A catalytic converter is a vital part of a vehicle's exhaust system. It ensures your vehicle meets local emissions standards and does not release harmful pollutants into the environment. When this device gets damaged, it can cause several problems in the vehicle. While immediate replacement is recommended, it helps to factor in the cost to replace a catalytic converter to determine whether you want to take your vehicle to a repair shop or complete the job yourself.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a vital device within a vehicle's exhaust system. The purpose of this device is to convert combustion gases into less harmful substances through a chamber called a catalyst. The process involves the catalyst creating a chemical reaction in the chamber to split the molecules.

Most catalytic converters are located on the underside of vehicles. The devices look like large metal boxes with two pipes coming out of both ends, which the converter uses during the catalyzing process. The less harmful gas passes through the output end of the converter connected to the tailpipe.

Different Types of Catalytic Converters

There are several types of catalytic converters, including:

  • Direct-fit: These vehicle-specific converters are designed to fit certain makes, models and years and are typically fitted or bolted to vehicles.
  • Universal: These options are built to fit most cars, provided they fit the inlet and outlet tubes.
  • Manifold: Similar to direct-fit catalytic converters in how they attach to vehicles with bolts, manifold designs come in unique designs and specifications because they are integrated into the exhaust manifold.
  • CARB-compliant: These are specific sets of catalytic converters identified by the California Air Resources Board to meet their environmental regulations.

Signs Your Catalytic Converter Needs Replacement

Like other auto parts, catalytic converters are subject to wear and tear. If you notice any of these signs, it might be time for a catalytic converter replacement:

  • Check engine light: One of the first things you may notice when your catalytic converter starts to fail is a lit check engine light, which could mean clogging in your converter.
  • Engine start issues: Difficulty starting the car, rattling sounds, frequent stalling or smoke when starting the vehicle could also mean clogging in the catalytic converter.
  • Reduced fuel economy: A blockage in the catalytic converter causes buildup in the engine, which leads to low fuel economy and gas mileage.
  • Poor acceleration: Incomplete combustion or a blockage could prevent gases from flowing out of the exhaust pipe, causing poor engine performance.
  • Failed emissions test: A failed emissions test is a clear indicator of a bad catalytic converter, as its main purpose is to clear these tests.
  • Foul smell: Exhaust gases that are not processed may smell of rotten eggs or sulfur.

Once you notice these symptoms, consider getting a replacement catalytic converter immediately. Ignoring them might lead to bigger issues with your vehicle and harm the environment. Check out StockWise Auto's catalog for high-quality OEM parts to enjoy competitive catalytic converter prices.

The Process of Catalytic Converter Replacement

If you decide to replace your catalytic converter on your own, follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the cold air intake, then the engine cover.
  2. Reattach the oil cap to prevent contamination.
  3. Remove the engine cover bracket, the oxygen sensor and the heat shield (in this order).
  4. Check for possible cracks in the exhaust manifold. A cracked manifold warrants replacement, otherwise it may cause converter failure.
  5. Remove the engine support bracket and then the catalytic converter.
  6. Place the new catalytic converter and secure it with a top nut.
  7. Attach the engine bracket and bolt to the converter hanger.
  8. Reinstall the downstream oxygen sensor.
  9. Secure the inlet flange nuts, outlet flange and converter bolts. Make sure to torque the nuts according to the required specifications.
  10. Install the heat shield, oxygen sensor, support bracket, engine cover and cold air intake (in this order).

While doing the catalytic converter replacement yourself can lead to bigger savings, getting the services of a professional is still recommended. In addition to the guarantee of proper installation, they can identify potential problems in the vehicle. This allows them to work on the repairs and replacements right away and prevent bigger issues in the long run.

Factors Influencing the Cost of the Catalytic Converter Replacement

Several factors could affect the cost of replacing a catalytic converter, such as:

  • Vehicle make and model: The main consideration in auto parts replacement is finding a part that's compatible with your vehicle make and model.
  • Type of converter: Universal catalytic converters are generally more affordable but are more difficult to install. Direct-fit converters are easy to install, but they often cost more due to them being specific to the make and model. Manifold converters, meanwhile, require replacement of the entire exhaust manifold.
  • Labor costs: The extent of the problem and the skill level of your mechanic could affect the catalytic converter replacement cost. If you'd rather a senior mechanic work on your vehicle, be prepared to shell out more on labor costs.

Average Costs Involved in Catalytic Converter Replacement

While the cost of replacing a catalytic converter varies depending on the abovementioned factors, the biggest consideration is the type of catalytic converter you need. You should also keep the labor costs involved in mind if you plan to take your vehicle to a repair shop. 

You can save on labor costs by installing a replacement catalytic converter yourself. StockWise Auto has a wide selection of OEM catalytic converters for various makes and models that you can use for the project.

Tips to Maintain Your Catalytic Converter and Avoid Frequent Replacement

Preventive maintenance is a great way to keep your catalytic converter and other exhaust system components in good shape. Keep these tips in mind to prolong the life of your device:

  • Use high-quality fuel and OEM-approved lubricants and additives.
  • Avoid driving in deep puddles and keep the converter from getting hit when on uneven roads.
  • For clogged catalytic converters, remove buildup and deposits by soaking them in soapy water, using a chemical cleaner or a pressure washer.
  • Have your converter inspected regularly and address problems right away. Remember that repairs are more affordable than replacement.

Shop High-Quality Replacement Catalytic Converters at StockWise Auto

Proper catalytic converter maintenance is key to preventing frequent replacements. But maintenance can only do so much. At some point, you will need to replace your catalytic converter to ensure your vehicle's performance and safety while driving.

Shop high-quality catalytic converters and replacement auto parts at StockWise Auto. Visit our page to shop for specific makes and models today.