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How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Catalytic Converter?

in Ownership
Catalyic converter

Catalytic converter: RIP by Seth Sawyers — CC BY 2.0

The catalytic converter; a part on all modern vehicles that is beneficial for the air we breathe and the environment around us. It’s a crucial part of all cars and trucks, as they’re all required to have one that functions effectively. But what does a catalytic converter do, and can it go bad?

Well, when it comes to the latter of the two questions, the answer is simple. While your catalytic converter may be designed to last forever, it can go bad, and that could be very bad news for you.

Find out how to identify if yours is going bad, and how much it costs to fix a catalytic converter today.

What a Catalytic Converter Does, and Why It’s Important

The catalytic converter is one of the most important parts of your vehicle’s emissions control system. Situated under your vehicle, in line with the exhaust manifold and situated before the muffler of your vehicle, the catalytic converter is responsible for reducing the number of bad gases in the exhaust fumes from your vehicle.

How does it do that? Car exhaust consists of burnt fuel, as combustion engines burn gasoline or diesel to create power. The catalytic converter consists of a steel case that contains a ceramic honeycomb coated in precious metals, like platinum.

When heated, these metals are able to react with the byproducts of the burnt fuel as it passes through, making it safer for the environment. That’s the simplest way to explain it, at least.

You might be wondering how much repairing a catalytic converter costs, especially if the internal components are made up of metals as valuable as platinum. It’s a considerable amount, as you can probably guess. Let’s find out how to identify when your catalytic converter is going bad.


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Signs of a Bad Catalytic Converter

There are a few signs that will tell you when your catalytic converter starts to go bad.

The Check Engine Light

One of the easiest ways to tell that your catalytic converter may be starting to go bad is through the dreaded check engine light. When your vehicle detects any issues in the emissions control system, the check engine light will appear, and a code will be stored.

While your catalytic converter may not be the cause of the light, it’s always good to have it checked if your vehicle throws a code related to the emissions control system.

Your Gas Mileage Suffers

One of the main purposes of the vehicle’s emissions control system and module is to monitor the exhaust as it exits the vehicle and use that data to calculate how much fuel is needed to properly run.

If your catalytic converter isn’t functioning properly, it’s common for the vehicle to use more fuel, as the data it receives tells it that the fuel to air ratio is off. This can cause your fuel economy to suffer, as your vehicle believes it needs to use more when the catalytic converter goes bad.

Overall Performance Drops

When the catalytic converter goes bad, you’ll notice a significant drop in the performance of your vehicle. That can mean a number of things, but the number one sign is that the acceleration of your vehicle is slow, or sluggish. When pressing on the gas pedal, it’ll sound choppy, almost like it can’t get the fuel that it needs. This issue can be directly related to a bad catalytic converter.


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What Causes a Catalytic Converter to Go Bad?

There are a number of things that can cause a catalytic converter to go bad, but these are the main issues that cause them to fail:

  • Chemicals in the exhaust, like antifreeze or oil
  • Bad spark plugs
  • Bad oxygen sensors

As you can see, the catalytic converter is a sensitive component.

It only wants to come into contact with the exhaust from the engine as it should be created, and any variables in that can cause issues over time.

Bad spark plugs and bad oxygen sensors lead to more fuel consumption, which can lead to unburned fuel in the exhaust, and thus the catalytic converter.

With as sensitive as a part as it is, you might be wondering how much it costs to fix a catalytic converter. You’re about to find out.

The Cost of Repairing a Catalytic Converter

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think. When it comes to a truly bad catalytic converter, there are some repairs that can be attempted, but in most cases a full replacement is necessary.

According to Repair Pal, the average cost of replacing a catalytic converter is between $1,672 and $1,708. The majority of this cost is from parts alone, which on avergage cost $1,533 by themselves. Labor is estimated at being anywhere from $138 to $175.

While this cost seems daunting, it’s important to remember a few things. First, there are components that are associated with the catalytic converter that will go bad first, like the oxygen sensors or the spark plugs in your vehicle. Keeping these things maintained is imperative to the health of your catalytic converter.

Additionally, there are a few DIY remedies associated with “repairing” your catalytic converter, should you suspect that it’s beginning to go bad. These can be things like a catalytic converter cleaner that’s added to your vehicle’s fuel, which typically only costs about $25.

If you believe the problem is related to buildup, you can always try something like “The Italian Tune-up” which consists of running the vehicle at highway speeds to burn off any accumulated deposits. This is to be done on the highway, of course, and only in a safe manner. It’s been proven to help with come vehicles that have catalytic converter buildup.


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The Takeaway

So, how much does it cost to fix a catalytic converter? If the part has truly gone bad, then it’s quite a bit. Catalytic converters are a required part of every vehicle’s emissions control system, and they need to be functioning optimally for them to do their job.

If you think your catalytic converter may be going bad, check any of the related components, and try a few DIY fixes. Then, if all else fails, take your vehicle in for inspection, and hope for the best!

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