Your vehicle’s catalytic converter is a component of the exhaust system.
It is essential in decreasing the dangerous chemicals made by the combustion reaction of your car’s engine. Therefore, it is crucial to address any issue with faulty or a clogged catalytic converter immediately.
However, it does not mean that you have to replace your catalytic converter when you have problems.
So, how do you fix a catalytic converter without replacing it?
In this article are methods that will help you fix your catalytic converter without replacing it.
What Is a Catalytic Converter
A catalytic converter is an exhaust component used for controlling emissions.
It helps in converting exhaust gas pollutants and toxic gases from an inside combustion engine into less harmful gases and contaminants through catalyzing a redox reaction.
An electrical engineer, Eugine Houdry, first invented a catalytic converter in 1950 to help clean up automobile exhaust.
Catalytic converters are used in automobiles exhaust systems, locomotives, electrical generators, and forklifts.
In most cases, they are applied to meet government regulations, either environmental rules or safety and health regulations.
How Does A Catalytic Converter Work?
A catalytic converter is attached to the exhaust pipe in a vehicle.
A metal covering made up of ceramic honeycomb. The honeycomb has a casing of a mix of platinum (Pt), rhodium (Rh), and palladium (Pd). The metals are crucial for resisting corrosion, oxidation, and acid. Thus they can endure unpleasant weather and every other chemical released by the engine.
At the same time, the noble metals making up catalytic converters acts as catalysts- converting the harmful gases to less harmful ones. Therefore, they can trigger a chemical reaction, yet the reaction will not affect them.
The honeycomb structure in the catalytic converter helps in maximizing the surface area where the reaction occurs.
Before developing catalytic converters, waste gases from the engine blew direct into the atmosphere through the exhaust tailpipe.
Signs of a Bad Catalytic Converter
Generally, a catalytic converter doesn’t often malfunction unless other parts like the exhaust valve, spark plug have failed or been ignored.
However, in the long run, catalytic converters also get compromised and can wear out over time.
Here are signs of a bad catalytic converter.
1. Your Check Engine Light Is On
Flashing check light engine might be a sign of many other issues, but it could also mean a bad catalytic converter, so you will need a mechanic to diagnose.
Modern engines have Oxygen and fuel ratio sensors that help measure the catalytic converters’ efficiency in pollution-fighting.
By monitoring the gas level in the exhaust, your car’s computer will diagnose when it’s not perfectly working and alert you.
2. Low Miles per Gallon
If you feel like you are filling up your tank more often than usual, there could be a problem with your catalytic converter.
A bad catalytic converter leads to poor fuel efficiency.
Thus, fueling your car could be costing you so much unknowingly, yet it results from a faulty catalytic converter.
3. Rattling Noise
When using a rich fuel mixture, it is possible for the catalyst coated honeycomb-shaped mesh inside your converter to get damaged or wear out.
So if they wear out or get damaged, the pieces break and rattle inside. You will probably notice this when you start your car.
Please note that you should not ignore the rattles because they only get worse.
4. Your Car Loses Fuel during Acceleration, Jerks Forward, or Stalls Out
With a clogged catalytic converter, your engine will not be able to manage the pressure build-up.
When there is so much build-up of particles on your catalytic converter, your engine won’t “breath.”
Thus, with time you will notice that your car has lost acceleration power, has jerky movements, and completely stall out in case the exhaust flow is restricted severely.
5. Engine misfires
Engine misfire is when one or more of your engine cylinders fail to provide power to your vehicle.
So, when an engine misfire occurs, raw fuel might get in the catalytic converter and overheat hence melting itself or resulting in an engine fire.
What Are The 3 Most Leading Failures Of A Catalytic Converter?
Before installing a new catalytic converter, it is crucial to understand the cause of the failure in the first place. Most leading catalytic failure is overheated converters, structural damage, and Fouled substrate.
1. Melted, Broken, or Overheated Converters
Any problem that causes high HC or Carbon dioxide (together with higher oxygen levels) to enter the catalytic converter automatically increases the temperature.
Causes for high HC readings are;
- Poor spark or lack of spark
- Low compression
- AFR cylinder imbalance
- Excess engine load
- Worn out O2 sensors
- Fuel quality
- Excess back pressure
It is important to note that temperatures higher than 16000F can destroy catalytic converters without any symptoms of melting.
2. Oil-Fouled Substrate
When exposed the converter to emissions, the working surface gets coated with substrate causing catalytic converter poisoning. The implications envelop catalyst such that it does not contact or help in treating the exhaust system anymore.
Potential Causes for the fouled substrate are;
- Excess burning oil consumption
- Internal coolant leaks
- Improper additives
3. Structural damage
Its primary cause is road debris that strikes the converter, and its impact can be seen on the converter shield.
Other causes include;
- Thermal shock
- Metal fatigue
- Failure of flex pipe
- Stripped Oxygen sensor threads
How to Fix Catalytic Converter without Replacing
Here are some methods to help you fix your catalytic converter;
1. The Italian Tune-Up
The Italian Tune-Up is a popular way of fixing automotive issues, including a faulty catalytic converter.
Failure to heat the car enough to heat the catalytic converter to an effective temperature of 8000F and 18320C can lead to premature failure.
Therefore, burning a car with multiple hard accelerations for a few miles can heat the converter adequately.
2. Fuels and Fuel Additives
Using a different fuel can help clean out any deposits of the catalytic converter.
For instance, adding a gallon of lacquer thinner to ten gallons of gas when you refuel your vehicle next can be efficient in clearing all catalytic converter deposits.
3. Engine Running Right
It is essential to fix other problems related to the engine to solve the catalytic problem.
A bad oxygen sensor may show a catalytic converter problem falsely. Thus there is a need for a technician to tell whether the sensor is working right.
Other engine faults include fuel trim having too lean or rich oil, coolant burning, or engine misfires. So, it is crucial to fix the engine, which can save the catalytic converter.
4. Fixing Exhaust Problems
Worn out the exhaust and corroded flex pipes are less expensive and more effective than replacing the catalytic converter.
Exhaust leaks are widespread and alter the readings of the oxygen sensor.
When exhaust leaks are repaired, they can restore the effective functioning of the catalytic converter.
5. Cleaning the Catalytic Converter
Please take out your catalytic converter and clean it using a pressure washer which helps in removing any contaminants from the matrix.
Ensure you flash both ends.
Another method of washing the converter is soaking it overnight in hot water and degreaser or detergent.
It takes a long time but is vital in dissolving all deposits clogging on the converter.
After washing, ensure you dry the catalytic converter thoroughly before reinstalling it.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.