When a mechanic tells you that there is something wrong with your catalytic converter, it can be a bit intimidating if you do not know much about cars. The very name sounds technical and the average person probably does not understand the function of a catalytic converter.
When a person doesn’t know very much about engines, there is always the possibility that a dishonest mechanic might take advantage of them. Therefore, it is helpful to know what each component does, how to know if something is wrong with it, and what the consequences will be if you do not do something about it.
What is a catalytic converter?
A catalytic converter is a device that controls the emission of pollutants and toxic gases from internal combustion engines. It accomplishes this by creating a chemical reaction where the structure of toxic atoms are changed into less harmful ones. Catalytic converters The internal combustion engines they are used in are generally powered by either gas or diesel.
Although they were created in France at the end of the 19th century, Catalytic converters were not widely used until 1975 when the United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced new standards for auto emissions. Most automobiles manufactured after 1975 were required to have catalytic converters.
Converting carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide and water is beneficial to the environment because Carbon monoxide (CO2) contains one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. Carbon dioxide. (CO) contains one atom of carbon and one atom of oxygen.
Carbon dioxide is much less dangerous than carbon monoxide because it occurs naturally in the environment. Humans can tolerate it at certain levels, but they cannot tolerate carbon monoxide at any level. Carbon monoxide is flammable and carbon dioxide is not flammable.
Eventually, three-way converters were introduced. Not only do three-way converters produce carbon dioxide and water, but they also reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx). NOx is a group of 7 gases. They are released when coal, oil, diesel fuel, and natural gas are burned. Wood burning, kerosene heater, and gas stoves also create these emissions.
Catalytic converters must have a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit to efficiently convert exhaust gases into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Hence, they must be placed quite close to the engine of a car. They will often be installed right next to the vehicle’s exhaust manifold. an exhaust manifold gathers exhaust gases from several cylinders into a single pipe. The exhaust manifold gets very hot quickly.
NOx is bad for the environment when exposed to sunlight as it creates smog. When exposed to elements in the air it can cause acid rain. Both automobiles and cigarettes are sources of nitrogen oxide.
The good news is that a catalytic converter can last up to ten years. It does not have any moving parts, so there is considerably less that can go wrong with it. The bad news is that when a converter goes out it can be debilitating and costly.
There are several things that might indicate if your converter is faulty.
Reduced Fuel Efficiency
If you suddenly find that your vehicle cannot travel the same amount of miles on a tank of gas then it once did, there may be something wrong with the converter. If the converter is clogged, the exhaust will not be able to escape your car’s engine.
The Gas Pedal is not Working
If you attempt to accelerate the car and it does not work, gas may be trapped in the front portion of the converter. It can often seem as though no gas is reaching the engine when you depress the gas pedal. This can be a major problem as it can cause the vehicle to stall out in traffic. When you cannot accelerate your car properly, it can also cause the car to jerk back and forth.
Failing Emissions Tests
A catalytic converter’s function is to reduce emissions. Hence, when it fails an emissions test, there is a very good chance that there is a clog in the converter. This is obviously a major problem as many states will not let you drive if your car is giving off too many emissions.
Your Check Engine Light Lights Up
Almost all recently manufactured automobiles have an onboard diagnostic system that can tell you if your car needs attention when you turn the keys in the ignition or as you are driving down the road. It will test your converter and many other components of your vehicle on a regular basis. If you have too much gas in your exhaust, the light will illuminate. It will also light up if too much exhaust is coming out of your tailpipe.
Your Car Won’t Start
There are a number of things that can cause your car to stall in traffic or not start at all. The exhaust back pressure alone can cause stalling. When a converter is clogged gasses simply won’t make it past the muffler of your car. If your vehicle stalls out after just a few minutes of driving it, there is a good chance that there is a problem with the converter.
What can cause a catalytic converter to fail?
The failure of any part of your engine can have multiple factors and it is always a good idea to have a professional mechanic look at your engine. Even if you ultimately decide to work on the car yourself, a mechanic will have the experience to pinpoint the problem.
A catalytic converter can fail because of a very minor problem that is quick and inexpensive to fix or it can be caused by a major problem with your engine. Your converter will need to be repaired or replaced if it is not working properly. Even if you do end up having to replace the component, you must also fix the cause of the problem, or it will just destroy your next converter.
