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How Much It'll Cost To Repair or Replace Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters are a part of your car that can fail, and when it does, you need to know how much it will cost to get one fixed or replaced.
Stephanie Lawrence
Stephanie Lawrence
01/24/2023 · 10 min read
Catalytic Converters Catalytic Converters Catalytic Converters

Consider a catalytic converter as a filter that cleans your car’s exhaust and makes it safer for the environment. It’s a useful technology that can be found in most cars today and contributes to cleaner air.

This article will explain the cost of repairing and replacing them and how they work. We will cover all you need to know about catalytic converters, such as the reasons why catalytic converters fail as well as the bad catalytic converter symptoms.

Table of Contents

  • What Is a Catalytic Converter?
  • What Does a Catalytic Converter Look Like?
  • How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?
  • What Causes a Catalytic Converter To Fail?
  • Bad Catalytic Converter Symptoms
  • Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost
  • How Can I Prevent My Catalytic Converter From Being Stolen?
  • Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?
  • FAQs About Catalytic Converter

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is similar to a special exhaust cleaner for your car. It helps in the removal of harmful substances from the exhaust, such as odorous fumes and pollution. Consider it a filter that cleans your car’s exhaust and makes it safer for the environment. It’s a useful technology that can be found in most cars today and contributes to cleaner air.

What Does a Catalytic Converter Look Like?

A catalytic converter resembles a small metal container that is commonly seen in a vehicle’s exhaust system. It’s typically the size of a large coffee can and may be covered in a heat-shielding substance to protect it from the hot exhaust. Some converters have a honeycomb-like structure on the inside to aid in exhaust cleaning. It may be difficult to spot because it may be integrated into the muffler.

How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?

A catalytic converter is similar to a customized exhaust cleaner for your car. It is using special elements known as catalysts, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, to convert dangerous pollutants in the exhaust.

When engine exhaust passes through the converter, the catalysts inside trigger a chemical process that converts noxious substances such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into less hazardous substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. This contributes to cleaner air and safer breathing.

Because the catalytic converter requires a high temperature to function properly, it is typically located near the engine. Even though it is not a magical solution and cannot remove all pollutants, it performs an excellent job of minimizing car emissions and so keeping our air cleaner.

What Causes a Catalytic Converter To Fail?

A catalytic converter is like a special cleaner for your car’s exhaust, but it can fail at any time. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Age: the unique materials inside the converter can wear out and stop working properly over time.
  • Overheating: If the converter becomes clogged or blocked, it may not be able to properly cool down and may be damaged.
  • Mechanical Damage: The converter might be damaged if it is bumped or knocked.
  • Oil or fuel leaks: If oil or fuel spills into the exhaust system, the specific materials inside the converter may cease to function.
  • Short Trips: The catalytic converter only functions when it reaches a specified temperature; if it does not achieve that temperature, it will not entirely burn hydrocarbons.

It’s a good idea to have your automobile checked out regularly and to have it serviced if you notice any problems.

Bad Catalytic Converter Symptoms

A catalytic converter can sometimes stop working properly and exhibit some symptoms. Here are a few things you may notice:

Rotten Egg Smell From Exhaust

A faulty catalytic converter can generate a rotten egg odor in the exhaust. The rotten egg odor is caused by hydrogen sulfide. When the catalytic converter works properly, this compound is converted into sulfur dioxide, which has no odor. However, when the compound exits the tailpipe without being fully transformed, it emits a foul odor.

“Check Engine Light” Is On

If the ”check engine” light is up, it indicates that the car’s onboard computer has detected a problem with the engine or emissions control system, which may include the catalytic converter. It is critical to diagnose and repair any problems with the catalytic converter as soon as possible to avoid more significant concerns in the future.

Acceleration Starts Lagging

As carbon accumulates in the honeycomb structure of the catalytic converter, it becomes impossible for it to continue converting gases as it should. When the carbon buildup within the honeycomb design becomes excessive, or when the internals begins to melt because of increased heat from unburned fuel, a partial blockage occurs inside the catalytic converter. The less airflow there is, the less power there is. When you try to accelerate, you will notice the lack of power the most.

Failed Emissions Test

Emissions testing is presently required in 34 states. When an automobile fails its emissions test, it is sometimes the first indication that anything is a miss. A failed emissions test can signal a catalytic converter malfunction. You won’t be able to pass the test until you get the catalytic converter changed since more gases are being pumped into the atmosphere.

Rattling Noise

A rattling noise coming from the exhaust can be a sign of a problem with the catalytic converter. This can happen due to broken material from the catalytic converter, which can happen if there is too much heat or the catalytic converter is damaged.

