What Is a Catalytic Converter – What You Should Know about These Complex and Essential Car Components

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We hear about how important it is to have a properly functioning catalytic converter in your car, but if you are not a car owner with experience in car repairs and operation principles you might wonder what is a catalytic converter? Here are a few important things that you should know about these modern and complex components.



The Role of the Catalytic Converter in Your Car


The catalytic converter is a component of the car’s exhaust system that processes the noxious gases generated by the engine of the car during the process of burning fuel and converts them into less harmful chemicals before they are exhausted through the mufflers. A healthy catalytic converter is essential for ensuring the car functions optimally, without consuming too much fuel and also for increasing the chances of the car to pass the mandatory emissions test.


Possible Faults of the Catalytic Converter


Here are some of the most common problems of the catalytic converter:


  • Sensor faults – catalytic converters are linked to several sensors, such as the oxygen sensor. If any of these sensors malfunctions, it may lead to overheating that is dangerous for the cat unit;
  • Contamination and clogging – coolant leaks or an improper fuel mix can lead to contaminants building up in the catalytic converter, a process that has a negative impact on the converter’s health.


Diagnosing Catalytic Converters


There are various symptoms noticed while using your car that indicate a fault of the catalytic converter. Increased fuel consumption, the Check Engine icon coming up on your car’s display, exhaust gas that is too thick or smells strange can all be signs of a malfunctioning cat unit and they all require you to take the car to a garage for further testing as soon as possible.


The problems of the catalytic converter are usually diagnosed with the help of tests by trained mechanics. The mechanic connects a tester to the car’s central computer and he reviews the test results, then he informs you about the best course of action to take – in some cases, the catalytic converter can be repaired, in other cases it must be replaced with a new unit.


Options for Catalytic Converter Replacement


If your catalytic converter cannot be repaired, you have two options: you can either choose to get a new unit or you can use a second-hand unit. New parts are obviously more expensive, but they come with a warranty, while second-hand parts can have hidden issues that emerge only later.


You also have two choices when it comes to the type of the converter to be mounted on your car: you can either get a direct-fit unit that has been manufactured specifically for the make and model of your car and can be installed without any further modifications to your car’s exhaust system or you can choose to have a universal unit that is usually cheaper, but requires a more complex installation process.


To sum up our answer to the question “what is a catalytic converter?”, the catalytic unit is an essential component of modern car exhaust systems that converts harmful gases into less noxious ones and plays an important role in optimizing the car’s overall operation, including engine power and fuel efficiency.