Your car had been fine until a smoky exhaust suddenly became the order of the day. As you examined the thick exhaust fumes, you discovered your guess about a faulty catalytic converter was right, and now you want to know how to fix catalytic converter without replacing it.
A catalytic converter is an essential part of your vehicle; driving is prohibited without this piece; this leaves you with two options for repairing or replacing the converter. A quick repair will save your engine from losing its efficiency completely.
What Is A Catalytic Converter?
Your catalytic converter is found in the car’s exhaust system between the engine muffler and manifold. It has a box shape and two chambers with a honeycomb inner structure. It is responsible for converting toxic gasses into less toxic ones.
These toxic gasses are byproducts of your engine combustion, which is unavoidable. Incomplete combustion generates poisonous carbon monoxide. In addition, Oxygen combined with Nitrogen at a high temperature in the combustion chamber produces Nitrogen Oxide.
A functioning catalytic converter uses platinum, rhodium, and palladium metals to purify harmful emissions before release. In summary, a catalytic converter aims at reducing pollution and keeping the air clean. Let us discuss how this goal is achieved.
How Catalytic Converters Work?
The combustion process generates the energy required for your vehicle to move. Explosions in the engine are triggered by fuel, spark, and air. These explosions initiate the crank movement and energy production needed to accelerate your car.
There are disadvantages to this combustion reaction because the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced pollutes the air with toxic particles harmful to breathing. Subsequently, the metals within the catalytic converter combine with heat to oxidize the particles and purify emissions.
The car still releases fumes, but they are less harmful after entering the catalytic converter. To ensure your exhaust is not polluting the air, check that your catalytic converter is not faulty.
Signs of a Catalytic Converter Problem
Breathing harmful substances will expose your health to dangers. Here are the common signs to tell if your catalytic converter is bad.
Your engine light is on.
Check your engine light on your dashboard because its signal could result from a broken catalytic converter. In addition, there are oxygen sensors monitoring gasses that enter the exhaust. These are located at the front of your catalytic converter, reporting your car’s efficiency to your engine’s control unit.
Error codes are displayed because sensor readings do not correlate with optimal condition parameters. Once you interpret the errors using the car’s manual, you will be able to diagnose the problem. Otherwise, use a scanner to detect the fault.
Foul exhaust smell
Broken catalytic converters release a rotten egg smell when the car accelerates. This is because fuel contains a little Sulfur, converted to Sulfur dioxide during combustion. Sulfur dioxide, unlike sulfur, does not give off a bad smell. However, a faulty catalytic converter permits sulfur to pass through your exhaust as smelly Hydrogen Sulfide, just like rotten eggs.
When carbon builds up in your converter, it blocks the passage and prevents other gasses from passing through. Trapped gasses are likely to heat up and act as exhaust brakes, working against your engine. The excessive buildup will damage the engine and can only be removed when thoroughly cleaned out.
Increased fuel consumption
Constant visit to the gas station shows you have a faulty catalytic converter. The blocked exhaust explained earlier causes the car to burn more fuel. In addition, excess carbon buildup on your engine heads will block its ports. So, your engine parts will need to be cleaned separately, which can be costly.
Rattling catalytic converter
This is peculiar to a catalytic converter with broken internal pieces rubbing against the exhaust metal chamber. The rattling noise is an alert of a bad catalytic converter.
The engine’s control unit could be getting faulty air/fuel mixture signals due to a bad oxygen sensor, blocked injectors, etc. Thus, excess heat is generated by the car more than it was designed to handle, resulting in rapid deterioration of your converter.
Dark exhaust smoke
Lastly, dark exhaust emission symbolizes a clogged fuel injector or air filter arising due to a faulty catalytic converter. This happens due to engine coolant leaks in the combustion system, causing harm to internal parts of the converter.
Replacing your catalytic converter can be a hard decision to make because of the cost incurred. However, since driving without a catalytic converter is prohibited, it is necessary to resolve the issue. Fixing it is an option to consider as a DIY car owner.
Fixing Your Catalytic Converter without Replacing It
There are several ways to fix catalytic converter issues without extensive repair or replacement. You can attempt these before paying a massive amount for a new catalytic converter. If the problem is a simple clog, below are some procedures to unclog a catalytic converter.
- Italian tune up
- Use cleaning additives
- Engine maintenance
- Fix leaking exhaust
- Catalytic converter wash
Italian tune up
Catalytic converters require hard push to attain an efficient temperature between 800 Fahrenheit and 1,832 degrees for operation. If you have never driven your vehicle hard but rather driven short trips at slower speeds, now is the time to try something different.
Your catalytic converter will fail early if it never reaches the optimal temperature to play its role. Also, driving the vehicle in city areas for a long time can contaminate the converter easily. It fills up with particles that clog it and stop it from functioning.
Take the vehicle to an open road, and speed up quickly. Increase the RPM and run it at high speed in a clean environment. Push the car to limits for several miles. Then, run it at a higher speed, taking your foot off the gas before hitting it again. Do this several times.
