How Long Can A Catalytic Converter Be Expected To Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 3rd, 2022

The catalytic converter is the massive metal box attached and bolted beneath your automobile and has two pipes going out of it. The catalytic converter is a car component that turns harmful emissions into a harmless gas.

Catalytic converters are used in modern automobiles to remove hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other harmful substances from exhaust fumes. The catalytic converter relies on pricey and precious metals with unique chemical characteristics to do so successfully.

A SUV's catalytic converter is being removed at a salvage yard. Catalytic converters reduce pollutants by oxidizing carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Converters contain platinum or palladium which are recovered and recycled during the salvage process. This vehicle, will be crushed, shredded and melted into recycled steel.

Who Is the Creator of the Catalytic Converter?

Eugene Houdry, a French chemical engineer, is credited with inventing the first catalytic converter in the United States. In 1950, he submitted a patent for his innovation.

How Long Can A Catalytic Converter Be Expected To Last?

The catalytic converter has a lifespan of ten years or more. The component should only be changed when it is worn out. The catalytic converter might become damaged, polluted with oil or engine coolant, or blocked over time. The catalytic converter is also vulnerable to overheating.

How Many Miles Will A Catalytic Converter Last?

A catalytic converter typically lasts between 70,000 and 100,000 miles, roughly the average life of an automobile in its prime. A driver may be able to push a cat to the limit, up to 150,000 miles, depending on the vehicle’s condition, as long as it is not damaged and is running smoothly.

Many converters have a guarantee of 8 to 10 years. Some drivers have accumulated 200,000 kilometers while keeping the vehicle’s original kitty intact.

Catalytic Converters: How Do They Work?

Before the invention of catalytic converters, waste gases produced by an automobile engine passed through the exhaust tailpipe and into the atmosphere. The catalytic converter is located between the exhaust and the engine and serves more than just as a filter.

Consider the catalytic converter to be a component that alters the chemical composition of the exhaust gases by removing and rearranging the atoms in their composition. Additionally:

  • Polluting gases are emitted from the engine and subsequently pass through the honeycomb catalyst.
  • Metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum make the catalyst.
  • The catalyst breaks down molecules into their constituent atoms.
  • After being separated, the atoms recombine to form molecules, now comparatively innocuous compounds like nitrogen, water, and carbon dioxide. They may now safely blow through the exhaust.

Catalytic Converters’ Importance

Catalytic converters, or ‘cats,’ serve a variety of purposes. In layman’s words, it is mostly utilized to transform hazardous gases created during engine combustion. When these gases, such as carbon monoxide, are released, they are converted to innocuous gases, such as carbon dioxide.

This preserves the environment and keeps the engine from becoming blocked. A catalytic converter’s model is straightforward.

However, it has numerous functions and responses going on at the same time. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons are the most dangerous substances that are dealt with in a catalytic converter.

These gases are, by definition, exceedingly dangerous. Nitrogen Oxides, for example, contain nitrates such as nitric acid, nitrous oxide, and nitric oxides, among others.

These alone produce a host of issues ranging from smog formation to acid rain condensation, worsening water quality owing to chemical imbalances, and significant climate change due to the greenhouse effect caused by these numerous gases.

Furthermore, when untreated hydrocarbon emissions are considered, the list contains conventional pollutants (smog) and is the main source of health issues. These can include congenital impairments, which can be lethal.

What Are the Signs of a Faulty Catalytic Converter?

If you recently failed an emissions test, you should investigate your catalytic converter. The “cat,” as it is more colloquially known, is essential for eliminating carbon monoxide and other poisons from your vehicle’s exhaust system. When a catalytic converter fails, a car may soon become a smog-producing machine, among other issues.

The following are some frequent symptoms of a cat failing and needing to be repaired or replaced.

  • An emissions test that failed
  • The check engine light is illuminated, and there is a rotten egg odor.
  • The speed is slow.
  • There’s a rattling sound.
  • Notably, fuel economy has decreased.

If you detect any of the following symptoms, it is time to take your automobile to a technician or a licensed car dealer for a check-up. Many difficulties with a cat arise because of a problem with the engine.

