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The Pros and Cons of Removing Catalytic Converter

Removing Catalytic Converter

Since vehicles need gasoline or diesel to run their engine, it is already given that they produce air pollution and other harmful gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide that causes smogs. Now these pollutant gases that are made from harmful molecules are not really that harmful if they are separated. That’s where the catalytic converter comes in. It is the one responsible for splitting these harmful molecules and making sure that the vehicle is producing less pollution. It is a metal box usually made from platinum and palladium which is attached on the underside of the vehicle and has two pipes coming out of it. One pipe is connected to the engine that brings hot and polluted gases from the cylinder of the engine. The other one is attached to the exhaust or the tailpipe. When these gases blow over the catalyst, chemical reactions happen which split the harmful gases apart and convert them into safe gases before it is released into the air. Knowing the importance of this car part in our environment and health, why is it that some people are still considering removing the catalytic converter? Will it do more good than harm? Let us go through the advantages and disadvantages of removing catalytic converters.    

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Why do people consider removing the catalytic converter?

There have been a lot of arguments made from people who are going against and the people who are in favor of removing catalytic converters. It has been mentioned above that it plays an important role in keeping our environment healthy but having it removed also has some benefits. 

  • A significant increase of horsepower. Vehicles with a removed catalytic converter have experienced a significant increase of horsepower. This has been made possible because the catalytic converter creates a considerable source of back-pressure on the engine. This is because it limits the impact of the exiting gases and when it is removed, these gases can leave the engine and pass through the exhaust at a faster rate and at a larger quantity. Without the catalyst’s limiting effects, the engine can now operate and use its optimum horsepower.  
  • You will get better exhaust sounds. Since the catalytic converter works to decrease the effect of the gases emerging from the engine, it can also muffle the sounds of the exhaust together with the vehicle’s muffler. With it removed, you will get to experience a low-pitched, louder, and a more distinctive exhaust sound. Depending on the drivers’ preference, this can also become a disadvantage for people who want a more quiet ride.
  • You will have more fuel options. Catalytic converter requires the vehicle to only use unleaded gasoline. This is because the lead found in conventional gasoline can be harmful to some inner catalyst materials and keeps it from doing its job efficiently. Removing catalytic converters can give you access to more fuel options. You can choose to use those high-performance fuels that are widely sold in the market today. 
  • Lower engine operating temperature is achieved. Without the catalytic converter, the vehicle’s engine workload is decreased since the exhaust’s exit from it can be done at a faster rate. This results in a relatively reduced engine operating temperature. With the engine working under lesser load and using lesser effort, you can expect that it will also generate less friction that can help reduce the wear and tear of your vehicle and its parts over time. 
  • Better gas mileage. Removing the catalytic converter lessens the strain on the engine due to its restricting effects. The engine will no longer have to work double time to produce the same energy when the converter is still in place. The lessened workload allows the engine to function easily which also leads to a lesser fuel consumption and a better gas mileage


Another possible reason why people are considering removing catalytic converters because when it becomes broken or damaged, replacing it for a new one is very expensive. In fact, the catalytic converter is considered to be one of the most expensive individual parts of a vehicle. It is costly because the materials used are also expensive such as palladium and platinum. So when it becomes broken, people will most likely choose to remove it and replace it with a less expensive and energy-efficient one.   

The drawbacks of removing catalytic converters

Removing the catalytic converter of your vehicle can be so rewarding when you experience an increased engine performance. But is it really worth all the trouble you might get in removing it? In case you might be wondering what it could be, here are some of the problems you might encounter when you remove your catalytic converter. 


