When Do Cars Typically Need Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters are important parts of car exhaust systems that significantly reduce harmful emissions by converting them into benign gases. They are required on all cars sold after 1975. The best catalytic converters should outlast the life of the car they are attached to. However, ill use or poor luck may cause the catalytic converter on your car to need replacing.

What Is a Catalytic Converter and How Does It Work?

Internal combustion engines produce exhaust gases. The majority of this is nitrogen gas, carbon dioxide and water, which are mostly harmless and naturally occur in the air. However, there is also a smaller three harmful gases:

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  • Carbon Monoxide: A colorless and odorless gas that is poisonous to anything that breathes air.
  • Unburnt Hydrocarbons: These are the main compound in gasoline and are major contributors to smog.
  • Nitrogen Oxides: The pollutant gases contribute to smog and acid rain. They are also health hazards for humans.

The catalytic converter greatly reduces these emissions by converting them into less harmful substances. Catalytic converters have platinum, palladium and/or rhodium in them that acts as a catalyst to convert the harmful gases.

The conversion processes convert these gases into nitrogen gas, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water in the form of steam. They substantially reduce the amount of more harmful gases that are released by the vehicle.

Which Cars Need To Have Catalytic Converters?

All cars sold after 1975 in the United States are required to have a catalytic converter. While no one is going to check underneath your current car to make sure it is there, it is highly unlikely that you will pass your emissions test without one. Furthermore, it is irresponsible to operate a vehicle that is emitting more harmful gases than it needs to.

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When Will a Catalytic Converter Need Replacing?

While every catalytic converter is different, all of them are designed to last beyond the average lifespan of a car. The EPA requires that they are warrantied for eight years or 80,000 miles. However, they should last longer than that.

Nonetheless, mistreating a catalytic converter may cause it to die sooner. If you smell a foul odor, chances are your catalytic converter needs to be replaced. However, the problem could also be an exhaust leak before the catalytic converter. So, confer with a trusted mechanic before making any decisions.

Your catalytic converter may also need replacing after physical damage from a crash or other accident. Again, a trusted mechanic can help you determine if this is needed.

Switching to a High-Performance Cat

Of course, a dead catalytic converter isn’t the only reason to get a new one. They are an important part of the exhaust system. Therefore, many people switch to high-flow performance versions. If you are considering custom builder exhaust kits, think about also changing your catalytic converter.

Many people who work on their vehicles are tempted to delete their catalytic converters. However, this is irresponsible and may make passing your legally required emissions test impossible. The better option is to pick up a higher performing alternative to your OEM catalytic converter. That way you can get the best of both worlds.

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