A cat can overheat and malfunction if the oxygen sensor fails, the engine timing is incorrect, the spark plugs are damaged, or there is a poor air-fuel combination.

Any oil or antifreeze that enters a car’s exhaust system can coat a catalytic converter with heavy carbon deposits over time, creating issues if not removed. Potholes, pebbles, and other road hazards can cause dents, shattered, and loose pieces in a catalytic converter, resulting in lower efficiency.

What Happens If the Catalytic Converter Fails?

When a catalytic converter begins to fail, certain warning indicators appear. Here are some of the most prevalent signs of a faulty catalytic converter:

Your Check Engine Light has turned on.

When the dreaded check engine light illuminates, you are witnessing the first, and perhaps only, an indicator of a faulty catalytic converter. When the light illuminates, your vehicle’s ECM, or engine control module, stores a diagnostic issue code in its memory.

Engine Performance Issues

In rare cases, the catalytic converter might become blocked or clogged, resulting in excessive exhaust backpressure. This pressure will choke the engine, resulting in performance concerns such as stalling and power loss.

Your vehicle will not start.

A severely constrained catalytic converter might generate enough exhaust backpressure to prevent the engine from starting.

Emissions Test Failed

A catalytic converter is responsible for cleaning up the hazardous emissions produced by your vehicle’s engine. If you have a malfunctioning converter, you can easily fail your state emissions test.

What Is the Composition of a Catalytic Converter?

The catalyst is made of a platinum-like metal or pure platinum. It might also contain rhodium or palladium.

How Can I Make My Catalytic Converter Last Longer?

A catalytic converter may be quite expensive to fix or replace; therefore, keeping your converter in working order is in your best interest! You can maintain your catalytic converter running effectively and efficiently while avoiding costly repairs by doing the following:

  • Make it a habit to have your automobile serviced regularly.
  • To avoid costly repairs and adjustments, address concerns as soon as possible.
  • Use unleaded fuel in conjunction with a catalytic converter. You risk deactivating your catalytic converter if you use leaded petrol.

How Can I Tell If My Catalytic Converter Needs to Be Replaced?

Check out these indicators that it’s time to replace your catalytic converter:

Engine Performance Has Stopped

If your automobile suddenly and mysteriously begins to operate slowly, you may have a blocked catalytic converter. This also implies that your engine’s emissions will not be removed soon enough. A slower rate of emissions flow makes the engine run less efficiently.

Rattling Noises

Rattling sounds from your car’s exhaust system, even while driving at high speeds or merely starting the engine, might indicate catalytic converter problems. A broken catalytic converter indicates it isn’t filtering your emissions correctly and is fundamentally failing. Your catalytic converter must be changed right away.

Fuel efficiency has been reduced.

When your catalytic converter becomes blocked, your car’s fuel economy suffers. Why? Your engine’s emissions will not be cleared quickly enough. As a result, your converter will now operate under suboptimal circumstances, using more fuel to create the same amount of electricity.

If you find yourself filling up frequently despite no changes in your driving habits, your catalytic converter may blame you. Ignoring the problem will not only cost you extra money in petrol, but you will also have to pay for repairs.

Your vehicle is prone to misfiring.

If you are experiencing frequent misfires while driving your car, a mechanic may need to inspect your catalytic converter. Your converter may not be the source of the misfires, but it might be harmed by an issue, resulting in a breakdown of the mesh situated within, which is responsible for filtering out your engine’s emissions.

Starting and Ignition Problems

With a significantly blocked catalytic converter, you’ll be dealing with more than simply emissions problems. You may also encounter difficulties starting your automobile due to pollutants accumulating in the engine and choking out the ignition system.

A faulty catalytic converter might cause your engine to abruptly and mysteriously shut down or simply not start at all.

When this occurs, you have a serious safety problem on your hands. Due to the catalytic converter’s inability to release pollutants quickly enough, your automobile may switch off while traveling.

Is it possible to clean a catalytic converter instead of replacing it?

In a nutshell, sure. However, there are a few factors to consider. You may be annoyed by the P0420 error number and want to clean your catalytic converter. But then you discover how difficult it is to remove your catalytic converter. So you come up with the idea of cleaning it without removing it.

