Common Problems of Catalytic Converters

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Catalytic converters are fairly durable components that often last 10 years or more. Eventually, though, the unit will break or wear out, just like pretty much everything else on your machine. A bad cat can be the result of overheating or breakage, but more frequently the unit becomes clogged with residues from the emissions process. Symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter include everything from reduced acceleration and dark exhaust smoke to reduced fuel efficiency and an odor of rotten eggs emanating from the tailpipe region. A converter suffering from a breakage will usually sound clunky or put forth some rattling noises. To be certain the unit is bad, you can run some do-it-yourself tests or bring the vehicle to your trusted mechanic. While a failing converter is not always an emergency issue, it is important to act with some haste since a failure in this unit can lead to serious consequences such as fires and engine damage.

What To Do If It Needs To Be Replaced

As repairs go, installing a new converter is moderately expensive, with the replacement catalytic converter cost running between $950 to as much as $2500. The total cost depends upon several factors:

  • Labor charges
  • The type of unit
  • The make, model and year of your vehicle
  • The manufacturer

If you are a decent mechanic, you can do the job yourself, saving hundreds in labor costs. You can expect to pay between $100 to $200 for the parts. If you opt for doing the work yourself, a direct replacement cat will save you some time and trouble, and make the installation easier. A universal fit converter will likely involve a bit more complexity during installation. The sooner you replace a bad cat, the quicker you reap the benefits: better performance, cleaner emissions and improved vehicle safety.

How To Fix A Catalytic Converter

It can be a fruitless effort to try and repair a failing converter. Most fixes will be temporary and are unlikely to change the inevitable: a replacement. A few measures, though, might buy you a little time. If you always drive in the city and rarely reach highway speeds, you can open up the vehicle (without breaking any speed limits) to see if this burns off any excess buildup of materials. Fuel additives that clean your engine and your converter can also cut down on residues. Finally, you can remove the unit and give it a deep cleaning with a power washer.

For most people and in most cases, though, the answer to a failing converter is a new unit. A VIN lookup is a solid way to make sure you get the right part for your vehicle, whether you are working on an emissions upgrade or any other improvements. Your VIN enables you to pick the right part every time, avoiding frustrating misorders and returns. To find your vehicle’s VIN look on the title or your proof of insurance card. For the best deals and largest inventory of parts, shop online or in-person to get exactly what you need in the way of quality auto components.


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