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How Much is a Catalytic Converter? What You Need to Know!

How to Tell if Your Catalytic Converter is Failing

The catalytic converter is responsible for cleaning harmful gases from the exhaust system by using chemical reactions. It works by converting toxic substances such as nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen dioxide into less harmful substances such as water vapor and carbon dioxide. Although catalytic converters usually last for more than 10 years, they can still suffer premature wear and develop problems which can warrant a replacement. Many might ask, how much is a catalytic converter? The average price of a catalytic converter ranges between $800 and $1,200 on the converter unit alone but it can easily go up to $3,000 or more if you own an exotic or luxury car. It does not include other fees like taxes and labor charges. The price can vary depending on the car’s make and model but the larger the engine the car has, the more expensive the catalytic converter. If you are having it replaced, a catalytic converter replacement will usually cost around $1,000 to $2,500.

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How Much is a Catalytic Converter? – How Many Miles Should a Catalytic Converter Last?



Cars running on the roads today have been equipped with a catalytic converter, unless the car they use was manufactured before 1975. The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has made the emissions regulations stronger when they require that all cars should have a catalytic converter installed on them. This is because the cars running on the road emit toxic substances such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. If all the cars, millions of them, emit these toxic vapors together, imagine what could happen to the environment and the people.


If you ask, how much is a catalytic converter and worry if it costs too much, then its cost will probably be worth it considering how beneficial catalytic converters are to the environment. The catalytic converter is the one that converts toxic substances  such as hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides into less harmful substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapor.


The catalytic converter’s interior usually has a honeycomb structure with a coating applied that has a catalyst, which is the substance that increases the rate of a reaction and is the one responsible for creating a reaction with the exhaust gases by changing their chemical structure.


The catalytic converter usually uses precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium as the catalyst. This is why some people ask, how much is a catalytic converter because it is rather costly. They might have asked this question not because their converters have broken down and need a replacement, but because of theft. These precious metals that can be found on the catalytic converters have made these converters a target for thieves. It also doesn’t help that it is placed underneath the car towards the exhaust outlet. Its accessible location makes it easier for thieves to cut the whole unit and steal it.


Since a catalytic converter needs to work at high temperatures to maximize its efficiency, it should be made durable and strong for it to be able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees or maybe even more. Many people might ask, how many miles should a catalytic converter last? It is said that the catalytic converter on modern vehicles should be able to last for the full lifetime of the vehicle, but it generally lasts for about 70,000 to 100,000 miles. However, how long it will last will really depend on how the car is used and how well you maintain it.


The catalytic converter can suffer premature wear or damage due to a number of reasons and it include:


  • Oil or coolant in the exhaust system.


When oil or coolant reaches into your exhaust system, it will produce a thick carbon and soot that coats and may clog the converter’s honeycomb catalyst’s air passages. When this happens, problems may occur. Carbon build ups can prevent the catalytic converter from removing toxic emissions in the exhaust flow and if the catalyst’s pores are clogged, it will limit the exhaust flow that may lead to an increased back pressure.


This problem may lead to exhaust and heat going back into the engine which can result in internal engine damage. It can also happen that the engine will pull burnt exhaust gases back into the combustion chambers and will decrease the next burn cycle’s efficiency. This produces power loss and overheating of the components of the engine. You might want to have your gaskets, piston rings, or valve seals checked since they are usually the reasons why this problem occurs.


  • Unburned fuel in the exhaust system.


The combustion chamber is where the fuel is burnt up in order to produce power for your car. If the fuel in the combustion chamber is left unburned, due to some reasons, it will find its way to the exhaust system. When the unburned fuel reaches the exhaust system, it may ignite when it reaches the catalytic converter which may lead to a converter overheating. If the temperature goes way above its normal operating limit, it can lead to a melt down. This problem may be caused by incorrect timing, improper fuel mixture, faulty oxygen sensors, bad fuel injector, or faulty spark plugs.


  • Poor car maintenance.


Engines need maintenance and service too and if you have been ignoring the maintenance and service schedules set by your car’s manufacturer then it will be likely that you will experience converter issues. This can happen when the engine is long overdue for a service and has been burning oil due to issues such as stuck rings or bad cylinder walls since it will create byproducts that can damage your catalytic converter. Poor engine maintenance can also result in engine overheating and when this happens, your engine and your catalytic converter will suffer premature wear and damage.


  • Bad driving habits or driving conditions.