Consider the following:

  • Due to over-clogging, your catalytic converter may need to be removed.
  • Is there any rattling when you tap the catalytic converter? Then there might be some loose pieces. The removal is now unavoidable.
  • Your catalytic converter may have been blocked due to oil entering the cylinders and being burnt and combusted inside the hot catalytic converter. If this is the case, you must repair the internal oil leak.

In the end, removing your catalytic converter may be preferable rather than cleaning it. You may have difficulties that cannot be resolved unless you remove the catalytic converter and inspect it.

How Long Can You Drive With a Malfunctioning Catalytic Converter?

With a faulty catalytic converter, you can drive for as long as you like. However, in regions where a vehicle must have a catalytic converter fitted, you risk obtaining a fine and failing emissions testing.

Driving with a faulty converter may result in a car that displays the check engine light, issues starting the car, roaring sounds, sulfur odors, and thick black exhaust.

If a defective converter is inserted in a few places, it isn’t immediately harmful to drive. However, if you continue to ride about with a faulty converter that has to be replaced, you risk getting into legal difficulties. A completely blocked converter produces a lot of pollution into the environment.

Misfiring can occur when a defective converter quickly warms up and ignites the engine’s gas. It may result in engine damage. There’s no need to keep driving with a faulty converter. It results in significantly reduced vehicle performance, slow acceleration, and decreased fuel efficiency.

What Happens If My Catalytic Converter Isn’t Replaced?

Overall, you run the risk of fully clogging your cat converter over time. The components inside the catalytic converter degrade and cause it to shut completely! This implies you won’t be able to drive your automobile and will need to replace the converter.

Cost of Catalytic Converter Replacement

Replacing a catalytic converter is not inexpensive due to the valuable metals used in its manufacture (e.g., platinum and palladium). Keep in mind the vehicle’s age and manufacture, the number of catalytic converters installed, and whether the cat is an OEM or aftermarket item.

What is the Average Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

When everything is said and done, needing to replace your catalytic converter might mean a significant hole in your funds. A catalytic converter replacement costs between $900 and $2500 on average! If your automobile is recent, you won’t have to spend as much money because converters may last up to a decade with regular care and following the correct precautions before utilizing cleaners.

1981 and Newer Gasoline Engines

Almost all gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured since 1981 contain a three-way catalytic converter. Because this design is more intricate than those seen in previous vehicles, the cost of replacement parts is likewise higher.

Expect to cost between $500 and $2,200 on average to replace a catalytic converter in a modern automobile. The parts alone will cost between $400 and $2,000. For the projected one hour of labor required for replacement, labor expenses will range between $75 and $150.

Before 1981, gasoline engines were used (and Diesel Engines)

Two-way catalytic converters are standard on gasoline engines produced before 1981 and most diesel engines (any year). Because the design is very basic, replacement costs are generally lower.

A catalytic converter replacement in these older vehicles will cost between $175 and $750. You’ll spend between $100 to $600 on parts and another $75 to $150 on labor. Keep in mind that the unavailability of replacement cats increases with the age or rarity of the vehicle.

Can a Catalytic Converter Be Repaired?

It is conditional. If you suspect a dirty or clogged catalytic converter, applying a catalytic converter cleaner to your gas may assist clear the obstruction. It may require more than one application. A considerably stronger technique of cleaning a catalytic converter is to remove the cat and soak it in a citric acid solution for 6-8 hours.

Sodium hydroxide is another possibility. Here’s a good video that explains the procedure:

If there is damage to the catalytic converter, such as sections of the honeycomb breaking off inside, it is just not fee-sable to undertake any form of repair, despite what you may read online. In these situations, replacement is your only choice.

How to Aid in Clogging Prevention

If you frequently drive short distances in your automobile, the hydrocarbons may not be entirely burned away because the catalytic converter does not get hot enough. To lessen your chances of having a blocked catalytic converter, consider driving your vehicle on the highway for 10 to 15 minutes now and again.

This will generate enough heat inside the cat to effectively burn off the hydrocarbon deposits, allowing your cat to run as efficiently as possible.


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