When is it time to replace your catalytic converter?
The signs of a bad catalytic converter are very easy to see. First, you will notice the smell of rich exhaust coming from your tail pipe. This is usual when the car is starting up, but after a few minutes it should disappear. If not, that is an indicator that your catalytic converter needs to be replaced. And usually that is accompanied by the second sign: a check engine light. These lights should not be ignored, as they could be signs of other problems with the car's engine or other systems. The reason why you see a check engine light associated with a failing catalytic converter is because the emissions that are being detected by the downstream oxygen sensor are too high in carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and/or hydrocarbons. All of these particulates are not only toxic for our atmosphere but hazardous to your health. For example, if you live in a cold environment and usually let your engine warm up in the garage for a few minutes, then you are enriching this confined space with gases that could kill you. Not good.
What does a catalytic converter do?Catalytic converters
were first used on cars in the US during the 1970's, in an effort to more tightly control emissions believed to cause air pollution. They consist of a core made of ceramic or metal composite called kanthal (iron, chromium, aluminum). This core is typically formed into a tight web or honeycomb configuration, and then coated in a rough wash of aluminum oxide or silicon dioxide. Then the catalyst active material is made of a precious metal like platinum, rhodium, or palladium. Basically, your engines exhaust gas enters the catalytic converter, heats up the ceramic core and reacts with the catalyst metals changing the carbon monoxide, unburnt hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides into less dangerous chemicals like carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water. Depending on the size of the engine, your car can have anywhere from one to four catalytic converters.
Watch out for this one - consult your local emissions agency.
Because of federal and state regulations, it may be illegal for you to change your own catalytic converter or it may be illegal to install an aftermarket one. Some states have fewer regulations than others, and some even have none. Still, performing this job without using approved and safe components may land you a $50,000 fine if done incorrectly. It is always best to install a complete catalytic converter assembly including the exhaust pipes, from an EPA approved manufacturer. These complete assemblies are simple bolt-on units that will replace your original component with no modifications required. All you have to do is get under your car or truck, unbolt your bad catalytic converter, and bolt your new one in its place.
Emissions control components are available here.
It's never good news when you have to replace your catalytic converter. Because of the rarity of the precious metals that compose the catalyst active material, it is no surprise that these things can cost a pretty penny. And if you live in a state like California or New York that are very strict on emissions, be prepared to go straight to the dealership or pay big bucks for an original equipment catalytic converter. But if you are able to safely and legally install an aftermarket part, then we've usually got one for you. Our "cats" are EPA approved for all non-CARB applications and jurisdictions, so don't hesitate. If you are not sure, consult your local emissions testing facility.