Getting to know catalytic converters

This week in our “Getting to Know” series, we take a look at what catalytic converters are and what their job is.


What is a catalytic converter?  


The role of a catalytic converter is to reduce the level of toxic gases which are released from the exhaust. All petrol cars in the UK from 1992 onwards have had to have a catalytic converter fitted as standard in order to comply with emissions regulations. Today, it is a legal requirement for a car to have a catalytic converter in order to pass the MOT test.


Where is it located on a vehicle?  


A catalytic converter, which is cylindrical in shape, can be found within a vehicle’s exhaust system, often close to the manifold (the component that joins the exhaust to the engine). Catalytic converters are far more efficient when hot, and their optimal working temperature ranges between 350 to 400 degrees Celsius.


How does a catalytic converter work?  


Noxious gases are converted into carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water by passing over a fine honeycomb structure that is plated with precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. It’s these metals which start the chemical reactions.


What is the lifespan of a catalytic converter?


A catalytic converter will often last as long as the vehicle, based on the catalytic converter being an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) device, which is made from high quality materials. It tends to be an expensive component to replace, and prices can vary depending on the make and model of the car.


What can cause damage to a catalytic converter?


Various factors can reduce the effectiveness of a catalytic converter. These can include an out-of-tune engine which could be the result of misfiring spark plugs or an incorrect fuel mixture and engine timing, excessive fuel, oil entering the exhaust and damage from debris on the road.


Where can I find a garage to get my catalytic converter repaired or replaced?


To find your local Motor Ombudsman-accredited franchised car dealership or independent garage, visit the Garage Finder.


Image courtesy of Driving Test Tips.