What Is a Catalytic Converter and What Does It Do?

Catalytic Converter

In recent months, there has been a huge uptick in catalytic converter thefts throughout the country. There are a whole lot of people having their catalytic converters stolen right from their cars, trucks, and SUVs.

And it’s not hard to see why. Catalytic converters are some of the most important parts in vehicles. They’re also some of the priciest parts to replace.

So, what is a catalytic converter, and what is the function of a catalytic converter? Those are just two of the questions that we’re going to answer today.

Here is everything that you need to know about catalytic converters.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

The exhaust system in your car has a series of parts in it that play an important role in the overall operation of it. They’re designed to muffle the sounds that are produced by your engine while also reducing the emissions that your engine produces.

You could make the argument that the catalytic converter is the most important part in your entire exhaust system. It’s built to convert all the harmful compounds that a combustion engine creates so that they aren’t able to do as much damage to the environment as they would otherwise.

Three of the harmful compounds that a catalytic converter converts are:

  • Carbon monoxide, which it converts to carbon dioxide
  • Hydrocarbons, which it converts to carbon dioxide and water
  • Nitrogen oxides, which it converts to nitrogen and oxygen

A fully functioning catalytic converter should be able to eliminate about 90% of the emissions that are produced by your engine. In some cases, it might even be more effective than that.

What Is the Purpose of a Catalytic Converter?

The purpose of a catalytic converter is simple. It’s in place to prevent your vehicle from polluting the planet as best it can.

More often than not, catalytic converters are made out of a combination of palladium, platinum, and rhodium. These metals work together to stop harmful emissions from escaping from your vehicle.

Believe it or not, auto manufacturers have only been required to put catalytic converters into their cars, trucks, and SUVs for about 50 years now. The catalytic converter craze didn’t come to be until the 1970s when the government started to call for car companies to get serious about making vehicles that would produce fewer emissions.

What Happens When a Catalytic Converter Goes Bad?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is a catalytic converter?”, and have a better understanding of the function of a catalytic converter, you should know what might happen if the catalytic converter in your car goes bad. You’re going to find yourself in a tough spot if your catalytic converter ever stops doing its job for you.

There are a few surefire signs that’ll indicate an issue with your catalytic converter. They include:

  • Black exhaust smoke shooting out of your car’s tailpipe
  • A lot of heat coming from underneath your car
  • Strange smells emanating from your car’s exhaust system
  • A lack of acceleration from your car and reduced engine performance

Most of the time, your car isn’t going to give out on you completely when you’re having catalytic converter problems. But you might run into a situation where your car won’t start at all when the catalytic converter goes bad.

Either way, you’re going to want to have your car’s catalytic converter cleaned or replaced altogether ASAP to avoid the problem getting worse.

Can a Vehicle Run Without a Catalytic Converter?

Technically, you’re going to be able to continue to drive a car when your catalytic converter is bad in most cases. It shouldn’t prevent you from driving your car, at least not right away.

But there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t drive around in a car with a bad catalytic converter for any longer than you should have to. Here are just a few of them:

  • Driving around with a bad catalytic converter could cause your car to contribute to your city’s smog problem
  • It could also make it impossible for your car to pass a state inspection
  • It could even result in you doing irreparable damage to your car’s engine if you’re not careful

It’s a good idea for those who own cars to keep a very close eye out for any catalytic converter issues. You’ll want to spring into action and do something about them at the first sign of trouble.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Catalytic Converter?

At this point, you know why you need a catalytic converter for your car. But you don’t know what it’s going to cost you to put a new one into place when yours goes bad on you. And you might be surprised to find out that it’s not usually going to be cheap!

There are some instances in which you can get away with replacing a catalytic converter for just a few hundred dollars. But it’s not uncommon at all for people to pay upwards of $1,000 or more for a new catalytic converter. You should learn how much your catalytic converter replacement cost is going to be if you’re interested.

You should also make every effort to steer clear of having to replace your catalytic converter sooner than expected. It could help you avoid having to pay an arm and a leg for a new catalytic converter at some point in time.

The Importance of a Catalytic Converter Cannot Be Understated

The engine is the heart of your car. And the transmission is important, too. But you shouldn’t sleep on the importance of a catalytic converter.

Today, we’ve talked at length about “What is a catalytic converter?” and shed some light on its purpose. But it’s going to be up to you to maintain your catalytic converter so that it’s always able to do its job. It’s also going to be up to you to keep your eyes peeled for any potential problems with it.

Read our blog for more great tips on maintaining the various parts located within your car.

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