Bad Spark Plugs
When a spark plug misfires or does not fire at all, it traps unburned fuel into your exhaust system. Catalytic converters can get extremely hot. Unburned fuel can catch on fire in the converter, this can cause the ceramic catalyst to meltdown.
There is a catalyst honeycomb-like structure that is covered with platinum, rhodium, or palladium inside of every converter. Exhaust emissions from the engine go through the coating on the honeycomb and react with the compounds.
Obstructions on the road such as potholes and speed bumps can strike the converter. If the impact is too hard, it can cause a crack in the component. If the honeycomb is fractured, the pieces that are broken will break into smaller pieces. This will cause the exhaust flow to be interrupted. The back pressure in the exhaust system will increase and the increased heat can cause a loss of power.
Not Driving Enough
If you just use your car for quick trips to the grocery store and the such, you may actually hurt the catalytic converter. The components job is to convert chemicals and if it doesn’t get hot enough it won’t burn off the hydrocarbons. Driving it around town for 15 minutes will simply knot allow the converter to get hot enough to do its job.
Try to drive your car on the highway a few times a month. This will burn off the deposit build-up in the converter.
A Bad Oxygen Sensor
When the oxygen sensor of a car is not working correctly, it may send incorrect readings to the vehicle's computer. Oxygen sensors monitor how much oxygen is in the exhaust. It sends that information to the engine’s computer. The computer uses that information to adjust the air-to-fuel ratio. If a sensor is not working it may result in an improper fuel mixture. If the mixture is too heavy the converter can overheat. If it is too lean, the converter will simply not do its job.
It is easy enough to replace a spark plug or two if you catch the problem in time. However, a catalytic converter replacement can cost between $1805 and $1850 depending on the make and model of the car. Labor costs may depend on where you take the vehicle. Mechanics charge anywhere from $60 to $120 an hour. Repairs may take longer than changing out the converter. You will have several options for getting your converter repaired or replaced.
Going to the Dealership
If you take your car to the dealership where you bought it to be replaced, you are likely to pay a lot more than if you went to an auto body shop. However, the mechanic will charge by the job and not by the hour, so they will work at a good clip. They will have the best kind of converter for your vehicle and they will be specifically trained in working on your make of automobile.
Going to an Auto Body Shop
The vast majority of drivers prefer to take their vehicles to an auto body shop. When you patronize an auto body shop, you will deal with the mechanic directly. Be sure to ask if they are trained in your model of car. AAA maintains a list of approved and qualified mechanics. You can go on their website to find a shop in your area.
Do it Yourself
The ease of replacing your own converter will depend on how it is secured to the engine. The converter is located between the muffler and exhaust manifold, so it is not hard to find. However, some converters are bolted to the car and others are welded. If it is bolted to the vehicle, you can take it out and replace it yourself. If it is welded to the car, you will need special equipment.
Given the cost of a new converter, and given the fact that they generally only go out on older cars, you may want to consider getting a new vehicle. If you do this, you will have a few options as to what to do with the old one.
Use it as a Trade-In
When you go to the dealership, they are likely to give you a trade-in allowance for your old ride. Oftentimes they will give you far less than the vehicle is worth because they will rely on you to want to get rid of the car with no fuss. They might also offer you what seems like a good trade-in amount only to tag that amount back onto the final price of the new automobile. Be sure to read every line of your offer carefully.
Sell it Online
There are a lot of websites that will let you list your car for a fee. They will generally charge you by the month. If you sell your automobile this way you will have a lot of competition. When you do get a prospective buyer, you will have to take time out of your day to meet them. You may end up with a non-working car in your driveway for quite a while.
If you go on an online bulletin board like Craigslist, you may attract people who are not as interested in buying your vehicle as they are in meeting you. Many criminals find their victims on these sites.
Sell Your Car to Us
Cash Cars Buyers is the best option for getting rid of a junk car. Our process offers you a hassle-free way to sell your car. Simply fill out our form. We will ask for the make, model, VIN number, and year of your car as well as your contact information. We will call you right back with an offer. We are primarily interested in vehicles that were manufactured in the last 12 years.
If you accept our offer, we will make an appointment with you to pick up the car. Our team members will arrive right on time, perform a fast inspection, pay you in cash, and tow the car away free of charge. Nothing could be easier, so get your estimate today.