    • Removing it is illegal in the US. Removing it is against the law and if ever you need to do it, you will have to go through a lot of legal procedures. The Environmental Protection Agency issued these guidelines and many states in the US like California have strict rules when it comes to emissions. Tampering or removing catalytic converters that are still functioning is illegal and can cost you thousands of dollars in fines. 
    • Releases toxic fumes in the atmosphere. It has been explained above how the catalytic converter works and helps your vehicle emit cleaner gases. It can clean or convert up to 90 percent of harmful gases into less toxic substances. Removing it will cause more harmful pollutants released in the air. It does not only cause harm to the environment, it could also harm you. If for some reason these toxic fumes like carbon monoxide reached your car cabin and you are driving or parked with your windows down, inhaling it is harmful and can be life threatening. 
  • It can trigger a fault code in your vehicle. Removing catalytic converters can cause a situation where your fault code is triggered and for newer vehicles, you might notice your check engine light is turned on. While there is a way to correct this, there is also a risk that it won’t function properly again and tracking where the fault is can be a real challenge. 
  • Failing emission tests.  Vehicles without catalytic converters will obviously fail their emission tests and won’t get to renew their registrations. Aside from a performance evaluation, there is also a visual test done. If your catalytic converter is nowhere to be seen, then testers will have to report this failure since it is required by law. Your vehicle might be seized or impounded because of this failure. 
  • Some vehicles experience more fuel consumption. Some car owners are experiencing more fuel consumption after removing their catalytic converters. The explanation for this is because their vehicle’s O2 sensors readings are not correct which cause it to require more usage of fuel. Removing it can also lead to consuming more oil and this too will be added to your expenses. 
  • Its loud noise can be annoying. Without the muffling effect of a catalytic converter, the loud noise coming from your car when you drive can be very apparent especially when you rev up the engine. Conversations inside your car might be affected and you won’t be able to enjoy a long, quiet ride anymore. The loud noise can also create a problem if your neighbors or the people from your street start to complain about it. 
  • You may experience losing your low-end torque. If you are into off roads and adventures, then removing your catalytic converter won’t be beneficial for you since you may experience low-end torque loss. 


How to remove the catalytic converter?

If you already weighed in all the pros and cons of removing the catalytic converter and came up with a decision to have it removed anyway, you can follow these steps on how to detach it – assuming that you live in a place where emission laws or rules are not that strict. 


Step 1 – You need to park your car on a level surface and jack it up at all four wheels and use jack stands to support it. You need to make sure that surface is even and the support is sturdy because it can harm you if it is not stable. If your car has been used recently, you will need to have your vehicle and its exhaust cool down first. 


Step 2 –  Position yourself underneath the vehicle and find the catalytic converter. It should be easy to find since it usually goes all the way to the vehicle’s rear exhaust. 


Step 3 – Disconnect the O2 or oxygen sensor. You can use a special stool called O2 wrench to disconnect it. If your vehicle’s catalytic converter has an oxygen sensor fastened to it, you can disconnect it first using an oxygen sensor socket and a ratchet wrench before proceeding. If you have successfully disconnected it, move the sensor out of your way. You will need a clear path as you do the rest of the process. 


Step 4 – Detach the catalytic converter from the exhaust system. You will have to unbolt it and slide off the exhaust pipe. You can start with the bolts at the back and then you can proceed to unbolt the front ones. If the bolts are rusted or jammed, you can apply oil on them to lubricate and loosen them up. If the catalytic is welded to the exhaust system, you can remove it using a rotary saw or any similar tools. Look for the existing weld lines and you can cut along them. 


Step 5 – Remove the catalytic converter. If you have completely removed it you need to decide what to do with it. Remember that its core is made from expensive metals and you might want to separate it first before you get rid of the other parts. 


Removing catalytic converter for replacement

It has been stated above that tampering or removing of your vehicle’s catalytic converter is punishable by law. The Environmental Protection Agency has set some guidelines since 1986 to regulate the way or process when it comes to removing, replacing, and installing catalytic converters. If you want to remove it the legal way, you will have to follow some specific process. In order to do that, you will need a mechanic which will document the whole process that includes the original converter’s defects and why it needs a replacement.


To start the process, you need to bring your vehicle to a well respected and credible mechanic shop that is known for mufflers and exhausts works. This is really important if you reside in a state that is strict with its emission laws. Next is to let the mechanic inspect your catalytic converter thoroughly. You have to meet the criteria to have it legally removed. There must be a legitimate reason for it like a failed local or state emission test because the converter doesn’t function anymore. This reason must be acceptable and must also be documented. If it has been established that your converter needs replacement, the mechanic can then proceed to remove it. When you buy the replacement catalytic converter, make sure that it meets all the necessary state and federal requirements. You will have to purchase a new one that is identical to the removed original converter and it has to be installed the same way. When it’s done, you can have it checked and inspected for the legalities.    


Removing catalytic converters is something you need to think about rigorously. It is not something you can do out on a whim. While it increases and allows your engine to use its optimum power, it has some serious drawbacks that you can’t just ignore. Catalytic converters play a very important role in making the vehicle’s waste less harmful and more environment friendly. Removing it might be beneficial for you, but it might not be for others. If you decide to do it anyway, remember that you will be doing it at your own risk. Just make sure that you are not breaking any state or federal laws. Keep in mind that being a responsible car owner is never a bad thing.      

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