You should replace it as quickly as possible since dislodged material can make its way deeper down the exhaust system and into the muffler. This obstruction can then cause the vehicle to stall and possibly prevent you from starting it again.

Reduced Fuel Economy

This could indicate that you have a clog in your catalytic converter, causing your vehicle to consume more fuel than necessary. In relation to the previous symptom of weak acceleration, when you don’t have appropriate exhaust flow, you’re compelled to foot on the gas pedal more since acceleration suffers.

The more fuel the engine uses, the harder it has to work. You will notice decreased fuel economy, which will only harm your wallet every time you have to fill up the tank.

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

The cost of replacing a catalytic converter varies based on several factors, including the make and model of your car, where you go to get it done, and the type of converter required. The cost can range from $500 to $2,500 on average, with some high-end converters costing considerably more. It is preferable to check with a local repair shop or dealership to get a better sense of how much it will cost for your car.

Also, certain modern vehicles may require a direct-fit catalytic converter, which might be more expensive than a universal converter. If your catalytic converter is still under warranty, the cost of replacing it may be paid by the manufacturer. Before having any repairs done on your vehicle, it’s usually a good idea to check the warranty. Furthermore, if you drive an older vehicle, it may be more cost-effective to junk the vehicle rather than replace the catalytic converter.

Catalytic Converter Repair Cost

You might be able to save some money on a catalytic converter repair depending on the seriousness of the problem in your catalytic converter. Your catalytic converter could occasionally simply be blocked with the hydrocarbons that it was designed to remove in the first place.

A catalytic converter replacement typically costs between $1,672 and $1,708. Most of this expense comes from the parts alone, which on average cost $1,533 each. An estimated $138 to $175 will be spent on labor. There are several variables that can affect how much it will cost to repair a catalytic converter.

The price could be higher if the converter needs to be replaced. The oxygen sensors or the spark plugs in your car are examples of parts that are connected to the catalytic converter that will fail first. The health of your catalytic converter depends on you keeping these things in good working order.

How Can I Prevent My Catalytic Converter From Being Stolen?

The high market value of catalytic converters makes them highly appealing targets, especially when you consider how simple it can be for criminals to steal the complete car. The components needed to build them are the reason they are so profitable.

Modern catalytic converters, in particular, contain three precious metals that are necessary for their manufacture: rhodium, palladium, and platinum. If sold, some of these can earn up to $20,000 per ounce.

That being stated, here are a few things you can do to help protect your catalytic converter:

  • Park in well-lit, congested places: This makes it more difficult for burglars to steal your converter without being noticed.
  • Install a security system: A car alarm or GPS tracker will deter would-be burglars.
  • Use a lock: A specific lock that connects to your converter makes removal considerably more difficult.
  • Get it etched: Having your vehicle identification number (VIN) etched onto your converter will assist police in identifying it if it is stolen.
  • Keep an eye out for anything unusual. Be mindful of your surroundings and keep an eye out for unusual activities in the parking lot.
  • Park in a garage or fenced area: If feasible, park your vehicle in a garage or walled area that is not visible from the street.

By following these procedures, you may be able to lessen the likelihood of your catalytic converter being stolen and raise your chances of recovering it if it is taken.

Does Insurance Cover Catalytic Converter Theft?

It depends on your insurance policy. Some comprehensive car insurance policies may cover the expense of repairing a stolen catalytic converter, however, this is not always the case. It’s best to check with your insurance company to see if catalytic converter theft is covered under your coverage.

However, keep in mind that collision coverage does not protect you in the event of a car accident involving an animal. This type of insurance is an optional add-on to standard liability insurance which covers your vehicle in the case of an accident.

If you’re wanting to know more about catalytic converter theft, this article will show you everything you need to know! With that said It’s always a good idea to review your insurance coverage and understand what is and isn’t covered, and to speak with your insurance agent if you have any questions or concerns.

FAQs About Catalytic Converter

Can I Sell My Car With a Broken Catalytic Converter?

The legality of selling your car without paying the repair costs to replace the catalytic converter depends on several variables. However, selling your car to a private buyer if the catalytic converter is broken or missing is prohibited across several states across the country.

How Long Does a Catalytic Converter Last?

Although it should, the catalytic converter doesn’t always survive the entire lifetime of the car. The catalytic converter should survive for at least 10 years, if not a bit longer. Of course, as they become more advanced and innovative, new cars become more resilient and environmentally friendly.

Can I Drive My Car With a Bad Catalytic Converter?

You can drive a car with a damaged catalytic converter, but it’s not advised. Reduced performance, higher emissions, and possibly engine damage are all effects of a converter that isn’t working properly. It would be preferable to have it checked out and mended right away.

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