Without any doubt, the development of vehicles made the world more convenient, but it also increased pollution. Automobiles emit pollution when they are running, which can discolor buildings and lead to poor air quality. Despite how convenient they may be, automobiles pollute the environment and lower the quality of life for those who live in major cities with plenty of traffic. Fortunately, technology has developed a remedy: the catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter

Well, in this article, we’ll be discussing close to everything you need to know about catalytic converters. Nevertheless, we’ll get to be discussing the answers to the following questions:

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Alright then, let’s get to it!


What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that catalyzes a redox reaction to change hazardous gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less toxic pollutants. Catalytic converters are frequently used with internal combustion engines that run on gasoline or diesel, particularly lean-burn engines, and occasionally with kerosene heaters and stoves. Catalytic converters were originally widely used in the US auto industry.

Starting with the 1975 model year, the majority of gasoline-powered automobiles incorporate catalytic converters as standard equipment to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s more severe exhaust pollution regulations. These “two-way” converters create carbon dioxide (CO2) and water by combining oxygen with carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) (H2O). Although “three-way” converters that also reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) rendered two-way converters on gasoline engines obsolete in 1981, they are still used on lean-burn engines to oxidize particulate matter and hydrocarbon emissions (including Diesel engines, which typically use lean combustion).

This is because three-way converters need fuel-rich or stoichiometric combustion to successfully reduce NOx. Despite being most frequently used in car exhaust systems, catalytic converters are also employed in electrical generators, forklifts, mining machinery, trucks, buses, locomotives, motorbikes, and ships. Even some wood stoves utilize them for regulating emissions. Usually, this happens in response to governmental control, such as environmental rules or laws governing health and safety.

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How does a catalytic converter work?

When an engine emits harmful compounds, a catalytic converter utilizes a chamber known as a catalyst to transform them into harmless gases like steam. It effectively breaks up the dangerous molecules in the gases an automobile creates before they are released into the atmosphere. The catalytic converter, which resembles a big metal box, is found underneath a car. Two pipes are protruding from it. These two pipelines, along with the catalyst, are used by the converter to prepare the gases for release. Gases are introduced into a vehicle’s engine through the “input” pipe. When these are blown over the catalyst, a chemical reaction occurs that breaks down the pollutants. Now, the less hazardous gases move via the second pipe, or the “output,” which is joined to a vehicle’s tailpipe.

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What is the history of a catalytic converter?

Inert clay-based materials were covered with platinum, rhodium, and palladium and sealed into a double metallic cylinder in the earliest catalytic converter prototypes developed in France at the end of the 19th century when only a small number of “oil automobiles” were in use.   A few decades later, a French mechanical engineer named Eugene Houdry filed a patent for a catalytic converter. Houdry was a specialist in catalytic oil refining because he created the catalytic cracking method, which is the foundation for all current refining. In order to work on his catalytic refining technology and reside close to the Philadelphia area refineries, Houdry immigrated to the United States in 1930.

Houdry started a company named Oxy-Catalyst after becoming worried about the contribution of smokestack emissions and automotive exhaust to air pollution following the publication of early research on the smog in Los Angeles. Houdry originally developed “cats,” or catalytic converters, for smokestacks before making them for warehouse forklifts that ran on low-grade, unleaded gasoline. He started researching catalytic converters for gasoline engines used in automobiles in the middle of the 1950s and was given United States Patent No. 2,742,437 for his work.

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How do you tell if your catalytic converter has gone bad?

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of a bad catalytic convert:

It’s crucial for a mechanic to determine when it’s time to replace your catalytic converter because some of those symptoms can also be brought on by other components of the emissions system. The recommended maintenance schedule for your car can help you put off this moment for as long as possible—often 10 years or more. The possibility of your catalytic converter failing before its time is reduced by maintaining the health of your exhaust, emissions, and combustion systems.

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What are the types of catalytic converters?

The following are the three current types of catalytic converters used in vehicles:

Three-Way Catalyst (TWC)

This particular Catalytic Converter is the best one available. NOx will also be changed into non-polluting materials along with CO and HC. When CO and HC react as burning components to produce CO2, H2O, and N2, the NO and O2 processes will act as components that promote burning (oxidation).

Oxidation Catalyst (OC)

When using a CCO (Catalytic Converter for Oxidation), oxygen will react with carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbon (HC) to produce CO2 and water, neither of which contain any pollutants. Clean air must be present in the exhaust manifold for this oxidation process to function properly. In addition, because the EGR system marginally lowers NOx, exhaust gas must be recirculated through it.

Three-Way Catalyst & Oxidation Catalyst (TWC-OC)

This particular Catalytic Converter combines a three-way catalyst with an oxidation catalyst in an effort to minimize air pollution even more effectively.

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Why do thieves target catalytic converters?

Catalytic converters are a target for thieves due to their external location and use of pricey precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Due to their high ground clearance and readily removable bolt-on catalytic converters, late-model pickup trucks and truck-based SUVs are particularly susceptible to the issue. Welded-on converters are particularly susceptible to theft because they can be quickly disconnected. Since the combustion engines in the Toyota Prius are used less frequently, their condition is usually better, making them a target for thieves.

