Before You Ruin Another Catalytic Converter
Catalytic converters are great. Not only are they a great invention for turning harmful pollutants into more environmentally friendly gases, but also they are tough enough to outlive their warranties. So, why do catalytic converters go bad? Put simply, it usually isn’t their fault. If a catalytic converter fails early, it is likely a symptom of another problem. The tricky part is diagnosing what that problem is. Without getting to the root of the problem, the new converter will likely also fail.
The first step is figuring out if something has happened to your catalytic converter. Here are a few tell tale signs of a failing converter:
1. A failed emissions test. The job of the catalytic converter is reducing harmful emissions, so a failed emissions inspection is the most obvious way to discover the problem.
2. A rattling noise. This may be especially noticeable when starting the car or while stopped at a traffic light. The inside of the converter is coated with a thin mesh structure called the ceramic catalyst. This honeycomb-structured material can break apart due to excessively rich fuel leaking in, or just by nasty potholes after a hard freeze, and rattle around inside the converter.
3. Lacking engine performance. If the car seems to not be accelerating at its usual speed, is not starting at all, or the check engine light turns on, it may be the catalytic converter hampering the engine’s performance.
Now that you’ve discovered the effect, it’s time to pinpoint the cause. There are quite a few possible culprits affecting your catalytic converter. An expert on eBay posted a great guide to figuring out exactly what went wrong under the hood to cause the failure of the catalytic converter. Eastern Catalytic also provides some more great photos (like the one above) of how your catalytic converter may look after suffering from different common problems in its article advising you to “look upstream”. If not, you’ll be back in the shop sooner than you would like.