Catalytic Converters: How to Tell if Yours is Faulty and What to Do About It

In the early days, cars were way more toxic than they are today. As vehicles became more widespread and their pollution more prevalent, manufacturers decided that it was necessary to install catalytic converters to keep cars exhaust fumes out of our bodies and the environment. Today, catalytic converters are used around the world in all vehicles. This is the part of a car that converts toxic gases into less harmful pollutants.

Converters, like cars, only have a certain lifespan and will to be replaced at some point. Given that they are required by law all around the world, it is important to know when your car’s needs replacing, but how can you tell? And, just as tricky, what should you do about it?

Here’s an essential guide to determine when yours needs replacing.

Signs of a Failing Converter

Catalytic converters use precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium. These are the catalysts to transform pollutants into less harmful gases. As gases from the engine fumes pass over the catalyst, the pollutants break down into gases that are safe enough to be expelled. Over time, however, converters can become damaged, blocked or contaminated, which reduces the engine’s performance.

Here are the common symptoms:

Smell of sulfur

If you begin to smell a rotten egg-like odor coming from your car, that’s an indication your catalytic converter is starting to wear down. A converter in good working order should produce an odorless sulfur dioxide, but this smell means it is no longer converting the hydrogen sulfide produced in the combustion process. The smell of sulfur will often be accompanied by a stream of thick and black smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe. The black smoke alone would be enough to suspect your catalytic converter is not working as it should.

Poor engine performance

A faulty converter will quickly affect your engine because it is built into the vehicle’s exhaust system. As a result, it will reduce engine power, fuel economy, and acceleration. Any of these symptoms could result from either:

  • A clogged converter that is no longer circulating air properly
  • Or a cracked converter that is now leaking harmful gas

A clogged converter is a common reason for losing acceleration or power going uphill. To test if your converter is clogged, ask a friend to hold your car’s revs per minute between 1800 and 2000. If exhaust flow is hot, that means your converter is clogged.

‘Check engine’ light is on

Vehicles today are made with oxygen sensors that monitor a converter’s efficiency at transforming harmful gases. The ‘check engine’ light will appear on your dashboard if the gases aren’t being catalyzed. While the light itself may not indicate it is a problem with the converter, you can check the error number with a car manual or a diagnostic scan tool.

What to do about it?

Catalytic converters should last for about ten years. If you are still looking to hold on to your car at that point, then it will probably be time to replace the converter.

Getting rid of your converter is easy today, as there are firms that will buy your converters to recycle the precious metals inside. All you need is the reference number for your catalytic converter and you can then check to see how much you would earn on a recycle catalytic converter price list.

Changing the converter

Most of the cost involved will be for the converter, which can cost up to $2500, but changing it should take less than an hour. If the catalytic converter is welded in place, then it is best to see a mechanic rather than change it yourself. Unless you are a mechanic, of course!