Signs of a Catalytic Converter Failure: When Should You Worry?

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Signs of a Catalytic Converter Failure: When Should You Worry?

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The catalytic converter in the car is an important detail that was invented for environmental purposes. It does not improve the technical characteristics of the car, but only affects the purity of the exhaust fumes. The catalyst uses various materials to help neutralize certain harmful compounds. However, like all other parts in a car, it can fail. In this article, we will look at the signs of a catalytic converter failure so that you can find the problem in time and fix it. You can always quickly find a scrap car buyer, but high-quality car maintenance requires knowledge and attention. So let's understand the intricacies of the catalyst.

The Principle of Operation of the Catalyst And Its Functions

The main function of the catalyst is the complete combustion of the exhaust so that it enters the atmosphere as clean as possible from such types of harmful greenhouse fumes as:

  • carbon monoxide;
  • nitrogen oxides;
  • hydrocarbons.

During engine operation, the inside of the converter heats up to a temperature of over 700 degrees. Under such conditions, afterburning of fumes occurs. And the above listed harmful chemicals are neutralized due to reactions with an active catalyst. Two oxygen sensors, lambda probes, are installed at the inlet and outlet of the device, which analyzes the composition of the exhaust. And if the content of toxic fumes meets the standards, the sensors do not give any signals.

Signs That Always Point to Catalyst Problems

The problem is that most of the symptoms of a catalytic converter failure are similar to those of other car troubles. For example, the loss of power may be caused by malfunctions of the fuel equipment, but you can repair the catalyst and throw money away. It should be borne in mind that in the case of a catalyst, all symptoms grow rather smoothly, nothing happens abruptly and at one moment.

So, it is worth paying attention to such a complex of factors:

  1. Exhaust odor change. You may smell an odor that resembles rotten eggs or other spoiled food. This means that certain elements of the catalyst are simply worn out and destroyed.
  2. Check-engine on the dashboard. The check will give lambda probe errors since this device is directly connected to the catalyst. Errors are difficult to eliminate by replacing the probe. You have to change or remove the catalyst.
  3. Increased content of harmful substances during the exhaust check. In this case, the catalyst will have to be replaced, since it clearly does not perform its tasks properly.
  4. The motor suffocates, it does not have enough air to work. The fact is that the destroyed catalyst blocks the airflow in the exhaust system and does not allow the engine to breathe normally. This causes problems with the preparation of the mixture due to incorrect sensor readings.
  5. The loss of engine power is also related to the previous point. The motor cannot breathe normally and therefore power is lost. There is a risk that the engine will stall constantly.

The failure of the lambda probe is very often the first harbinger of problems with the catalyst. This is a rather expensive part, so before replacing it, it is worth checking the operation of the catalytic converter and making sure that everything is in order with it. At a good service station, by analyzing the composition of exhaust fumes, you can easily determine the condition and resource balance of the catalyst in your car.

Why And When Does the Catalyst in the Car Collapse?

Unfortunately, the catalyst is not an eternal element of the exhaust system. It can collapse pretty quickly. This happens especially quickly if the motor has a malfunction. For example, excess fuel enters the exhaust system and burns there. In this case, the catalyst will work constantly at elevated temperatures and will quickly fail. Even under ideal conditions, catalytic converters rarely last more than 125,000 miles or more than 10 years.

How to Repair a Catalytic Converter in a Car?

Repair of this device most often involves replacing it with a new catalyst. The problem is that the cost of a new device can be quite high, especially if you decide to purchase an original part. Small amounts of valuable metals are used in the composition of catalysts. They are necessary for carrying out a chemical reaction to neutralize fumes. Therefore, the cost cannot be low.

Sometimes experts suggest cleaning the catalyst. This is a rather complicated process that allows you to delay the purchase of a new catalyst by several thousand miles. But still, this procedure is also not the cheapest. It is not easy to simply remove and install the catalyst, since it is part of an integral element of the exhaust system. Moreover, cleaning does not always help to bring the device back to life for a long time.

Catalyst cleaning can be effective if this procedure is carried out by a professional with a special chemistry. In addition, the inside of the catalyst must be completely serviceable and intact. In other situations, cleaning will not bring any results.

What to Do If The Catalytic Converter is Broken?

It is quite likely that you may encounter a catalytic converter failure. There are several options to fix this problem. It all depends on your budget. Let's look at these options:

  1. Replace with a new one. The best option, though not the cheapest. The high cost of catalytic converters is due to the use of precious metals and other expensive materials in their composition. If a new catalyst is cheap, it will definitely not work properly.
  2. Cut and install flame arrestor. Bad option for the environment, but the cheapest for the owner.
  3. Clean and reinstall. Not the best option, but maybe a temporary workaround.
  4. Ignore the problem. In this case, after a few months, you will notice unpleasant changes in the behavior of the car.

Final Thoughts

A catalyst is a rather complicated part of a car, the breakdown of which is sometimes difficult to identify. We recommend that you contact specialists, as the part is quite expensive due to the presence of precious metals in it (platinum, palladium, and rhodium). If you are the owner of an old, rusty car that you want to get rid of, JunkCarsUs will help you do it quickly and profitably. The company buys cars of all brands in any condition at an attractive price.

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