Abraham's Auto Blog

How Do You Know If a Catalytic Converter Is Faulty?

For many years now, most cars or trucks have been fitted with a catalytic converter that is designed to reduce emissions and protect the atmosphere. These converters are well made and designed to last without issue, but they can occasionally fail. What happens if the "cat" on your vehicle has encountered problems? How will you know, and what type of warning will you get?

How the System Works

Catalytic converters rely on oxidation to reduce the emissions that pass from the engine through to the tailpipe. The aim is to reduce nitrogen oxide with the help of catalysts like rhodium and platinum. The nitrogen atoms are removed from the nitrogen oxide, leaving just oxygen and water.

Clogged Converter

While the component is designed to operate without regular servicing, sometimes the system will become clogged. If this happens, those exhaust gases will not flow through and could back up towards the engine, causing congestion. The individual combustion chambers may also become clogged if the exhaust gases cannot leave through the manifold as intended. In this case, the fuel-to-air mixture will be incorrect, and the engine will misfire or eventually die. You may also fail an emissions test and may not be able to use your vehicle until you get things sorted out.

Other Potential Issues

Sometimes, the fuel-to-air mixture is incorrect due to fuel rail or injector problems. When this happens, the exhaust gas mixture will also be affected, and too much soot may flow down through the pipe and into the converter. Again, this can contribute to a blockage.

Diagnostic Systems

Most vehicles have an onboard diagnostic system that is supposed to check the efficiency of the catalytic converter. If this system discovers that the converter is not working properly or allowing too much pollution into the atmosphere, a sensor will send a warning to the dashboard. You will then notice that the "check engine light" comes on and should take the vehicle to a technician. They will be able to attach a special scanning school to the system and discover if the catalytic converter is faulty.

Can You Check the Cat Yourself?

Never try to check the catalytic converter by yourself. Not only is it difficult to access, but it can become extremely hot as well. Instead, schedule a visit to your local car repair shop. They will be able to check the entire system, repair the converter if necessary and fix any other associated problems they may find.