How to Tell if Catalytic Converter is Bad? | Technical Guide
Like other vehicle parts, the catalytic converter can also get damaged or clogged. A clogged catalytic converter can harm the environment and other parts of the exhaust system. So, you should recognize a bad catalytic converter as soon as possible. But the question is how to tell if catalytic converter is bad.
In this article, we’ll discuss the details of what is a catalytic converter. Then we’ll give an overview of some catalytic converter problems. Finally, we’ll highlight symptoms of a bad catalytic converter.
What is a catalytic converter?
A good catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system. It can convert toxic gases into less harmful substances by using precious metals. Their conversion efficiency to produce harmless substances is 90%.
These are primarily present in vehicles with diesel or gasoline engines. Besides automobile engines, it is also present in mining equipment, motorcycles, buses, trucks, electrical generators, ships, and even wood stoves.
What are the common problems of a catalytic converter?
Catalytic converters are durable and can last even for ten years. However, it may become sluggish due to contamination, overheating, or clogging.
Following are some common catalytic convertor problems that can decrease its performance:
● Contamination of engine coolant causes clogging of the catalytic converter. Thus, it restricts the movement of exhaust gases.
● Physical damage to catalysts like dents can also block the catalysts.
● Improper air/fuel ratio and engine misfire cause cat heating and thus failure.
● A failed oxygen sensor can also cause overheating of the catalytic converter.
How to tell if catalytic converter is bad?
Not all bad catalytic converters need to be clogged. For instance, catalytic convertor failing may also be due to chemical damage.
A clogged catalytic converter creates excessive backpressure. As a result, the engine would not breathe properly, leading to several engine problems.
Here are some catalytic converter failure symptoms:
● Rotten egg-like smell:
Does your vehicle smell bad like a rotten egg? If yes, this smell is an indicator of significant failures.
In the case of a clogged catalytic converter, this rotten egg smell might be due to fuel build-up. Actually, the fuel contains sulfates that characterize the rotten egg smell.
So, if you’re experiencing a bad smell in your vehicle, go to a mechanic and ask him if there is a need to replace the catalytic converter or unclog the converter.
● Difficulty in starting your vehicle:
Difficulty in starting your car is bad catalytic converter symptoms. A bad catalytic converter will not produce the less toxic gases to be released. Consequently, high pressure of the gases will build upon the engine, leading to the engine stalling.
● Decrease fuel efficiency:
A bad catalytic converter can be the reason for poor fuel efficiency. A bad catalytic converter doesn’t allow the engine to breathe correctly. Consequently, the fuel efficiency of your vehicle’s engine will get reduced. Therefore, you need to refill the fuel tank more often.
● Illuminating engine light:
Illuminating engine light is not necessarily a catalytic convertor failure symptom. It may be due to issues in oxygen sensors or engine-misfire. However, if all other causes are ruled out, the illuminating engine light will obviously indicate a bad catalytic convertor.
● Decreased acceleration:
Does your vehicle jerk when you step your foot on the gas pedal? If yes, less fuel reach to the engine might be the reason. And ultimately, its cause is a clogged catalytic converter.
● Rattling Noises:
Following symptom of the bad catalytic convertor can be the weird sounds. A catalytic converter is not the main reason behind rattling. However, it damages the honeycomb mesh, which may produce a rattling sound while turning.
● Emission test failure:
A catalytic converter is the essential component of the emission system of a vehicle. So, the failure of the emission test can also indicate the catalytic converter failure.
It’s advisable to get the emission test of your vehicle annually. It’ll help you to know if the catalytic converter is working properly or not.
1. What are the three most leading failures of a catalytic converter?
Catalytic converter failure may occur due to the following three reasons:
● Coated/oil-fouled substrate
● Damaged convertors
2. Can a vehicle run without a catalytic converter?
Yes, technically, a vehicle doesn’t need to have a catalytic convertor. However, running a car without a catalytic converter is not a long-term and sustainable option.
3. How much does it cost to substitute a catalytic converter?
Replacing a catalytic converter is a pretty expensive option. On average, repairing a catalytic converter demands $945 and $2475 money, including labour and parts. However, the cost for the catalytic convertor may go up to $2250. So, it’s better to observe any issue as soon as possible and get it fixed by your mechanic.
4. How many miles should the catalytic converters last?
The life span of a catalytic convertor depends on many factors. Generally, a catalytic converter may last for 70,000-100,000 miles.
Now we’ve had an idea how to tell if catalytic converter is bad. After observing all the symptoms of a bad catalytic convertor, take your vehicle to a mechanic to get it fixed. Never delay in the fixation of a bad catalytic convertor. Otherwise, you may have to experience damage to the exhaust system and engine. Moreover, clogged catalytic converters may also contribute to air pollution. To avoid all these issues, I would suggest you clean and maintain your vehicle exhaust system regularly. In this way, you can get rid of most of the problems of catalytic converters.