A catalytic converter is one of the most expensive parts of your car! Packed with various precious metals, it’s job is to clean up harmful exhaust emissions.
It processes all the exhaust gases before they reach the atmosphere. Over time these converters can become clogged or fail. If the catalytic converter becomes compromised, it can ultimately cause engine failure. It’s vital to promptly address any problems with the catalytic converter.
A clogged catalytic converter does not automatically need replacing. It’s feasible to fix and avoid the expense of a replacement. Try one of these methods.
How Do Catalytic Converters Work?
Today’s cars are environment kind and more robust than their predecessors. This progress is due to advanced electronics and emission management devices, such as catalytic converters.
As you will be aware, your engine burns fuel when it and oxygen ignite via an electrical spark or compression-produced heat. The chain reaction ought to generate only mechanical energy, some water vapor, and C02 in an ideal world. However, under real-life driving conditions, this is complicated to accomplish, which results in toxic climate-changing emissions.
Using rare metals and hot temperatures, the catalytic converter oxidizes and reduces these harmful emissions. Instead, the emissions are converted into water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. Due to the precious metals used in their construction, catalytic converters are expensive. You will be looking at north of a thousand bucks for the part alone.
Indications Your Catalytic Converter May Be Failing
Acceleration is poor, and the engine hesitant at start up
These symptoms indicate a blocked converter hampering the exhaust flow. A clogged up converter effectively is suffocating the engine by stopping exhaust gases from escaping as quickly as they should.
Rotten Egg / Sulfur Smell
This type of pungent smell is a telltale sign of hydrogen sulfide contaminating the catalytic converter. An ammonia smell is another indicator of a compromised converter.
Discoloration and Warping of the Converter
Both of these are hints of internal leaks or overheating.
If you hear this at engine start up, the catalyst is likely broken.
Emission Test Failure
Failure of an emission test should be cause to investigate the health of your catalytic converter.
Engine Warning Light
If this warning light comes on, it may generate a diagnostic trouble code relating to the catalytic converter. This alert is usually the first indication that you have trouble with your exhaust. An illuminated Malfunction Indicator Lamp will produce the same warning and code if there is a fault.
Likewise, the engine management module may chip in with a code that the catalytic converter isn’t operating normally.
Catalytic Converter Repair
If the problem is simple clogging then there are several viable methods of repair. Below are some methods of how to unclog a catalytic converter:
The “Italian Solution”
This is a colloquial fix for several automotive disorders, including a blocked catalytic converter. Often premature failure can be down to drivers not pushing their engine sufficiently hard to reach the converter’s optimum temperature.
The so-called answer is to push your vehicle more aggressively than you usually do for a couple of miles. That is, numerous hard accelerations to get heat into the catalytic converter. It is believed that doing so will get rid of deposits that adversely affect performance.
Fuel and additives
Fuel type has a bearing on the health of your catalytic converter. If normally you run on low-octane, try filling up a couple of times with higher octane gasoline instead. Some fuel additives may also help.
Another remedy is to add lacquer thinner to your gasoline at a ten to one ratio. This additive, too, has a reputation for removing unwanted deposits. You can try one of these remedies in conjunction with the Italian solution.
Other engine management issues may also cause catalytic converter problems. A temperamental oxygen sensor could suggest the cat is at fault. If the sensor is ‘lazy,’ it may not set off a diagnostic trouble code. A technician will be able to establish if the oxygen sensor is the root cause.
Meanwhile, a fuel to air ratio that is off could also be the culprit. Misfires or your engine drinking coolant or, alternatively, oil could also lead to premature failure or contamination of your catalytic converter. If the damage is not too significant, fixing engine management ailments may save the converter from total failure.
Repair Exhaust Leaks
A leaking exhaust can upset sensor measurements while not raising a DTC. Careful inspection of the exhaust system may find a leak, which, when fixed, will revive the catalytic converter.
Worn out gaskets and exhaust pipes are both fail points that are much cheaper fixes. Repairing these will undoubtedly save money and could avoid an unnecessary catalytic converter replacement.
Clean Your Catalytic Converter
Another potential remedy is to remove the catalytic converter and give it a blast with a high pressure hose. Cleaning will help remove deposits which have formed inside the converter’s matrix.
Another less messy cleaning method is to soak the converter in a mixture of degreaser and warm water. This overnight method is time-consuming but is good for dissolving built-up deposits. Dry the converter before refitting.
Increase Your Catalytic Converter’s Lifespan
Occasionally there is no option but to replace the catalytic converter due to internal failure or melting. If forking out for a new one is unavoidable, here are some tips to ensure you get the longest possible lifespan out of it.
Cars should be driven – Cars do not fare well without regular use. Long drives are better than a series of short journeys. To make the catalytic converter get up to temperature, drive for a minimum of 20 minutes each week on the highway.
Keep on top of maintenance – Stay up to date with routine maintenance such as services, oil, air filter replacement, etc. If something needs to be addressed, don’t put it off as doing so could damage your catalytic converter.
Don’t ignore warning lights – Engine warning lights and their like, illuminate for a reason. Always address warning lights promptly. They could be indicating a problem with consequences for the catalytic converter.
Buy higher octane – Do so, at least occasionally, to keep potential catalytic converter problems at bay. High octane gas alone can sometimes fix catalytic converter problems. It will clean out your catalytic converter. However, ditching low-octane permanently could prove a better long term solution.