Pipe cutters are frequently used to silently remove the converter, but other tools, such as a portable reciprocating saw, may cause harm to other parts of the vehicle, including the alternator, wiring, or fuel lines. Bipartisan legislation to stop the theft of catalytic converters was filed in the US Senate in 2023. The Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts Act (PART Act) would make it a requirement that new automobiles come equipped with catalytic converters that have traceable identifying numbers. The measure would also make stealing a catalytic converter illegal.

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How can you prevent catalytic converter theft?

catalytic converter theft prevention

Here’s how to prevent catalytic converter theft:

The first step in preventing catalytic converter theft from happening to your car is understanding when it might be a target. You can prevent criminals from targeting your car by adhering to these safety precautions.

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What does the p0420 code mean?

low catalyst system efficiency

The P0420 error code means low catalyst system efficiency. This code signals that your car’s oxygen levels are below the required threshold (Bank 1), which is typically the result of issues with the fuel or exhaust systems. It can occasionally be difficult to diagnose. In most cases, it is safe to keep driving while having P0420. The driver is not at risk because of it. Most of the time, the code is not severe enough to require that you immediately stop driving your car. But, the longer you drive, the more harm your engine and exhaust systems sustain. As quickly as you can, identify and resolve this error code.

If you notice this code, you don’t need to hire a tow truck, but you should try to identify and resolve the issue as quickly as you can. Your car’s performance could noticeably deteriorate. This is a result of your exhaust system’s subpar performance. If other codes are present that indicate there is too much fuel in your air/fuel mixture, P0420 could become more problematic. See whether there are any other codes, such as P0171, P0172, P0174, or P0175. These errors could indicate that the engine is receiving the incorrect fuel-to-air ratio.

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What’s the price of a catalytic converter?

The fact that replacement costs for catalytic converters vary drastically contributes to customer fear and frustration. The primary distinction between a direct fit and a universal fit unit is this. For $2-300.00, a muffler shop may simply weld in a universal replacement converter for many different vehicles. To do this, the old converter is removed from the exhaust section, and a new one is then welded in or clamped in its place.

A direct-fit converter is a sole choice in many recent vehicles since the converter is frequently built into the exhaust manifold itself or into a complex down-pipe section from the engine. Direct-fit converters are often bolt-on components that must be removed in order to be replaced, then a new component must be bolted in place. They are frequently much more expensive compared to their universal counterparts since they are more complex. Depending on the model, a replacement for direct-fit options can cost anywhere between $300 and $2,500 just for the part.

Also, keep in mind that installing the converter could cost between $70 and $130 per hour of work. The time needed to complete the task will change depending on the particular vehicle used. Although you will save money on labor if you perform the work yourself, the catalytic converter itself can be the most expensive part of the job. Even if it could take some time, the task is frequently not too challenging, especially if you buy a direct replacement catalytic converter.

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What is the function of a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter’s primary function is to use strong chemical reactions to convert dangerous engine emissions like carbon monoxide and different nitric oxides into less damaging gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor.

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Why are thieves stealing catalytic converters?

The high cost of the precious metals used in the components, such as palladium and platinum, has made catalytic converters—which help an automobile clean its exhaust—a target for theft in significant proportion.

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Is a car without a catalytic converter?

Without this part, your automobile won’t be able to filter and reduce dangerous emissions including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons. This not only harms the environment, but it can also result in dangerously low air quality.

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How much is a catalytic converter worth?

A catalytic converter may cost between $800 and $1200. Let’s look at some variables that affect the price of scrap catalytic converters: Catalytic converter scrap prices are influenced by the number of precious metals in the component of the vehicle.

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Does removing the catalytic converter damage the engine?

The catalytic converter works as a component of an automobile’s exhaust system to lessen air pollution. Driving without a catalytic converter won’t in any way harm your engine or your vehicle.

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Does catalytic converter reduce fuel consumption?

Nevertheless, catalytic converters do not reduce fuel usage. In contrast, a gasoline catalyst carries out both tasks.

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What is the benefit of removing the catalytic converter?

The catalytic converter makes the engine’s exhaust gases and air flow through teeny channels. Its removal allows the engine to breathe more freely and produce greater power. Depending on the automobile model, the sound is also improved, and fuel consumption can be decreased by up to 10%.

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How many catalytic converters does a car have?

The majority of cars only have one converter, however, those with dual exhaust systems typically have two. Some cars additionally feature more converters than the two that are typically needed to meet pollution requirements.

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How do I know if my catalytic converter is bad?

A clogged catalytic converter should be replaced right away if you experience delayed powertrain performance, decreased acceleration, a sulfurous or rotten egg smell coming from the exhaust, dark exhaust smoke, or high heat coming from under the car.

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Do all cars have a catalytic converter?

Because they lessen emissions of harmful compounds contained in the exhaust, they are an essential part of your car’s exhaust system. Catalytic converters are necessary for all vehicles manufactured after 1974 in order to transform these pollutants into less damaging compounds before they exit your vehicle’s exhaust system.

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How long does a catalytic converter last?

A new catalytic converter should last for about 10 years, though the precise lifespan can vary, much like with most other car parts. It is worthwhile to examine the condition after 50,000 miles because mileage and engine tuning might affect an item’s durability.

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That is all for this article, where we’ve discussed close to everything you need to know about catalytic converters. Nevertheless, we got to discuss the answers to the following questions:

I hope you learn a lot from the reading. If you do, kindly share it with others. Thanks for reading; see you around!