Reaching 1832 degrees Fahrenheit heats your converter and burns deposits lodged in the converter, oxygen sensors, cylinder heads, and exhaust passage. However, you must do this safely and carefully.
Use cleaning additives
You can attempt to boost your engine’s performance by using a fuel additive. This aids the cleaning of your catalytic converter. If you use regular gasoline rather than premium or super-premium gasoline, which has additives, this method works best for you.
The cleaning additives are relatively cheap. You can attempt using a lacquer thinner.. To use it effectively, follow these steps. First, put at least a whole gallon of the thinner inside the engine’s fuel tank. Now take your car out for a high-speed drive on the highway.
Drive for about 150 miles or run the vehicle at 2,500 RPM (Revolution Per Minute) for almost 20 minutes. This will burn the clogging particles. In addition, the other spinning movement (2,500 RPM) makes it more effective than the Italian tune-up.
Other engine maintenance issues can cause catalytic converter problems. For example, an unreliable oxygen sensor could initiate a faulty converter. Meanwhile, the fuel to air ratio that is not right could also be the culprit.
Engine misfires or excessive use of coolant or oil could cause premature failure or pollution of your catalytic converter. However, fixing engine management conditions may save the converter from total loss if the damage is significant.
Fix leaking exhaust
A leaking exhaust can trigger wrong sensor measurements. However, you may discover a leak while carefully inspecting your exhaust, which will revive the catalytic converter when fixed. Also, check for worn-out gaskets and exhaust pipes. Both faults have much cheaper fixes. Repairing these will certainly save money and could prevent a needless catalytic converter replacement.
Catalytic converter wash
Finally, old-fashioned washing is a DIY catalytic converter repair. First, it requires taking out the catalytic converter, then lifting the car by jacking it up. This creates a working space for fixing the catalytic converter. Next, lose the exhaust bolts, and use a blowtorch to heat the bolts, after which you remove them quickly.
Soak the catalytic converter with a standard laundry detergent or degreaser in the heated water for deep cleaning. Ensure to use what cuts explicitly through the thick grease buildup. Then, clean it from both the front and back end to remove all.
You can get a pressure washer to clean the exhaust. Keeping the washer at the highest speed removes the minuscule particles you find. Do this on both sides of the exhaust. Then, dry it completely and reinstall it when you are done. Your exhaust will be as clean as new.
Important Note: These methods are only valid when the problem is identified, preventing further complications and reducing the possibility of severe damage.
What Happens If I Don’t Fix My Catalytic Converter?
You can fix your catalytic converter without heading to a mechanic and accumulating an expensive bill. The central point is to exterminate contaminants out of your exhaust so your car can run smoothly and is less polluting.
Not fixing your catalytic converter can cause physical destruction to the engine if its fault is ignored for a long time. The decrease in the discharge of exhaust fumes causes wear and tear in the engine. Ultimately, the engine can stop working.
You may experience reduced acceleration, reduced engine performance, dark exhaust smoke, lower fuel economy, etc. Consider replacing the converter if any of these arise.
Should I Fix Or Replace My Catalytic Converter?
Your catalytic converter changes harmful gases of the engine into mild form before releasing them into the atmosphere. Ideally, replacing it once every ten years or when an issue arises is appropriate.
Replacement can be expensive and is usually done on an old car. If you do not plan to sell your car, fixing the catalytic converter is a better option, considering the replacement cost. Instead, if your car’s value is more than the catalytic converter, it would be good to replace it.
It would be difficult to sell a car that did not pass the emissions test and has several engine problems. However, spending more on replacement would be worth it.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix The Catalytic Converter?
The cost of repairing your catalytic converter should fall between $945 and $2,475, counting the part itself and labor, but it could also hit $2,250. But, again, the cost varies for vehicle models and the service provider.
Catalytic Converter Repair Kit
As a car owner, you can gather your own catalytic converter repair kit; this will come in handy at any time when necessary. You can build yours with the essential items needed. You will need the following in your kit.
- A catalytic converter cleaner in place of a fuel additive
- A fuel additive to add to regular gasoline
- A wrench to loosen the exhaust bolts
- Car oil
- Your pressure washer for washing the converter
- Premium gasoline will work if you can afford it over regular gasoline
- A blow torch to heat the bolts if they are too tight.
- Your jack in needed to lift the car and create a workspace
- Oxygen sensor cleaner
- Degreaser or detergent
- A high-pressure hose
After gathering these tools, refer to our guidelines on implementing them when having a faulty converter.
Driving the car often will keep its catalytic converter in working condition. As a result, the temperature will rise to the required level and burn the clogging particles regularly. Ultimately, your engine can get rid of it, and your catalytic converter will be safe.
How long can you drive with a faulty catalytic converter?
You can drive with a faulty catalytic converter indefinitely, but it can cause a fire.
Will faulty catalytic converter damage the engine?
Yes, it can lead to engine failure if not addressed promptly.
Now, you know what fixing your catalytic converter would cost you. You can choose any method to fix catalytic converter without replacing it rather than invest in a new one. Contribute to maintaining a healthy and clean environment by immediately resolving your converter’s issue.