A catalytic converter is an integral part of your vehicle’s exhaust mechanism. Answers to the question ‘what are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter?’ must be on every car owner’s mind. This is because cars being the major investments they are, require proper maintenance. This in turn assures their continued service.
Catalytic converters are devices that regulate harmful emissions from your car. They work by transforming toxic elements in the exhaust fumes into less harmful pollutants, guaranteeing safer emissions into our surroundings. This point is an advantage to the environment. Many countries by law also require that you have a working catalytic converter at all times.
Catalytic converters malfunctioning isn’t an uncommon thing. It’s a problem shared by other car owners as well. After reading this piece, answering ‘what are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter?’ will be a simple challenge.
What happens when the catalytic converter goes bad?
When the catalytic converter in your vehicle malfunctions, changes in the car’s condition are observed. To answer the question ‘what happens when the catalytic converter goes bad?’ lookout for some of the conditions listed below. You may have noticed some already which prompted your search for ‘what are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter?’
Hampered Engine Performance
As the car’s owner, you should be familiar with its usual performance and state. A decline in engine performance, in this case, can be observed in several ways:
With the catalytic converter faulty, it can overheat because of the build-up of unburnt gases and a misfiring spark plug.
The normal running of the engine becomes an issue. Stalling becomes a frequent occurrence and you can’t rely on your car much.
- Engine light on
It stays on because of the issues resulting from the faulty catalytic converter.
- Sluggish performance
The engine stops performing as well as it normally should.
Declined Acceleration Power
A common reason for suspecting your catalytic converter may be faulty is experiencing less powerful accelerations. Engines require a lot of oxygen in their combustion mechanism to effectively produce the necessary energy for acceleration. With a faulty catalytic converter, this process doesn’t proceed as smoothly as it should. The result is a noticeable decline in accelerating power. It’s worth noting that there are however some other elements in your engine that could cause this condition. The right information and tests are therefore necessary to discern whether they are responsible or if the catalytic converter is.
Poor exhaust system performance
When your exhaust system isn’t working properly, the catalytic converter could be the problem. The smell from the exhaust system may be unusual or smell like fresh gas. Such an occurrence is normally as a result of issues in your fuel line system. Having the problem checked out can prove that a malfunctioning catalytic converter is indeed causing them.
Pungent smell from the engine
The emanation of a foul smell from your engine is a significant indicator of a failing catalytic converter. As mentioned earlier, catalytic converters transform emissions into less toxic forms agreeable with the environment. This pungent emission means that this process isn’t being carried out successfully. The pungent smell is hydrogen sulfide, a by-product from the Sulphur contained in gasoline, reminiscent of rotten eggs. This also insinuates that you’re contaminating the environment with toxic releases should you choose to ignore it.
Noise from your engine
A rattling sound is a major clue in figuring out what are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter? This is because the rattling sound is made by the catalytic converter itself. After it incurs damage from overheating and other stresses, its internal structure disintegrates. As this happens, the components become loosely attached, creating the noise when the engine runs. If you wondered what does a bad catalytic converter sound like? Just listen for a rattling noise.
Inefficient Fuel Consumption
With the catalytic converter failing, airflow in the engine’s combustion mechanism is hindered. This leads to the engine burning excess fuel while still underperforming. You, therefore, don’t get to utilize and maximize using the fuel you paid for.
What causes a catalytic converter to go bad?
In answering ‘what causes a catalytic converter to go bad?’ damage to the converter itself is a major reason. Most converters are located at the bottom side of the vehicle. As you drive, you are likely to go over potholes and some sort of debris. Contact with such damages your catalytic converter. As this is repeated, the damage piles up, and eventually, the converter gives in, becoming faulty.
Faulty Engine Parts
With issues like faulty spark plugs or wires, the engine naturally becomes untuned. If these issues remain unchecked, they can affect other components, in this case, the catalytic converter. Picture it like an infection that spreads from one spot of your body to another. The same thing can happen in your engine if you don’t have it properly maintained. Problems in one part of it can affect the rest of the engine.
Contaminated exhaust system
This happens when unburnt fuel from your engine ends up leaking into the exhaust system. It then continues into your converter where it makes it overheat. Overheating means it’s not operating normally and naturally, it then incurs damage.
Oil Leak in the Exhaust system
With an ill-maintained engine, such a problem is prone to occur. When oil leaks into the exhaust system, it inevitably results in the build-up of carbon elements. If left unchecked, these elements build-up to the point of clogging your catalytic converter causing it to fail.
How do you check for a bad catalytic converter?
At this point, thinking ‘how do you check for a bad catalytic converter?’ means your learning is on the right track. This is because despite having suspicions of a faulty catalytic converter, an accurate confirmation is needed. Before proceeding with making any changes to your car, make a point of confirming your suspicions first.
The easiest DIY method, in this case, would be to slightly detach the converter from the exhaust line. If you realize improvements in the engine’s working after this step, you may be on to something. This is a definite indicator that your converter has problems. This simple test however shouldn’t be the only thing you try out though. Consult your local mechanic to have him confirm your findings with more accurate tests.
How to fix a catalytic converter without replacing?
Having gleaned from the information above, you are left with at best two choices. You’re either going to have to replace the converter completely or apply a quick fix to continue using it. Based on your and the consulted specialist’s opinion, ‘how to fix a catalytic converter without replacing?’ can be achieved by:
- Cleaning the converter. This is done by taking it off its connectors and thoroughly cleaning it on both ends. Do this using a high-pressure blower or washer.
- To better clean out the insides, it can be soaked to help unclog it.
After doing either step, the converter should be aired out and dried before re-attachment.
Maintaining your catalytic converter
To ensure you never have to look up what are the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter? Again, consider:
Avoiding bad roads
Poorly maintained roads have potholes and all sorts of other debris. Even on better roads, avoid wantonly driving over debris. This will prevent your catalytic converter from being struck by the debris which would otherwise inflict damage.
Driving more often
Cars were meant to be driven! Don’t only do short drives or let them sit unused for long. This can result in it never reaching its optimal operating temperature. Starting your car and letting it sit idle for even 20 minutes is a sure way of maintaining it. Also incorporating longer drives helps keep your converter in shape.
Look out for early warning signs
Having learned some points to look out for in case of a faulty catalytic converter, you’d do well to remember them. If any show up, action to remedy them should be swift before the issue grows bigger than it should. It could also save you some legal fees since some countries punish drivers with faulty catalytic converters.
How long can you drive with a bad catalytic converter?
The consensus on this point is still a subject of debate among car professionals. It’s not entirely dangerous to drive with a faulty converter. When you’re thinking to yourself ‘how long can I drive with a bad catalytic converter?’ however, keep in mind that:
- As per the points above, you’ll experience limited performance.
- Continued usage of your car with a faulty catalytic converter can create further engine problems.
- You will be contributing to environmental pollution.
- You’ll inevitably have to get a replacement converter.
Having learned what are the symptoms of a catalytic converter? Has made you a better car owner. This piece has hopefully taught you a little bit more about your car than you previously knew. As we have shown in this case, the catalytic converter plays an important hand in various aspects of your car’s performance.
A catalytic converter is also critical in meeting safety standards for emissions. We stress this point since it is a regulation to have a working converter in some countries. Failure to adhere to this may cause you legal trouble.
Another major takeaway here should be that even the smallest parts of your car can greatly affect how it performs. That in mind, you’ll get to exercise more caution in how you treat and maintain your car.
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