Your vehicle’s catalytic converter cost can range from $400 to $3000 depending on the quality and the labor cost.
The catalytic converter converts the contaminated gases coming out of the vehicle’s tailpipe into more environmentally friendly gases.
In the catalytic converter, there are small catalyst particles that interact with the bad hydrocarbon elements in the gas. The particles superheat the hydrocarbon and convert it into less harmful gas.
To pass the emission or smog test, your vehicle MUST have a working catalytic converter.
In this article, we will explain to you what does the catalytic converter do, why would you need to replace your catalytic converter? What are the common symptoms of a bad catalytic converter? How much does the catalytic converter cost? Can you clean the catalytic converter? Why does the catalytic converter cost vary significantly?
What Does the Catalytic Converter Do?
The catalytic converter works like an emission controlling gate in the exhaust system.
Any emissions coming out of the engine’s combustion system has to go through the converter before it exits the vehicle. The catalytic converter is coated with platinum, palladium, and rhodium.
During the gas trip through the converter, they interact with the small catalyst particles. The particles will superheat the gases and convert them into less harmful gases. Besides, the particles will burn any byproducts or unburnt fuel and filter them out.
The catalytic converter could go bad if the vehicle kept sending unburnt fuel to the exhaust system. Unburnt fuel can happen if the car is “running rich.”
The vehicle runs rich on fuel when there is more fuel than air in the air-fuel mixture. This is not a good thing to have; the air-fuel combination must have the appropriate ratio of air and fuel to get the mix to ignite, and therefore, the engine running appropriately.
When the engine keeps sending unburnt fuel to the exhaust system (runs rich on fuel), carbon will build up in the catalytic converter causing it to clog and fail in sever scenarios.
Why do I need to have a good catalytic converter?
In general, a slightly faulty catalytic converter will not prevent you from driving, and you can drive the car just fine.
However, if the catalytic converter has significant problems, you might not be able to drive the vehicle. For example, a severely damaged catalytic converter can make the engine work roughly and, therefore, cause complete engine damage.
Despite the level of problems in the catalytic converter, you will guarantee not to pass the emission or the smog test in any state. That been said, you will not be able to get the required license, and as a result, you can not drive the car.
Where is the catalytic converter located?
The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system. It is located on the bottom side of your vehicle’s body.
If you located the exhaust pipe, the catalytic converter sits in the middle of the tube, right after the exhaust manifold and before the exhaust muffler.
What are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter?
When the catalytic converter goes bad, there are common symptoms that you need to pay attention to and can not ignore. These symptoms include:
- A check engine illuminating light
- A rought performing engine
- A rotten egg smell coming out of the tailpipe
- A rattling catalytic converter when the vehicle is idle
- Reduced engine performance
- Thick white smoke coming out of the tailpipe
- Trouble when accelerating
- A glowing hot catalytic converter that might start a fire in the vehicle.
- And finally, failing the emission test
Can I just drive the vehicle without a catalytic converter?
Some people remove the catalytic converter completely and replace it with a long pipe. This is completely a very dangerous idea that you need to avoid.
First, vehicle performance will drop significantly. Besides, you will notice a clear drop in the fuel economy. Moreover, there is no way you can pass the emission test without a catalytic converter.
Can clean the catalytic converter fix it?
One of the common issues with catalytic converters is clogging.
If the vehicle is running mostly on rich fuel, lots of unburnt fuel will be transported to the exhaust system. It is the catalytic converter’s job to take care of the massive amount of unburnt fuel. At some point, the converter will not be able to handle the amount of unburnt fuel and will start clogging.
Many people use fuel cleaners to clean the converter. While it is recommended to use the fuel cleaner multiple times a year, there is no guarantee that it will fix major catalytic converter problems.
Here is a list of the most common catalytic converter cleaners:
- Cataclean Catalytic Converter Cleaner
- Hi-Gear HG32705 EZ Catalytic Converter Cleaner
- Solder-It CAT-1 Catalytic Converter Cleaner
- OXICAT Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner
- CRC 05063 Catalytic Converter Cleaner
- Sledgehammer Catalytic Converter Fuel System
- Red Line 60103 Complete S1-1 Fuel System Cleaner
- Chevron Techron Concentrate Plus Fuel System Cleaner
- Royal Purple Max-Clean Fuel System Cleaner & Stabilizer
- Lucas Oil 10013 Injection System Cleaner
How long can the catalytic converter last?
In general, the catalytic converter is one of the vehicle’s components that does not go bad as often. This is because it is not one of the moving parts of the car.
You can have the same catalytic converter for decades if you maintain regular maintenance as recommended by the vehicle’s owner’s manual and the manufacturer.
