Replacing a catalytic converter is very costly, and you may end up spending up to USD 2500 or even more. In case your car has a faulty catalytic converter, you might be trying to figure out if there’s any solution besides replacing the component.
Thankfully, it is possible to repair damaged catalytic converters in many cases. Especially if the issue is in an early stage, you have higher chances of being able to get the cat converter repaired.
Can a catalytic converter be repaired?
While you can repair some catalytic converters, you need to replace the ones beyond recovery.
To be honest, this depends on the cat converter’s problem. Not every issue is repairable, and it’s possible that replacing your catalytic converter is the only way. In some cases, you’ll find it wiser to repair the component even if it’s possible to repair it.
For example, it’s not worth repairing a cracked catalytic converter as the process is too expensive and you can rather buy a new cat converter by spending a little more.
However, if the issue is relatively minor and at an early stage, it’s possible to fix the catalytic converter and continue using it. This is, in fact, quite smart and will help you save money. Rather than buying a brand-new cat converter, you can simply get the current, faulty one repaired if that’s a viable option.
In case there’s an issue with your catalytic converter, take it to a garage or service center. Upon inspection, a professional should be able to tell you whether it’s possible to repair the component.
Is it worth fixing a catalytic converter?
Whether fixing a catalytic converter is worth your money really depends on how much it would cost to repair. If repairing the catalytic converter costs almost like a new one, you’re better off with a replacement.
However, in most cases, replacing your cat converter should absolutely be a last resort. As we pointed out earlier, replacing a catalytic converter isn’t cheap; it could cost you up to USD 2500. For some high-end cars and trucks, it can be even more expensive.
Unless a catalytic converter is physically in very poor condition, repairing it should be more cost-effective. Quite often, a faulty cat converter doesn’t even need repairs – just a bit of cleaning is enough if the issue is due to clogging. Only when the repair costs get too high or it is impossible to repair the component, you should consider replacing it.
Especially if your car is already very old and you won’t be using it for much longer, you should avoid getting a new cat converter. There’s no point in investing in an expensive catalytic converter if you’re going to sell the car or send it to the junkyard soon anyway. However, if your car is relatively new and the cat converter has suffered major damage, you may consider replacing it.
How To Repair a Catalytic Converter Without Replacing It?
To get your catalytic converter repaired, you’ll obviously have to take it to a repair shop or garage. However, before you take the component for repairs, here are a few fixes that you could try yourself.
This will help you save a decent sum of money, besides the hassle of getting the component repaired. However, if these methods do not work or you aren’t confident about trying them out yourself, you may rope in a professional instead.
1. Clean the catalytic converter
Rather often, catalytic converters fail to work properly simply because deposits from the exhaust fumes are clogging them. One of the most obvious ways to fix a clogged catalytic converter is to clean it and eliminate the deposits.
The process is quite simple – you just have to remove the cat converter and blast out the deposits from the hive-like structure using a pressure washer. Don’t forget to flush the ends, as the washed-out deposits may accumulate there.
In case you don’t have a pressure washer or you feel worried that it may damage the component, you may instead use the soaking method to clean it.
Remove the component and soak it in a water and laundry detergent solution or degreaser overnight. The solution should loosen up the grease and deposits, which you can then wash out. Although this process takes longer, it’s usually more effective than pressure washing.
2. Use a better fuel or fuel additives
As you might notice, gas stations offer three different types of gasoline – standard, premium, and super premium (the names may vary). This isn’t a way to trick you into buying more expensive fuel thinking you’re getting something better, there’s actually a reason why premium fuels cost more.
It is because these fuels contain certain fuel line additives that help the engine perform better and reduce deposits in the cat converter. In case you generally use the standard fuel, switch to a high-octane option for a few refills to see if it fixes the issue.
In case you don’t want to buy a premium or super premium fuel, you may simply add fuel additives to your regular gasoline. All you have to do is buy some lacquer thinner and add it to your fuel tank when refueling, at a ratio of one gallon per 10 gallons of fuel. It will help clean up the deposits in the catalytic converter. This is an effective method used by professional car mechanics.
3. Carry out an ‘Italian tune-up’
An Italian tune-up involves pushing a car hard on performance to take the engine to its most efficient temperature, which is between 800°F and 1,832°F. Although this isn’t a fix recommended by car manufacturers, it is effective at efficiently fixing various automotive problems.
Drive your car for a few miles, running it harder than usual. This means driving at higher speeds and making several hard accelerations.
Doing this for a while will force the engine to perform at its maximum potential, thereby heating up the entire system. The heat will eventually burn off deposits throughout the system, including the cat converter.
Although the Italian tune-up doesn’t require any special equipment or professional assistance, there are a few constraints. Firstly, you need a stretch of open road without much traffic, so you can accelerate to high speeds, drive for a bit, slow down, and repeat the process repeatedly.
Secondly, your driving skills should be good enough to drive at such high speeds and make hard accelerations safely. If driving on the road for an Italian tune-up isn’t a viable option for you, you may instead leave the vehicle running at 2500 RPM for 30 minutes in your driveway.
Can you clean a catalytic converter instead of replacing it?
Yes, you may use the above-described methods to clean a clogged catalytic converter. In fact, there’s no need to replace the cat converter if clogging is the only issue.
As you know by now, cleaning a clogged catalytic converter isn’t too hard. You may also use a combination of different methods, such as pressure washing after soaking the component overnight or driving hard after adding a lacquer thinner.
How much does it cost to repair a catalytic converter?
If you cannot clean the cat converter yourself, or it has developed a more complicated issue than clogging, you’ll have to get it repaired professionally.
As the cost of repairs will depend on the problem and the extent of damage the component has suffered, you’ll have to get an estimate while getting it inspected by a professional.
However, the repair cost is usually cheaper than buying a new catalytic converter, unless the component is in a really poor condition and has broken apart.
How to give your catalytic converter a longer lifespan?
Original catalytic converters that come by default usually have the same lifespan as the car – at least a decade. However, different problems can cause the component to go faulty and require repair or replacement early on. Follow these tips to make the cat converter last longer:
- Get your exhaust system inspected to make sure it isn’t leaking. Exhaust leaks can mess up the oxygen sensor readings, thus changing the fuel-to-air ratio in the engine and causing issues for the cat converter.
- Oil leaks into the exhaust system due to engine misfire problems and combusts inside the catalytic converter. The heat generated in this process is enough to melt down the component and ruin it completely. To protect your cat converter, make sure the engine is functioning properly.
- You may switch to a fuel of a better quality. Although it will cost you more, premium gasoline will increase the longevity of the catalytic converter, alongside other components too.
Hence, unless your catalytic converter has broken apart badly or suffered a meltdown due to excess heat, you should be able to get it repaired.
It will be significantly more cost-effective than replacing the component. Routine inspection and maintenance are crucial in maximizing every component of your car’s lifespan, including the catalytic converter.