Can You Fix a Catalytic Converter Without Replacing It?

Catalytic converter attached to a car in a garage

Understand the Function of Your Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter. It’s almost like the water heater in your home. Where the water heater is the one appliance in your home you don’t give a second thought, the catalytic converter is the one part that almost no driver thinks about. Until you need catalytic converter repair or replacement service. 

What is a catalytic converter? 

If you were around in the 1970s, you may remember gas shortages and the realization that cars were a major contributor to air pollution. Well, in an effort to minimize that pollution, the catalytic converter was ‘born’. 

A catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system in cars, it isn’t something that you can see unless you crawl under your car. It converts the harmful engine-exhaust pollution into something that isn’t as environmentally dangerous. It does this by a chemical reaction of converting carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides found in car exhaust into a more environmentally safer carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor. 

Can a car run without a catalytic converter?

Yes, if your car’s catalytic converter is stolen, you can keep driving it illegally. Yes, every vehicle manufactured since the 1970s is required to have a working catalytic converter. And without the catalytic converter or one that isn’t functioning properly, may not run as well. 

Will a car still run if the catalytic converter isn’t working? 

With a bad catalytic converter, the engine’s performance will drastically diminish, meaning it won’t run as well because the power is cut back. Until you have gotten your catalytic converter repaired or replaced, you’ll experience weak acceleration at the signal lights and the engine will stall at random times and places. 

And, that annoying CEL (check engine light) will illuminate and stay illuminated until catalytic converter repairs or replacement has been completed. For many of us, CEL is enough to get anything done, right? 

Why are catalytic converters a popular theft item?

Precious metals like palladium, platinum, and rhodium are essential in how a catalytic converter works. These metals react with nitrogen oxide and filter any harmful gas out of the exhaust system of the car. And because they are precious metals, they provide a resale value, thus, the theft of catalytic converters has become a problem. 

In fact, theft of catalytic converters got so bad, there are specific laws in place now and a serial number is assigned to each one that matches the car it is installed in at the factory. Yes, it is a serious crime if caught stealing, buying, or selling a stolen catalytic converter. 

What are catalytic converters worth?

Well, we can’t quote you any exact price that can be had by selling a catalytic converter. But we can tell you that it will cost you a lot more to have a catalytic converter repaired or replaced than a thief will get! 

How do you know if your catalytic converter has been stolen?

If you don’t notice the performance of your car is different as we mentioned above, then the following things would tell you that you either need catalytic converter repair service or replacement: 

  • Exhaust sound loud: Without a catalytic converter, the exhaust will get loud. You’ll notice it! 
  • Exhaust odor: Without a catalytic converter, a car will emit a strong odor, that can become deadly if not addressed. 
  • Fuel economy worsens: A missing or malfunctioning catalytic converter will affect the ECU (electronic control unit) of your car, changing the exhaust fumes of the exhaust fumes from the oxygen sensor, and causing an imbalance in the fuel levels and exhaust flow from the engine. In simple terms, your gas mileage will get worse.
  • Failed Emission Testing: If none of these things get your attention that your catalytic converter is missing, or you need to get the catalytic converter repaired, you’ll find out when you get your car inspected. Without a catalytic converter working properly, your car won’t pass the required emission testing. 

Are catalytic converters repairable and worth it?

If you notice a problem with your car’s catalytic converter early enough, catalytic converter repair is possible and much cheaper than having to replace the unit. But you need to seek that catalytic converter repair sooner rather than later. 

What happens if you don’t get catalytic converter repairs done?

Well, by delaying catalytic converter repairs, you’ll be contributing to the air pollution problem, causing more damage to the environment for starters. And for you personally, you’ll notice you’re making more trips to the gas pump, your car won’t be running as quietly and smoothly as it was, and it will even drive differently in acceleration. 

Starting Line to Finish Line

If you’re driving a car manufactured in the 1970s and newer, it has a catalytic converter. It is not only for the good of the environment but for you personally too. If your car isn’t running as well as it should, have a mechanic inspect the problem, and if they tell you you need either catalytic converter repair or replacement, follow through with their recommendation. 

If you need a repair or catalytic converter replacement in Lombard and Wheaton, IL please get in touch! We can be reached at 630-932-4427 during normal office hours.