What is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters first started being used in U.S. cars back in 1975. They have since become a requirement on all modern fuel-driven vehicles (gas or diesel) with combustion engines. They are part of the vehicle's emissions system, designed to eliminate the most harmful toxins from the exhaust.

How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?

Inside most catalytic converters is a piece of ceramic that is coated with precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium. These metals are catalysts. As the exhaust gases pass through the converter, the chemical reaction transforms extremely hazardous gases like carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen dioxide into less harmful gases before they are ultimately emitted through the tail pipe and out into the environment. As emissions restrictions continue to get stricter, catalytic converters continue to evolve. 

Where is the Catalytic Converter Located?

The catalytic converter will be located within your exhaust system, somewhere between the engine and the muffler. It will usually sit closer to the engine. They are most effective once warmed up to higher temperatures. When you first turn on your car, that's when the exhaust is typically most dangerous because the engine and catalytic converter aren't fully warmed up yet. 

Signs of a Failing Catalytic Converter

Damaged or clogged catalytic converters are common sources of exhaust system issues. If the catalytic converter isn't working right, it may trip your check engine light. Modern vehicles with more advanced computer sensors may provide an even more specific warning message to let you know if there is an emissions problem. 

Catalytic converters can become clogged over time with carbon build up. Motor oil and engine coolant can also get into the converter and cause malfunctions. They can also be physically damaged if you run over something that hits the catalytic converter from underneath the car. And yes, they are commonly stolen by thieves because of the black market value and precious metals inside.

At the first sign of a catalytic converter or other exhaust system issue, you should get your car inspected by a professional mechanic. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Exhaust Leak
  • Check Engine Light
  • Black Smoke Coming from Tail Pipe
  • Rattling Noises or Vibrations
  • Loss of Fuel Efficiency

Northern Delaware Emissions System Experts

If you are having exhaust/emissions system problems or any other automotive issues in Northern Delaware, turn to the local auto experts at Fox Run Auto. Call us today at (302) 597-9205 or schedule your inspection appointment online.


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