What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter converts the harmful exhaust gases produced by the engine into less harmful emissions before they leave the vehicle"s exhaust system.

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The catalytic converter looks similar to a muffler. It is typically a stainless steel housing with a ceramic honeycomb inside that is full of platinum, palladium and rhodium. These elements help clean up harmful exhaust gases that otherwise would be expelled from the tail pipe.


How does the catalytic converter work?

The catalytic converter has multiple sections, commonly referred to as beds. Each contains specific catalyst elements that work at a temperature of at least 400 degrees F to promote specific chemical reactions. This converts harmful CO, HC, and NOx exhaust gases into less harmful CO2, H2O, and N gases that are released from the vehicle"s exhaust pipe.

What are the symptoms related to a bad catalytic converter?

A failing catalytic converter can cause a vehicle to fail emissions tests and turn on the check engine light. The exhaust might have an unusual smell. A restricted catalytic converter can result in a loss of engine power.

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Can I drive with a catalytic converter problem?

If black smoke is coming from the exhaust, you should not drive the vehicle. This would indicate unburned fuel entering the converter, which can damage it.

How often do catalytic converters need to be replaced?

If the engine is running properly, the catalytic converter should last the life of the vehicle. When it fails, it"s commonly caused by too much raw fuel entering the converter, often as a result of a misfiring engine. Too much unburned fuel can coat the catalyst, causing the converter to stop working. The converter can also overheat and break apart inside, becoming restricted or plugged.

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The catalytic converter is covered by the vehicle"s emissions warranty, which extends beyond the manufacturer"s factory warranty. Along with other emission control devices, federal law requires manufacturers to replace a defective converter for up to 15 years or 150,000 miles. Because this coverage varies by state and vehicle type, refer to your owner’s manual for your warranty information.