However, you might be in situations where there is a check engine light illuminating, or an engine misfire, in this scenario, you need to take care of the problem immediately as they might increase the amount of unburnt fuel coming to the exhaust system.
Unburnt fuel can find its way to the exhaust system due to issues with the head gasket, fuel injector, spark plugs or ignition coils. As we mentioned earlier, unburnt fuel can result in damaging the catalytic converter.
Experts also say that the biggest factors killing the catalytic converter are the fuel and the coolant (when it leaks and finds its way to the catalytic converter.)
How much does it cost to replace the catalytic converter?
Similar to any other mechanical part, replacing the catalytic converter repair cost is divided into labor costs and parts costs.
The labor cost is measured by the number of hours the mechanic needs to complete the job. It will depend on the location where you want to get the replacement done at.
For example, the average hourly cost for an independent shop mechanic is about $80, while the hourly price for a mechanic at a dealership is about $100.
You need to know that the catalytic converter is exposed to many other internal rusted parts. The converter is also connected to the engine with a set of bolts. If the mechanic ran through issues replacing the catalytic converter, he would need additional time to get the converter replaced.
Although the labor cost is a significant player in the total cost for replacing a catalytic converter, the parts price can also vary significantly.
For example, it might cost you $500 to get the catalytic converters replaced at an independent shop, while the same job is done for $2000 at a dealership.
For catalytic converters, the part price can vary by the type of metal used inside it. Also, there is a mandatory federal warranty that has to come with any emission part. Therefore, don’t be scammed and by a $50 worth catalytic converter just because it doesn’t have the warranty. You might put yourself at a huge risk.
Another factor affecting the catalytic converter part price is the construction techniques. Some cheaper catalytic converters can be poorly made and will not last more than a month, and you might still have the check engine light illuminating while well-constructed converters can last for many years.
Therefore, if you decided to cut on the labor cost and not have the catalytic converter replaced at a dealership, make sure to know all the details about the independent shot.
You can go online and search for this shop. These days, any business should have some online existence to some extent. If you do not find enough information about this independent shop, you might need to avoid it.
The good idea is to look at the customers ‘ reviews and see their thoughts. You don’t want to deal with this independent shop if it has a lot of customers ‘ complaints.
Finally, some people think of replacing the catalytic converter on their own (DIY).
Replacing the catalytic converter yourself will cost you $0 labor cost. Although this is a significant cut in the repair cost price, if you do not have the required mechanical skillset to replace the catalytic converter, you might cause further problems.
If you were able to get the meaning of the problem code, it does not mean that you can solve the problem. Some systems can indicate a problem in the catalytic converter, although the actual problem is related to oxygen sensors or leaking exhaust.
Therefore, you are advised to replace the catalytic converter on your own ONLY if you have the required skillset to avoid major repair costs.
The bottom line, when you want to fix any mechanical problem, you need to understand the actual issues causing the problem but NOT to eliminate the symptoms.
Are there any alternative solutions to replacing the catalytic converter?
Before you get your catalytic converter repaired or replaced, you need to get the full list of other issues.
For example, a faulty catalytic converter might be associated with damaged one or two oxygen sensors, broken muffler, or damaged tailpipe.
Once you reviewed the complete list of problems along with the required price to get it fixed, you need to evaluate the amount of repair versus the value of the vehicle.
If the price of repair is equal to or higher than the value of the vehicle, it might not be a very good idea to repair the problems. You’d better sell the car and consider buying a new one.
There are many websites online that can buy vehicles with problems in as-is condition.
You simply have to fill online form describing the details about your car make, made, model, and the fundamental problems in the vehicle.
Once you filled the information, you will be contacted with a quote for how much they will pay for your vehicle. Many of the companies pay in cash.
They also provide free towing in many cases.
Every combustion engine emits gases with bad pollution. The vehicle’s emitted infections are post-processed and converted to less harmful gases by the catalytic converter.
The catalytic converter has small catalysts that superheat the carbon and the unburnt fuel and clean it before it exits the vehicle.
You must have a working catalytic converter in your vehicle to pass the emission test.
The catalytic converter lasts for a very long time without any need to be replaced. However, engine problems that result in a vehicle running on rich fuel can significantly damage the converter.
Replacing the catalytic converter price ranges from $400 to $3000 depending on the labor cost and the quality of the parts.
It is recommended that you do not always look into cheap catalytic converters as this might require you to replace the converter one more time in a very short period. Some of the more expensive converters can be well-constructed to last for years and sometimes decades.
You do not want to replace the catalytic converter on your own unless you have the required mechanical skills to avoid major damages and, therefore, extremely high repair costs.
If you think the repair cost of the vehicle is higher than the actual value of the car, you might need to consider selling it and buying a new one.