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What Are Common Catalytic Converter Problems?

17 Jul, 19

What Are Common Catalytic Converter Problems?

Common Catalytic Converter ProblemsIf you happen to be experiencing catalytic converter problems, it means that you run the risk of your vehicle becoming less environmentally friendly, as it’s one of the most important components concerning the emissions that your vehicle releases. Without a fully working filter, harmful exhaust emissions will be released into the atmosphere, in turn, damaging the environment.

Therefore, it’s important to act quickly if this component isn’t functioning properly. Any issues could either indicate that it may just need a thorough clean or you may be looking at needing a catalytic converter replacement. For information on the signs of its impending failure, keep reading.

What Does A Catalytic Converter Do?

A catalytic converter is a filter that reduces vehicle emissions and pollution that occur while your car is driven. The metal canister is situated in the exhaust system and it’s filled with a chemical catalyst made up of palladium and platinum, which assists in converting the emissions into non-harmful exhaust gases. Therefore, as we’ve mentioned, it’s imperative that your catalytic converter is in the best condition!

What Causes Catalytic Converter Problems?

Converters can end up being clogged up with carbon over time. This carbon build-up is one of the most common problems that occur and it prevents the catalysts in the device from removing the harmful exhaust gasses.

When your car starts to ‘run rich’ it can cause excessive build-up in the converter. Running rich means that the air to fuel ratio is not at the best level, and the engine is not adequately burning all of the fuel it is consuming.

When this happens it’s a good idea to check your vehicles’ spark plugs to ensure these do not need replacing. If you have checked or replaced these, then the next step to take is to check the fuel injectors, air filter, intake pipes, throttle body and if the problem persists, a more thorough check will be necessary.

It can also be caused by faulty sensors including airmass, air intake temperature and lambda sensors giving incorrect signals to the ECU, as the ECU relies on the signals from the sensors to then calculate how much fuel is required in the mix.

What Are The Signs Of A Faulty Catalytic Converter?

Rattling Noises – This rattling noise can be due to an internal structure breaking in the catalytic converter. To elaborate, inside the converter, there is a honeycomb structure that holds the catalyst. If there is a lot of unburned fuel present in the converter, this can cause the structure to heat up excessively, resulting in damage.

The rattle noise will be noticed more as the engine starts but will worsen as time goes on if it is not inspected when the rattling noise is first heard.

A Bad Sulphur Smell – When a converter is properly working it will convert hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide which has no smell. So, when it is not functioning properly, you may notice a rotten egg smell coming from the exhaust. A cloud of dark exhaust smoke may also be emitted. Hydrogen sulfide is formed from gasoline/petrol that has sulfur in it, during engine combustion.

Engine Performance Issues – If a converter is clogged it’s going to hinder exhaust flow, while a cracked one will leak harmful gases into the environment. Either one of these issues will result in the engine not performing as efficiently as it should be, such as reduced fuel economy, loss of power and acceleration.

Engine Light – There is an oxygen and air-fuel ratio sensor that keeps an eye on the efficiency of the converter. It does this by tracking the gas levels within the exhaust. If the device is not catalysing the exhaust gases effectively, the check engine light will come on and let the driver know that there’s a problem. Make sure that you check any other possible faults that could cause the engine light to come on, preferably by a professional.

Emissions Test Failure – In the UK an emissions test is carried out when your vehicle is having an MOT. Mechanics usually check said emissions with a meter. In the US, some states require a diagnostic check on the engine’s computer to pass. If the converter is faulty, the test will fail.

How To Prevent Your Converter From Becoming Faulty

Use The Correct Fuel/Oil
Always make sure that you are using the correct fuel and oil designed for your vehicle. Accidentally putting the wrong type in your car will damage your converter. Never use fuel additive unless you have read all the instructions and are sure that it is suitable to use with a catalytic converter.

Never Bump Start Or Tow A Car
The unburned fuel will be injected into the converter when the car is towed or has a bump start, which may cause the honeycomb structure in the converter to overheat and melt. Also, towing something too heavy for the vehicle to cope with can cause the same problem.

Regularly Servicing Your Vehicle
A poorly running engine can cause problems for the converter, so make sure that you keep up with regular service checks. Preventing major problems with your vehicle’s engine will save you time and money when it comes to converter problems, caused by a poor engine.

Driving Through Deep Water/Heavy Snow
A Catalytic converter gets very hot when in use, which is all of the time while driving. When it comes into contact with water or snow, the temperature of the converter will drop rapidly and the internal catalyst structure can be crushed as the steel shell contracts.

Taking Care Over Speed Humps
Because the converter is in the exhaust system, driving too rough or fast over speed bumps could cause damage to it.

Check Engine Lights
Checking lights as soon as they come on can prevent extensive damage to your Converter. Also, it is worth checking or replacing your spark plugs and consulting a professional about other causes of warning lights or engine lights.

Use Catalytic Converter Cleaner
If you feel that there might be a carbon build-up in your converter, try using a cleaner that will clean the engine and exhaust system. You may have to use it a few times to remove carbon deposits if you have never used it before, which can be costly but much less costly than having to get a catalytic converter replacement!

A few benefits of using a cleaner are:

  • Reduced exhaust emissions: A cleaner will enhance the ability of the catalytic converter, meaning the level of engine emissions will decrease.
  • Increased engine performance: By using a cleaner regularly, the fuel injectors and cylinders will be cleaned, which in turn will increase your vehicle’s fuel economy!
  • Save money: If your engine is working more efficiently, for example, your fuel consumption decreases and the exhaust flow is smoother, you will have fewer costs on maintenance and fuel!

Catalytic Converter Repair Or Replacement Near Me

If any of the above symptoms sound a little too familiar, we advise you to get your catalytic converter checked sooner rather than later, to avoid it becoming more damaged and harder to repair. At Power Steering Services, we are always happy to offer our quality services, especially any catalytic converter repair/replacement advice or services. Don’t delay and be sure to contact us on 0208 853 3343 or fill in our quick and easy online form!

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