Catalytic Converter Problems

While catalytic converters have played a role in reducing tailpipe emissions in automobiles, they’re not without their share of problems.  Catalytic converter problems are well-documented, and the major ones can render the converter useless.  Since the converter relies primarily on precious metals inside the working parts, these metals make the converters ripe for being stolen.  It might sound strange, but catalytic converters can be stolen, and they’re not cheap to replace.  The first two types of problems to focus on are contamination and meltdown, since these severely cripple the effectiveness of the converter and can cause serious damage to a vehicle.

Catalytic Converter Problems

When a catalytic converter is contaminated, is called catalyst poisoning.  It is one of the most serious catalytic converter problems you can experience.  It happens when the converter is exposed to exhaust containing contaminants that can coat the surfaces and make it very difficult for the converter to filter properly.  Lead is the most common contaminant, which is why catalytic converters can only be used in conjunction with unleaded gasoline.  Zinc dialkyldithiophosphates (commonly referred to as ZDDP) are also common contaminants.  It is a popular anti-wear additive put into car lubricants.  Upon discovery of ZDDP’s toxicity, the amount put in lubricants was significantly reduced.

Another of the major catalytic converter problems is having a meltdown.  The temperature of the converter will rise if leftover hydrocarbons don’t burn off.  The result is a melting of the converter’s core and a reduced exhaust output.  Most cars with current on-board monitoring will turn on the “Check Engine” light if something like that were to occur.  Besides a meltdown or contamination, theft is another major problem.  Having your catalytic converter stolen is a very costly situation, since the converter can cost up to $1000 to replace.  Even converters that are welded into the car’s housing are at risk for theft.

Catalytic Converter Repair

Catalytic converter problems are things that people should be aware of; however, since they don’t happen too often, it’s nothing to necessarily panic about.  Since lead has been taken out of virtually all gasoline sold in the United States, people don’t have to worry about catalyst poisoning.  On the other hand, car lubricants and additives do have a progressively negative effect on converters, so buying additives with low levels of ZDDP can be very beneficial for your vehicle.  Theft is the most pressing worry.  As the cost of metals has gone up, so have the prices for catalytic converters; hence, that is why they’ve become more of a target for thieves.