure passing this test. 


  • It will be hard to accelerate 



Reduced engine efficiency can happen due to many factors. A bad catalytic converter can cause poor acceleration by trapping exhaust in the exhaust system. If you started experiencing issues with poor acceleration, this is a very critical sign and red flag on the engine's performance. Thus, you must take your vehicle to an experienced mechanic inspect and fix the catalytic converter. 


  • You you will smell a rotten-egg-like smell 



As a rule of thumb, any weird smells coming from your vehicle indicate issues with the internal components. Usually, weird smells indicate significant problems that must be taken care of the prevent major failures and, therefore, high repair costs. 

By now, you know that the catalytic converter converts any toxic components of the fuel into less toxic pollutants. In the fuel, there is something called “sulfate” that usually smells like a stinky rotten egg. As part of the Catholic converter's job, it takes care of the sulfate is converted to other gases that usually do not have the same smell. 

If the catalytic converter goes bad, the fuel will still have the sulfate component, and therefore, you will start smelling this stinky rotten egg smell.

If you experienced a stinky rotten egg smell in your vehicle, you must have an experienced mechanic inspect, fix, and replace the catalytic converter if needed. 


  • A cloud of black smoke will come out of your vehicle's tail top 



If the catalytic converter does not do its job, gases will start building up inside your exhaust system, as we mentioned before. When these gases are built up, they will start having a thicker and darker color when leaving the tail top. That's why the smoke that is coming from Europe equals the tail top will be black. 


  • Your vehicle we'll start making a rattling sound 



Similar to weird smells, any weird sounds coming from your vehicle indicate issues with internal components. That's why, if you start hearing anything abnormal, you must take your vehicle to our professional mechanic and have him respect, fix, or replace those parts.

A bad catalytic converter does not cause your vehicle to rattle. However, the bad catalytic converter can damage the honeycomb mesh, which could cause the vehicle to rattle, especially when turning. 

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter? 


As a rough estimate, to replace a bad catalytic converter expect to pay between $1,300 and $1,600. 

It is important to note that mechanical repairs costs are divided into two components: parts costs and labor costs. While parts costs are expected to be the same anywhere, you go to get the job done, and labor costs can vary significantly.

For example, if you go to fix the catalytic converter at a dealership, expect to pay much higher than fixing it at a small repair shop. 

Replacing the catalytic converter is one of the most expensive repairs along with the bad engine or bad transmission. However, it is important to note that you must take care of the problem sooner rather than later to avoid further complicated problems that could lead to a complete engine failure. 

Is it worth repairing my vehicle's catalytic converter? 


It is hard to answer this question without considering other factors. To be able to answer your question best, you must ask yourself a couple of additional questions:

  • Are repair costs getting closer to the total worth of the vehicle?
  • Are there any significant problems with the vehicle rather than the bad catalytic converter?
  • Does your vehicle have high mileage?

If you answered any of the previous questions with a” yes,” it might not be worth repairing your catalytic converter. 

Luckily, at cash car buyers, we buy your vehicle with a bad catalytic converter despite its condition. Furthermore, we don't only pay you the top dollars for your vehicle; we also provide free towing despite your living location.

All that you need to do is to contact our team, get your instant free offer, have your vehicle removed within one to three days, receive your cash payment right on the spot! 

At cash car buyers, we have a very flexible schedule, and we can come to your home or office at any time. We provide weekends, evenings, and the same pickups. Thus, you never have to worry about canceling an important deployment or meeting to get your vehicle image. 

FAQ about signs of a bad catalytic converter


In this section, we answer the most frequently asked questions about the bad catalytic converter. 


  • Can you drive a car with a bad catalytic converter? 



Bad catalytic converter does not affect the drivability of the vehicle, especially if the converter is partially clogged. However, you will experience issues with vehicle performance like low fuel consumption. 

On the other hand, if the catalytic converter is completely bad, you might not be able to drive your vehicle, and you must have it inspected and replace it immediately. 


  • How many miles should a catalytic converter last? 



The catalytic converter can last between 7,000 and 100,000 miles, according to automobile experts. However, this number differs significantly by your driving style and the environment that you are driving it. 


  • How often does a catalytic converter go bad? 



As we mentioned earlier, and under normal operations, the catalytic converter is expected to last for about ten years. Once the catalytic converter goes bad, you must replace it to avoid further complicated issues with the engine that could lead to high repair costs. 


  • How do I extend the life of my catalytic converter? 



While experts suggest that the catalytic converter can last up to 10 years, there are a couple of actions that you can do to extend the lifetime of the catalytic converter.

    • You must maintain regular maintenance not only for the catalytic converter but also for all other vehicle components.
    • Make sure to use unleaded fuel that is less contaminated to reduce the pressure and stress on your catalytic converter.
    • Ensure that your fuel tank doesn't run out of fuel.
    • Do not use a bump start if your vehicle has a catalytic converter installed. 


  • What will happen if I don't replace my catalytic converter? 



Since the catalytic converter converts harmful emissions into less harmful pollutants, having a bad converter results in clogging the exhaust system with toxic gases. T

his built up of clogged gases can cause high pressure on the engine that would result in complete engine failure. 

Therefore, it's never a good idea to ignore a bad catalytic converter. Finally, if your vehicle has a bad catalytic converter, there's no way you can pass the emission test. 

Even if repairing the catalytic converter can cast costs a lot of money and effort, think about how much effort and time and money will be spending to fix complicated problems like complete engine failure. 



The catalytic converter plays a major role in your vehicle. It converts the bad missions coming out of the combustion system into less harmful pollutants that can be safely released to the environment.

Your vehicle must have a working catalytic converter to ensure a high fuel economy, good acceleration, and to pass the emission test.

Like any other components, the catalytic converter can break over time of use, usually around ten years period

The catalytic converter would tell you that it is about to fail soon by showing some signs. These signs include issues with exercising, problems when the vehicle starts, a significant reduction in fuel economy, and others. 

If your vehicle experienced any of their listed signs, you must get it inspected by a professional mechanic to avoid farther complicated mechanical problems that could cost a lot of money. 

While you can still drive your vehicle with a bad catalytic converter, ignoring the problem for a longer time is never a good idea. 

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