Diagnosing a bad catalytic converter is not the simplest job in your vehicle, but is a key part of keeping your engine healthy and enhancing your car’s longevity. You can take certain steps to diagnose your catalytic converter and fix the root cause of the problems before finding out “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine.”
A catalytic converter is a key part of the internal workings of your vehicle. Although every single component of your car is important in your vehicle’s proper running and lifespan, the catalytic converter maintains a complex job that is key to your car’s longevity and your engine’s efficiency and performance.
Noticing the signs of a bad catalytic converter, the role of this component in your vehicle, and why catalytic converters fail can help you keep your car in good shape. In addition, learning how to diagnose a failed or bad catalytic converter and recognizing the symptoms and causes of a bad or failing catalytic converter is key in determining if a bad catalytic converter can ruin your engine.
What is a catalytic converter?
When looking into “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine,” you need to know the function of this part inside of your vehicle. A catalytic converter in your car is an exhaust emission control mechanism in charge of reducing the toxic gases and pollutants produced in the exhaust gas from the internal combustion engine in most modern cars.
Catalytic converters are usually used in tandem with the internal combustion engines powered by either gasoline or diesel, depending on the specific make, model, and year of the car.
The catalytic converter has to convert three harmful compounds in the car exhaust into compounds that will not destroy your car or the environment. These harmful compounds include hydrocarbons, which are released with the unburned gasoline, carbon monoxide, formed by the combustion of gasoline in your vehicle, and nitrogen oxides, created when the engine’s heat makes the nitrogen in the air combine with the oxygen.
A catalyst is a substance that accelerates a chemical reaction, and within the catalytic converter itself are two types of catalysts.
The first is a reduction catalyst, which uses platinum and rhodium to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is produced by nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide within the exhaust gasses from your internal combustion engine. Without getting rid of these gasses, you will have the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine.”
The second catalyst type in your catalytic converter is the oxidation catalyst, using platinum and palladium to complete the catalytic converter’s job. These catalysts burn the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons that are still located in the incoming gas, helping to get rid of the smog produced by the unburnt fuel. This helps the economy and your car’s lifespan. Without this step, you will discover the answer is yes to the question of “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
The final stage of the catalytic converter mechanism’s emission control process is the o2 sensor that is just higher up than the catalytic converter. This sensor relays information back to the electronic control unit about how much oxygen is within the exhaust gases. The on-board computer adjusts the air and fuel mixture accordingly.
If your catalytic converter is damaged and cannot complete these cleaning processes, then your converter is failing. If your converter has failed, this means that you have the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine.”
Signs of a Faulty Catalytic Converter
As we know now, your catalytic converter is a huge part of your vehicle. The converter is key to your car’s longevity and lifespan and your vehicle’s overall inner workings by neutralizing hazardous compounds in your exhaust system, like carbon monoxide. By doing so, this catalytic converter can cause a huge increase in gas mileage and performance. If you do not take care of your catalytic converter, you will find out the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
Catalytic converters are made to last the entire lifetime of your car. Still, without maintenance and regular maintenance, these repair issues in the other components of the inside of your car and the exhaust system can cause wear and tear, showing damage over time.
Driving with a failing or bad catalytic converter can damage your car further, hurt the environment due to poor emissions, reduce your overall fuel mileage, and damage other components of your exhaust system. Preventing these issues from occurring can also help you prevent the answer “yes” to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
Here are some important signs and symptoms of a failing catalytic converter that can help alert you to the possibility of if a catalytic converter will ruin your engine.
Check Engine Light
First, your check engine light may illuminate on your dashboard. Although your check engine light can come on for many reasons in your car, some more severe than others, this check engine light is one of the first signs that your catalytic converter could be failing and damaged. Noticing the check engine light before the symptoms get any worse can answer the question of “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
However, properly identifying the root cause of the illuminated check engine light will require a vehicle diagnosis. Finding the reason for the dashboard warning can help you determine if the failing or bad catalytic converter will ruin your engine, helping you answer, “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
A check engine light can also come on for other reasons, like these possible alternatives compared to your catalytic converter. Your oxygen sensor could be failing, monitoring the amount of unburnt oxygen in the car’s exhaust system, and sending data to the vehicle’s electronic control module. The second reason could be a loose fuel cap, which can happen from not tightening the fuel cap after getting gas in your vehicle’s tank.
