What is a Catalytic Converter?

Community Honda ServiceLook under your vehicle, starting with the tailpipe. As you’re working towards the front, you should see a metallic cylinder box on the pipe. This is catalytic converter, also known as “the cat.” It’s the cat’s job to catch the harmful byproducts of gasoline combustion. While pure gasoline would reduce down to simply CO2 and water, gasoline is chock full of impurities. These impurities get released into the air as nitrous and sulfurous oxides, the ingredients to smog.

Precious metals insides the chambers of the car attract and catch these harmful compounds as they’re trying to escape, trapping them. The cat does not catch carbon dioxide, though. Originally developed by a french chemist to combat smog production in Los Angeles, the catalytic converter has been helping to cut back on vehicle air pollution since the 1950s.

I really hope that most people are not here because you wanted to know what was stolen off the underside of your vehicle. Catalytic converters are valuable if fenced for their precious metals. Conversely, they’re expense to replace. Theft isn’t the only threat to your cat, though. Having sustained emission problems can ruin your cat, as well as cause major vehicle problems, including vehicle fires.

Besides the obvious safety precautions for not getting your catalytic converter stolen, there are several ways you can detect a potential problem in your emissions system.

  • Know the signs of the engine misfires. When your engine misfires, unspent vaporized gasoline travels through the emissions system and through the catalytic converter. There, the cat is working double time to absorb all of the bad compounds in the gasoline. Over time, this will coat the inside of the converter, rendering it useless. This will also cause even more heat build-up that normal. This can be the source of a fire.
  • Don’t ignore the check engine light. The light is there for a reason. It’s warning you of problem that could turn into a very expensive maintenance issue. The light is connected to sensors in the emissions system. If your exhaust isn’t in the parameters of normal exhaust, then the warning comes on. Following this up with a vehicle diagnostic can help you to avoid more expensive repairs, as well as a failure to a future emissions test.

If you’re having emission problems, feel free to make an appointment with Community Honda. We’re here to help you stay safe on the road.