Diving Into The Ins And Outs Of Replacing A Catalytic Converter At Home

It used to be the school of thought that a catalytic converter going bad was the beginning of the end for your vehicle. It doesn’t have to be that way.

With just a few tools and a moderate amount of elbow grease, replacing a catalytic converter can be a weekend project that can save you hundreds of dollars.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is an important part of your vehicle’s exhaust system. Burning fuels like gasoline or diesel create a large amount of toxic fumes. This is what we call greenhouse gases. The catalytic converter uses different compounds combined with heat to turn those gases into a less harmful vapor that is then passed out of the remainder of the vehicle’s exhaust system.

Catalytic Converter Problems

Maybe you aren’t sure if your catalytic converter needs to be replaced. There are some telltale signs to help you determine if this is what’s causing your car troubles.

Car Symptoms

  • Trouble starting or running rough
  • Check Engine Light
  • A smell of sulfur (like rotten eggs) coming from the exhaust
  • Worsening gas mileage
  • Rattling or tapping coming from the catalytic converter itself
  • Failing state or local vehicle emissions testing

Replacing a broken or failing catalytic converter can help solve all of these issues. It can also give you peace of mind about lowering your emissions rate. This is the main function of the catalytic converter.

Before You Replace

If you are trying to find ways to extend the life of your catalytic converter, you may want to try these fixes.

Drive your car ‘hard’. Most drivers do not drive their vehicles to their full potential. Accelerate quickly multiple times. Your catalytic converter needs to heat up in order to burn off the harmful deposits that can cause it to fail.

Use a higher octane fuel in your vehicle. This can also help with the blow-off process. This is helpful to other important systems in your car as well.

You can remove the catalytic converter and use a pressure washer to try and remove the buildup that causes it to malfunction. Make sure to let it dry completely before reinstalling it.

If these don’t work, all that’s left is to replace your old catalytic converter.

Catalytic Converter Costs

Your first step to replacing your catalytic converter is buying a new part. There are plenty of resources for buying catalytic converters online. There are also local junkyards if you are looking for a more economical option.

Be careful, as buying used parts come with more risk as they may not be of good quality. Some places even offer rebuilt catalytic converters.

Shop around in order to get the best catalytic converter replacement cost. The older your car is the more affordable it will be to buy a replacement catalytic converter. They range anywhere from $200- $2000 depending on the age of your car.

There are many different kinds of catalytic converters. While shopping for one, be sure that you purchase one for your particular year, make, and model. This will ensure an easy replacement process.

Tools You Will Need

There are a few tools that you will need to do this yourself. If you plan to do many mechanical projects at home, these will be good to have in your garage or workspace.

  • Jack
  • Jack stands
  • A rachet and set of sockets
  • A set of wrenches
  • Penetrating oil, like WD40
  • Vehicle-specific repair manual
  • Replacement gaskets

Before you start, check your repair manual to make sure you have the correct size sockets and wrenches. It will also tell you if you need any specialty tools.

Some vehicles require a specific tool to remove oxygen sensors. If you don’t want to buy a specialty tool you will only use once, most auto parts stores have a tool lending program that will let you borrow a specialty tool at no cost as long as you return it.

Steps to Replacing A Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter is located between the exhaust manifold and the muffler. Some cars have a bolt-on catalytic converter and some have them welded in. Unless you are proficient in welding, you should only attempt to replace your catalytic converter if it is a bolt-on version.

  1. Put your vehicle on jack stands. Jack the vehicle up to the desired height and place four jack stands underneath the four corners. Make sure the jack stands are holding your vehicle up by its frame.
  2. Remove the oxygen sensors from the catalytic convertor. If your car was manufactured after 1996, you will have one oxygen sensor in the front of the catalytic converter and one in the back.
  3. Remove bolts from the flanges holding the catalytic converter in place. If these bolts are rusted and very hard to remove, don’t force them. This can damage the bolts. Instead, spray them with penetrating oil and let them sit overnight. This will lubricate the bolts and help them release.
  4. Replace the old unit with the new catalytic converter. Replace the gaskets between the catalytic converter and the flanges. Bolt it into place reusing the same bolts.
  5. Reattach the oxygen sensors to the new catalytic converter

Make sure to start the car and notice if the check engine light is now off. If it is still on, it might be a sign that the oxygen sensors also need to be replaced.

Tips and Tricks

There are a few things to keep in mind while preparing and executing this at-home repair. Make sure you are doing the work on a firm, level surface. This will ensure your vehicle stays securely on the jack stands.

When installing the new catalytic converter, use anti-seize on the bolts. This will ensure you are able to remove them in the future with ease.

Depending on the make of your car, you will either need a metric or an American set of sockets and wrenches. Make sure you know which one works for your vehicle.

Disconnect your battery before starting.

DIY Made Easy

Those are the steps to replacing a catalytic converter. Saving money by doing basic car repairs at home is something that everyone can appreciate. You can do most minor repairs and replacements with the same tools and informative guides.  To learn more about working on your own vehicle, visit here.

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