How To Understand How a Catalytic Converter Works

Many do not know what a catalytic converter is. Some longtime car owners do not even know what their vehicle's catalytic converter looks like. Knowing the catalytic converter's purpose is key to understanding and caring for it. Here are some tips to understand how a catalytic converter works.

  1. A catalytic converter is inside a car’s engine. A catalytic converter is a device that is present in all vehicles running on internal combustion engines. A catalytic converter works by breaking down harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful elements carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen.
  2. Component substances of a catalytic converter. Catalytic converters are chiefly made from a combination of stainless steel and precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium. Traces of manganese and cerium are also added. Minimal amounts of nickel and copper are used in the production of some catalytic converters as well. However, the European Union has ruled the use of nickel in catalytic converters illegal. This is because nickel, when combined with carbon dioxide, produces a highly toxic substance called nickel tetracarbonyl. Copper, on the other hand, is illegal to use for catalytic converter manufacture in North America. This is because copper inevitably creates dioxins, which are known to be environmental pollutants.
  3. Catalytic converter appearance and location. A catalytic converter is a part of a vehicle's overall exhaust system. It closely resembles a muffler. The catalytic converter is positioned underneath the vehicle connected to air hoses, one from the engine, and the other to the exhaust pipe. Some vehicles are equipped with up to two catalytic converters.
  4. Replacement of your vehicle's catalytic converter. A number of reasons contribute to catalytic converter failure. For one, if the vehicle has more than 100,000 miles on it, then chances are its catalytic converter is already compromised. Salty and extreme weather conditions also encourage rust buildup on the exhaust system contributing to the catalytic converter's break down. Even the use of low quality fuel is also a contributing factor. If you notice foul-smelling black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe, then it's about time to bring the vehicle to the shop for a catalytic converter replacement.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of your vehicle's catalytic converter, it is important to keep in mind some really basic maintenance measures. Of course, you have to make sure your vehicle is regularly cleaned, tuned up and oiled. Also, you should always load your tank with the highest possible quality of fuel your budget can afford.


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