Bad driving habits and bad driving conditions can lead to a damaged catalytic converter which can warrant a replacement. When this happens, you may ask, how much is a catalytic converter? It can be costly, that is why you need to make sure that your converter will last as long as your car and one way to do this is by practicing good driving habits.


You have to remember that the catalytic converter has a honeycomb-like catalyst that is made up of a thin-walled, lightweight, breakable ceramic material. Although it is wrapped in a thick, insulation mat that holds it in place and provides protection from damage, it can still be susceptible to fractures and damages. This can happen when you are not mindful of how you drive.


When you drive over potholes, speed bumps, or if you often drive on offroads, and you don’t practice good driving habits, you might cause an impact on the catalytic converter underneath your car that can result in a fractured or damaged catalyst. When this happens, the ceramic honeycomb’s broken parts and pieces may rattle around and may break into much smaller pieces.


This can cause a blockage of the exhaust flow and an increased exhaust system back pressure which could result in loss of power and heat build up. Other damages that can happen to your catalytic converter that may need a replacement include metal fatigue, corrosion, thermal shock, stripped oxygen sensor threads, and stress fractures.


  • Driving the car for only short trips.


When you don’t usually drive your car on long distances and you only use it on short trips, it can result in a damaged catalytic converter. This can happen if the catalytic converter of your car is not getting hot enough to allow the hydrocarbons to be completely burned away. This can cause it to become clogged. To make sure that it won’t happen, you need to make time to drive your car on the highway for at least 15 minutes or more. By doing so, it will enable the exhaust to heat up and burn all the build ups in your catalytic converter.



How Much is a Catalytic Converter? – What is the Average Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?



How much is a catalytic converter and how much will it cost to replace it? You must’ve asked this question if you find out that you need a replacement. The average cost of a catalytic converter replacement can go between $1,000 and $2,500. The catalytic converter alone can be bought for around $800 to $1,200, not including the taxes and labor charges as well as the other exhaust parts you may need to replace. The price can still go up and it can vary depending on the make and model of your car. It is said that the larger the engine your car has, the more expensive its catalytic converter is.


You might ask, why is the catalytic so expensive when it is only a small part of your car? It is expensive because of the materials it is made up of. The catalytic converter has precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, or platinum. So basically, the more expensive materials it has, the more expensive it will be to have it replaced.


But why does the catalytic converter have precious metals in it? It is because of how the catalytic functions. It functions by using chemical reactions to change harmful substances to less harmful substances. It converts the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and oxygen, and any of the unburnt hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide. It basically helps keep your car’s emissions clean and less harmful. The only way to achieve this is by using precious or rare metals like palladium, rhodium, and platinum as catalysts.


These metals are known to be very expensive and that is the main reason why catalytic converters are expensive. The current price of the platinum is around $1,135 per ounce, the Palladium costs around $2,332 per ounce, making it more expensive than gold. The Rhodium on the other hand, can cost between $10,000 and $21,000 per ounce. Unfortunately, because of the precious metals the catalytic converter has, it attracts thieves making it one of the frequently stolen car parts.


However, car manufacturers might have an idea how its cost affects the car owners which makes them ask, how much is a catalytic converter? They are now trying some new ways in creating smaller catalytic converters and using as little rare metals as possible. But no matter how good these car manufacturers’ intentions are, there are still some limits to the reducing efforts and until now, the supply of these rare metals are not expanding and catalytic converters use more Palladium and consume one-third of the Platinum produced around the world per year. This means that when you ask, how much is a catalytic converter? The price will still be the same, if not more expensive.



How Much is a Catalytic Converter? – Is Catalytic Converter Worth Replacing?



After asking how much is a catalytic converter and knowing the price, you might want to know if it is still worth replacing it. But how will you know that your catalytic converter is due for a replacement? You will know if you need a catalytic converter when you experience any of the following symptoms.


  • An illuminating check engine light.
  • A rattling sound can be heard when your car is idling. You may notice the unusual sound coming directly under the car’s cabin.
  • You may notice an exhaust leak under your car or near the firewall.
  • When you notice a rotten egg smell that seems to be coming from the exhaust when you drive or when in idle, it can be an indication that you have a faulty catalytic converter.
  • You notice that your car seems to lose its power or acceleration.


Now back to the question, is the catalytic converter worth replacing? The answer really depends on where you live. There are some states that don’t conduct emission tests while other states have more strict emission standards and the only way to pass the emission inspections is to have a good and functioning catalytic converter. However, if the answer to the question, how much is a catalytic converter, is much higher than the market value of your car, then it is best to sell your car as is and move on.

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