Everything You Need to Know About Catalytic Converters – Questions & Answers

04 October 2021
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Everything You Need to Know About Catalytic Converters – Questions & Answers
Even if you are not a particularly mechanically inclined person or have no particular interest in cars, you have most likely heard of the catalytic converter. Often referenced in conversations about pollution or emissions, the catalytic converter is an important device in vehicles with internal combustion engines. But what exactly is it and how does it work? Regardless of how much current knowledge you have about cars, this article will explore everything you need to know about catalytic converters.

Key Insights

What is a catalytic converter?

What does a catalytic converter do?

What is the purpose of a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is a device that controls exhaust emissions, converting toxic gases and exhaust pollutants into less toxic pollutants. A catalytic converter uses a chamber (called a catalyst) to change the harmful compounds from engine emissions into safer gases such as steam. The purpose is to reduce harmful exhaust emissions, by turning gases such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapour. 

Where is the catalytic converter?

Where would you find a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters are usually on the underside of a car as part of the exhaust system, located between the engine and the muffler.

Do diesel cars have catalytic converters?

Do petrol cars have catalytic converters?

Do all cars have catalytic converters?

Does my car have a catalytic converter?

Yes, diesel cars have catalytic converters. In fact, most diesel cars manufactured since 2001 have been fitted with a catalytic converter, whereas the majority of petrol cars made since 1992 have them. If you are unsure whether or not your car has a catalytic converter, the easiest way to check is to google the model.   


How much is a catalytic converter?

How much is a catalytic converter worth?

The price of a catalytic converter will depend on what type of car you drive. An average replacement in the UK can cost anywhere between £150 and £800, and even over £1000 for higher-end models. A rough estimate would be £150-£250 for city cars and hatchbacks, £300-£400 for estate cars and saloons and £500+ for sports cars. The best way to find accurate pricing for your vehicle is to use a site such as Autofixa, where you can find parts such as catalytic converters that are manufacturer-approved and specifically designed to fit your car.  


Why do people steal catalytic converters?

What cars are targeted for catalytic converter theft?

What's inside a catalytic converter?

Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals. According to an AA spokesperson, some of the cars most likely to be targeted for theft are the Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord. Platinum is the most widely used metal in catalytic converters, but they also contain palladium, rhodium, cerium manganese and nickel. 

Which cars are least likely to have catalytic converters stolen?

Some cars are reported to be less likely to have their catalytic converters stolen due to them having less precious metals. Examples of these vehicle manufacturers include Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan and Ford.

How to prevent catalytic converter theft?

How to stop catalytic converter theft

Is catalytic converter theft covered by insurance UK?

You can reduce the chance of your catalytic converter being stolen by following certain precautions, such as being careful where you park your car – and parking your car in a locked garage where possible. If this option is not available to you, try to park the side of the car closest to the catalytic converter near to a fence, high kerb, other vehicles or a wall. You could further deter thieves with home security systems such as a motion sensor light and CCTV cameras outside your house.  You can also mark your catalytic converter by asking a garage to add a serial number to it. Although illegal sales may still continue, you do improve your chances of retrieving it as the Scrap Metal Dealers Act requires legitimate dealers to check the identity of sellers against the serial number. Comprehensive car insurance policies usually cover theft.

Can you drive without a catalytic converter?

Is it safe to drive with a bad catalytic converter?

Although your car will run and drive just fine without a catalytic converter, it is likely that your vehicle will produce emissions that are above the legal limit, making it illegal to drive on the road. You should check your local laws before driving without one.  

Maintenance & Cleaning

How long does a catalytic converter last?

As with most car parts, the exact lifespan of the component can vary. However, as a general rule of thumb, a brand new catalytic converter should last for around 10 years, or between 70,000 and 100,000 miles.

How can you tell if the catalytic converter is clogged?

What happens when you have a bad catalytic converter?

How to unclog a catalytic converter

How to clean catalytic converter without removing it

How to clean my catalytic converter

There are certain symptoms which may indicate a clogged catalytic converter. These include things such as having problems starting your car, lower fuel efficiency, the check engine light is on, your car has poor acceleration or you fail a vehicle emissions test. The easiest way to clean a catalytic converter (indeed without removing it) is to use a catalytic converter cleaning product. You pour the cleaner into the fuel tank and then take your car for a drive. Some recommend driving your car at higher RPMs (over 3000) for a longer distance in order to unclog the catalytic converter. 

What are the effects of a bad catalytic converter?

How do I know if my catalytic converter is broken?

Does a catalytic converter smell?

Aside from the effects mentioned earlier, a compromised catalytic converter may result in sluggish engine performance, reduced acceleration and dark exhaust smoke. In addition, you may notice the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs coming from the exhaust. 

Can you wash a catalytic converter?

You can wash a catalytic converter by soaking it in hot water and degreaser solution, ideally for less than an hour. You can then rinse it off with a pressure washer on a low setting.  


Can you paint a catalytic converter?

Yes, it is possible to paint a catalytic converter and some sources recommend using a bright orange paint in order to deter thieves.   

Used Catalytic Converters

Can you get a used catalytic converter?

Can you use a used catalytic converter?

Can I replace the catalytic converter myself?

Yes, it is possible to buy and use a used catalytic converter. These parts are often quite expensive so you may save some money if you can find a used one that fits your car. Although you can replace your catalytic converter yourself, you may find it to be a difficult process if you are not a mechanic. Why not buy a catalytic converter from Autofixa and take it to a garage to have it installed? This will guarantee that the part is manufacturer-approved and designed specifically for your vehicle.   
That’s everything you need to know about catalytic converters. Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of catalytic converters and their function, the best course of action if you’ve recently had a catalytic converter stolen, should be to replace your catalytic converter. As mentioned, if you decide to replace your catalytic converter, you should ensure you fit a catalytic converter specifically designed for your car – purchasable through Autofixa.

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