Bad Catalytic Converter: Replacement Cost and Symptoms.


AuthorSarah RobinsonCategory General Automotive

Your car’s catalytic converter is responsible for eliminating toxic emissions that could harm the environment.

Perhaps, you might be lucky enough and won’t need to bother about having yours changed or repaired but they tend to fail in a lot of cars.

Therefore, knowing the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter, its causes, if it can be repaired and the replacement cost is vital.

Keep reading for more info…

What is a Catalytic Converter and Why is it Important?

A catalytic converter is part of your car’s exhaust system – It’s located between the exhaust manifold and muffler. It’s meant to control the emissions from your car’s tailpipe. It’s made of stainless steel and looks like a muffler but is way different inside.

Inside a catalytic converter is a ceramic honeycomb structure containing catalyst materials [Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium] responsible for breaking down exhaust gases into less toxic emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere through the tailpipe. Most cars come with one catalytic converter but these days, you’re likely to come across some luxurious cars with dual catalytic converters.

What Causes a Bad Catalytic Converter?

When there is an issue with your car engine, you’re likely to end up with a bad catalytic converter sooner or later. When your car’s engine starts operating outside its normal specifications, it causes damage to the catalytic converter and the engine itself. This damage is caused when excess fuel enters the exhaust as a result of incorrect air/fuel mixture, engine timing, bad spark plugs, and an oxygen sensor malfunction. When this occurs, the catalytic converter reaches an extreme temperature causing its interiors to melt or break apart. Also, if there’s a problem with your gaskets, valve seals or your piston rings are worn out then, oil or antifreeze could enter the exhaust, creating carbon soot and coat the ceramic catalyst within the converter. If not taken care of, the catalytic converter gets clogged and won’t be able to do its job or even worse, the exhaust flow gets blocked and you could end up with an overheating car or other problems.

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What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Catalytic Converter?

Here are some warning signs to let you know when it’s time to have your catalytic converter checked:

  • Your “Check Engine Light” is On: When your car’s catalytic converter is failing or bad, the “Check Engine Light” on your car’s dashboard would be highlighted. This should tell you that something is wrong although this light could mean anything, so it could be another problem and not that your catalytic converter has gone bad. To be sure it’s a catalytic converter problem, run a check using a diagnostic scan tool. If you retrieve trouble codes like P0420, P200E, and P0430, it’s a catalytic converter issue.
  • Loss of Power When Accelerating: Your car’s engine needs a good exhaust flow to function at its best. When your converter gets clogged, the flow is restricted and as a result, you could experience loss of power when you try to accelerate, go uphill or tow something heavy. In this case, make use of a catalytic converter cleaner to get rid of the clogs.
  • Your Car’s Exhaust Smells Rotten: If you notice a smell, similar to rotten eggs, coming from the exhaust, then it’s a sign of a bad catalytic converter. This stench is from the unburnt toxic gases.
  • Poor Fuel Economy: If contaminants [from unburnt gases in the converter] get into your car’s engine, your car would use up more fuel than usual for the same tasks it performed before. So, if you notice that your fuel is getting used up faster than usual, a bad catalytic converter could be the cause.
  • Abnormal Sounds: If you notice a rattling noise or any abnormal sound coming from under your car while driving or starting your car, then you need to get it checked. It could be from your catalytic converter.

What’s the Average Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost.

Replacing your catalytic converter could be fairly expensive. If your car was made before 1981, the total catalytic converter price can be around $180 to $800. You’ll be spending about $100 to $650 on parts and about $85 to $150 for labor. Bear in mind that the older your car, the more expensive the catalytic converter price due to scarcity.

If your car was made after 1981, it means it has a three-way catalytic converter. This is also going to be expensive to replace than the older ones. You’d be looking at about $620 - $2,500 for both parts and labor. You could save money on labor costs by getting the work done yourself but only if you’ve got the proper tools and experience. In the end, you won’t save so much. Also, the USA states have different rules and in some states, you can’t even purchase a used catalytic converter…so that might not be an option.

Is a Bad Catalytic Converter Repairable?

If your catalytic converter is simply clogged or dirty, you could just add a good catalytic converter cleaner to your gas to help clean up the clog. However, when your catalytic converter gets damaged, it is not worth repairing even if you’re told otherwise online. You’d have no option than to replace it. Taking out the catalytic converter and replacing it with a pipe might seem like the cheapest way to fix your converter but we strongly advise you not to, as this would affect your car’s efficiency and cause you to fail your state’s smog test.

An Alternative to Catalytic Converter Replacement.

Before you decide to replace your catalytic converter at a high cost, you should try another option and that is selling your car to us at SellMax. At SellMax, we buy and tow cars for free, we even pay cash for junk cars and damaged cars – so you don’t even need to fix it first. Call now for your fair offer and if you like it, you take it…no pressure.

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