What does a Catalytic Converter Do?

Cars run on fuel which can be harmful to humans and the environment. Over the years, and as technology advanced, vehicle manufacturers sought a way to reduce fumes and exhaust. In 1963, the United States passed the Clean Air Act. This Act aimed to cut air pollution caused by exhaust fumes generated by vehicles and industries.

The enactment of the Clean Air Act could have been said to be one of the driving factors behind the early adoption of catalytic converters in vehicles. As a vehicle owner going in for a repair in Hutchinson, Kansas, knowing what a catalytic converter is can save you from falling prey to theft. 

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is an important part of the modern exhaust system in vehicles. This part is attached to the exhaust system and helps to control the emission of harmful materials during fuel burning. With catalytic converters, also known as catalysts, vehicle manufacturers have reduced the environmental impact of vehicles and their emissions on humans and the environment.

The catalytic converter was invented in the 19th century by a French mechanical engineer, Eugene Houdry. He received a patent for the invention in the mid-1950s.

What does a Catalytic Converter Do?

Vehicle manufacturers designed and adopted catalytic converters in compliance with the National Emissions Standards Act. The catalytic converter changes the harmful compounds produced during fuel burning in engines to less harmful materials and gases. In most vehicles, these harmful gaseous compounds, including carbon monoxide, are changed into less harmful gases like steam in the catalytic converter.

The catalytic converter is located on the rear underside of vehicles and is usually attached to the exhaust. Its setup often contains precious metals that split up the toxic gaseous molecules produced by the engines.

Components of a Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters are medium-sized metal boxes that convert harmful emissions or toxic gases into safe emissions. They are connected to the vehicle’s exhaust system, wherein the intake pipe traps the direct exhaust from the engine while the outlet pipe releases safe gases into the environment.

The exhaust produced by the engine passes through the robust middle section, which contains precious metals like platinum, rhodium, palladium, or similar metals. The mid-section of the catalyst has a honeycomb structure lined with these metals that carry out specific detoxification roles.

There are two types of catalysts, depending on the type of vehicle you own;

 Reduction Catalysts: This catalyst reduces nitrogen oxide pollution by removing its oxygen component. Through oxygen removal, nitrogen oxides are separated into nitrogen and oxygen gases which are individually harmless.

Oxidation catalysts: This catalyst adds oxygen to the carbon monoxide produced by engines during the fuel-burning process. The addition of oxygen molecules changes the harmful carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide, a less harmful gas.

 As a vehicle owner, you should also know that your catalytic converter is designed to send additional signals to your vehicle to improve emissions. The oxygen sensor component works with your vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU) to ensure a balanced air-fuel ratio.

Why are Catalytic Converters Important?

Catalytic converters are important for many reasons, including reduction of vehicle emission, better fuel efficiency, improved vehicle function, and cost. Many vehicle owners have been victims of catalytic converter theft because the part is easy to remove. It also costs a lot on the market. An average catalytic converter costs between $300 and $4,000, depending on the vehicle and transmission type.

Please pay attention to your vehicle and its catalytic converter, especially when parking it outside or taking it for repairs. To help you detect foul play, here are the common signs of a missing catalytic converter.

The vehicle becomes very loud: Your vehicle may become very loud due to the absence of a catalytic converter. This is the most obvious sign indicating a bad or stolen catalyst.

Check engine light comes on: Your check engine light can come on for many reasons, including the absence of an O2 sensor inside the catalytic converter.

Heavy exhaust or fumes: Your catalytic converter may have been stolen if you get a headache or feel dizzy whenever your windows are down and driving.

Low fuel efficiency: If your vehicle’s fuel efficiency suddenly takes a nose dive, the chances are high that you may have a damaged or stolen catalytic converter.

Missing components under your vehicle: Your catalytic converter may have been stolen if your vehicle appears to be missing some components on the rear underside area. Visit your auto mechanic to have it checked.

Driving without a catalytic converter can be chaotic. Visit your auto repair shop as soon as possible for a solution.

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