Signs of A Failing Catalytic Converter

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A catalytic converter is an emission control device in a vehicle exhaust system. A failing catalytic converter will raise emissions, give off dark exhaust smoke that may have a sulfur odor, cause weak acceleration and diminish overall performance. If you suspect that one or more catalytic converters on your vehicle are faulty, you may want to know how much does a catalytic converter cost and how to install a replacement part. Find out more about the leading causes of a catalytic converter failure and how to replace this exhaust system component.

What Are The 3 Most Leading Failures of A Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are used in vehicles with internal combustion engines that run on unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel. Contamination is a leading cause of part failure. Contaminants destroy catalysts consisting of precious metals such as palladium, platinum or rhodium coated onto a ceramic honeycomb or beads in a housing connected to the exhaust pipe.

In the past, these parts often failed after becoming contaminated with leaded fuel. More common causes of contamination today involve a faulty cylinder head gasket permitting engine coolant or oil to enter the combustion system.

Wear is the second most likely cause of part failure. Over time, the catalysts in this part break down due to regular cyclical use or persisting overly lean or rich fuel mixtures. Catalytic converters are sealed units, making it impossible to restore catalysts without replacing the entire component.

Physical damage is the third most common cause of a failing catalytic converter. This exhaust system component housed on the undercarriage is prone to come into contact with road debris, curbs or obstacles on vehicles with insufficient clearance.

What Do To If It Needs to Be Replaced

It is important to determine that one or more catalytic converters are the cause of poor performance. If the Check Engine light is on, a vehicle may transmit engine code P0420 or a related code. Some vehicles have more than one catalytic converter, making it necessary to determine which engine bank component requires replacement.

The model year of a vehicle or a VIN lookup may be helpful for finding the right replacement part. Vehicles manufactured between 1975 and 1980 used two-way converters. Since 1981, three-way converters have been used. Late-model vehicles rely on electronic fuel injection systems rather than air injection systems to control oxygen levels.

How To Replace a Catalytic Converter

Check to see whether a replacement catalytic converter has a bolt-on design or is intended to be welded onto the pipes of the exhaust system. You can install a bolt-on catalytic converter with the right set of tools, including a jack and stands, wrench set, ratchet and socket set, ratchet extensions or joints and penetrating oil.

If you live in a location that mandates vehicle inspections, you may need to replace one or more catalytic converters to pass emissions tests. Even if your state does not require regular inspections, replacing a failing catalytic converter can make it possible for the engine in your vehicle to run at an optimal level of performance.