Decreased Fuel Economy
Another common result of a failure within the catalytic converter is a decrease in gas mileage, fuel economy, and fuel capabilities. A decrease in fuel efficiency is because your catalytic converter could become clogged over time, filled with debris and rust, and exhaust will become trapped in your car’s engine.
Suppose your engine starts experiencing a huge increase in gas consumption and is much lower in the mileage per gallon than normal. In that case, you may have found out your answer to the dreaded question of “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?”
Reduced Engine Performance
If your converter is clogged, the exhaust can build up in your vehicle and reduce the performance, lowering the overall speed, acceleration rate, and engine ability to give more power to your vehicle. A car with a clogged catalytic converter can feel as if the acceleration is no longer there, even if the car’s gas pedal is working correctly and is not soft or spongy.
Noises From Under The Hood
Your catalytic converter is shaped with small components that can cause a rattling sound due to the quick movement when it is broken. If your catalytic converter is damaged or failing, this rattling will be very loud when the car starts or will get worse as you continue driving your vehicle.
If you hear a rattling noise with the other symptoms on this list, like decreased performance and gas mileage, there is a good likelihood that your catalytic converter is what is at fault. Diagnosing this part can help you prevent the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?” from getting any worse over time.
Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost
To find out the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?” you need to know the overall repair and replacement cost of this important part in your vehicle.
In order to prevent a bad catalytic converter from ruining your engine, you might need to undergo a complete catalytic converter replacement to keep your engine and the parts of your car healthy and lasting longer. So, how much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?
Well, this number that you will be looking for depends on a multitude of factors, like your vehicle’s make and model, the quality of the replacement unit you are reinstalling into your vehicle, and labor costs at the specific shop you visit. Once you have the diagnosis, you must add the current market cost of the catalytic converter replacement.
Make & Model
The vehicle’s make and model can mean that an older car is going to cost less for a total catalytic converter replacement than a newer vehicle like a 1994 Toyota Camry vs. a newer 2010 Chevrolet Silverado. In addition, the quality of the replacement unit can affect the overall price and cost. Not all catalytic converters are this high quality or created equal, with some available for under $100, while others can run upwards of $1000.
Furthermore, the labor costs will vary depending on the mechanic shop you visit. Some mechanics will charge you around $70 per hour for their labor costs, while others can go upwards of nearly $130 for an hour of this kind of work. Also, the time to replace it depends on the kind of car you have, with some jobs taking one hour, and others taking two hours, which will increase the labor cost.
The typical cost of a catalytic converter replacement is usually between the range of $1,000 to $2,500, which is no cheap replacement. However, to prevent a bad catalytic converter from ruining your engine, this price is what you will have to pay to keep your vehicle healthy and keep a long lifespan.
Diagnosing a Failed Catalytic Converter
To prevent your bad catalytic converter from ruining your engine, you should take note of a few signs and symptoms that can clue you into the problems occurring in your vehicle.
If you smell the strong “rotten eggs” coming from your vehicle, this is the easiest way to diagnose the car. Fuel contains a small amount of sulfur, which is usually burned so that it is odorless. However, if the catalytic converter has undergone intense internal damage, the replacement will mean the mechanism is not working properly, and the driver and passengers can smell the odor.
Rattling from Converter
In some cases, you can also hear the rattle from the catalytic converter. If you hear this, the converter’s element has become loose and disengaged and can move around during use. If you remove the entire unit, try hitting it with a hard tool to see if you can hear the clatter inside the converter. If you hear any noises, this can answer whether a bad catalytic converter can ruin your engine?
Check the Engine Idle
To cross-check and ensure that you do not have a bad oxygen sensor when you do not see the check engine light, use a vacuum gauge, and connect the gauge to the intake manifold vacuum line. Then, start the engine and let it idle while you temporarily check the gauge’s reading.
Figuring out the answer to “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine” will help you keep your car working at a high-performing level for a long period of time without any issues. As we know by now, the catalytic converter is a key part of the internal workings of your vehicle. Although every single component of your vehicle is important in your car’s performance, the catalytic converter carries out a complex job that is key to your car’s longevity.
Noticing the signs of a faulty catalytic converter, like a decreased fuel economy, reduced engine performance, check engine light on the dashboard, and noise from under the hood can help you diagnose this issue before it gets any worse over time. Keeping an eye on your converter can help you answer the question of “can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine.”