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7 Symptoms of a Failing Catalytic Converter

If you suspect you have a failing catalytic converter it is advisable to take your car to a mechanic and have them diagnose the problem. A catalytic converter is a vital part of the vehicle’s exhaust system that works to convert harm­ful gases into safe compounds that can be emitted into the atmosphere and cause less damage to the environment. This part is placed between the engine and the exhaust muffler on the underside of the car. It is not uncommon for a catalytic converter to fail, since they are usually more subject to external damage like an impact from debris or internal engine damage cause by overheating.

1. Misfiring

Misfiring in the engine system can cause the catalytic converter to overheat. Alternatively, an exceptionally rich fuel mixture will exhibit similar symptoms. When there is a presence of an extra rich fuel mixture, raw fuel enters the catalytic converter and is ignited. The catalyst components can melt under such conditions.

2. Reduced Performance

If exhaust becomes trapped in front of the catalytic converter, there will be a latent reduction in performance. This is created by back pressure, which affects the running of your engine and stops it from breathing. The sudden increase in back pressure can cause your engine to stall during your drive. It will act as though there is an air lock in your system, making the car jerk or feel like there is no fuel reaching the engine when you push the accelerator.

3. Low Fuel Economy

A failing converter can cause a noticeable decrease in your fuel economy, which will cost you significantly over a very short period of time.

4. Low Performance of the Exhaust System

The cause of a failing catalytic converter can sometimes be traced back to an error in the fuel system. A distinctive sign of this is a restriction in the performance of the exhaust system, indicative of the melting of catalyst materials inside.

5. Fuel Vapor

If your vehicle is equipped with a carburetor and you know how to test the catalytic converter, then test it. Remove the air cleaner and enlist the help of a friend. They will need to hold a strong light near the carburetor intake. Glance over the top of the carburetor toward where the light is shining and rev the engine. If you notice signs of fuel vapor suspended over the carburetor, you will be able to safely deduce that there is a clog in the catalytic converter.

6. Oxygen

Another way to identify whether a catalytic converter is failing is to temporarily take out the oxygen sensors from the exhaust. If there is an obvious alteration in the performance of the vehicle then you can be sure the converter has a clog and is going bad.

7. Increased Emissions

Contamination of the chemical mechanisms inside the catalytic converter, caused by the addition of substances such as motor oil or antifreeze, can prevent it from performing correctly. If this is happening, you will notice a raised level of carbon emissions coming from your exhaust. You will need to replace the failing converter and fix the source of this problem before it does damage to your entire exhaust system or emits an illegal amount of emissions into the atmosphere.


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