You’ve probably seen the ads before – catalytic converter cleaners bannered online or displayed on posters at your local mechanic. Like many people, you might wonder if catalytic converter cleaning is necessary or even worth it. Well, this article will clear things up for you.
Yes, catalytic converter cleaning is worth the time and effort it requires. Cleaning will remove any soot build-up or other impurities preventing the converter from working correctly. Whether you plan on deep cleaning or using a catalytic converter cleaner for the job, it’s going to save you from unnecessarily buying a new cats con.
This guide will start by clarifying what the catalytic converter on your car is. Then, you’ll discover how you can clean your converter and why it’s a better first option before considering a total replacement.
Let’s get started.
Recap: What Is a Catalytic Converter and What Does It Do?
It's always best to start things off with a quick recap so we’re on the same page.
So, first things first, what is a cats con or catalytic converter?
In simple terms, a catalytic converter is a part of your car’s exhaust system that cleans the gases flowing through it so your car’s emissions aren’t so harmful to you or the environment.
The converter does that with the help of built-in catalysts (hence the name 'catalytic converter') consisting of precious metals like palladium, platinum, and rhodium.
When harmful emissions like carbon monoxide and others come through the exhaust system, the catalysts convert them to less harmful gases.
As you can probably guess by now, getting dirty is part of the converter’s job. Unfortunately, it can get so polluted that it clogs and fails to do its job efficiently.
What Are the Signs of a Clogged Catalytic Converter?
You’ll know that the catalytic converter has a clog when:
- The Check Engine light comes on.
- Starting the engine is difficult.
- The engine stalls unexpectedly.
- Your exhaust is giving out more harmful emissions than it should.
- Your car is using more fuel than usual.
Any combination of these symptoms could suggest that you have a clog in your catalytic converter. One option you have, which is the highlight of this article, is to get it thoroughly cleaned.
That way, you can restore the converter to full function and make your car fuel efficient again.
How Do You Clean a Catalytic Converter?
There are two approaches you can take to clean your clogged catalytic converter.
The first approach you or your mechanic can take is to entirely remove the converter from the vehicle to clean it thoroughly.
Deep Cleaning a Catalytic Converter
By removing the catalytic converter from the car, you’ll make it possible to do a deep clean and remove every last bit that’s clogging that part.
Here’s one thing you must be aware of from the start: Never use a corrosive chemical for catalytic converter cleaning. That means no using bleach, acid, or anything else of the kind.
Remember: The catalysts in that converter consist of precious metals that will likely react to corrosive chemicals. So, protect them by avoiding the harsh cleaning chemicals you might already have at home.
Instead, there are two cleaning solutions that you can opt for, which include:
- Dishwashing detergent
- Catalytic converter cleaner from brands like Liqui Moly, among many others.
Dishwashing detergent is a very gentle substance to remove dirt, soot, and other nasty things clogging your catalytic converter. In fact, you can soak the cats-con in soapy dishwashing detergent water overnight to loosen up any build-up inside.
But suppose your converter has a very severe clog inside. In that case, you’ll want to invest in a catalytic converter cleaner to get the best results.
You can apply catalytic converter cleaner in various ways, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Can You Clean a Catalytic Converter Without Removing It?
Yes, you can clean a catalytic converter without removing it.
That brings us to the second approach to catalytic converter cleaning, which is to use a cleaning product formulated specifically for that purpose.
Using a Catalytic Converter Cleaner
Earlier, we used the example of Liqui Moly as a popular brand that manufactures its own catalytic converter cleaner. Still, you can do a bit of research or talk to your mechanic to find other brands that are just as good.
Catalytic converter system cleaners are popular because you don’t have to remove the converter to get the cleaning job done. Instead, you can:
- Pour the catalytic converter cleaner into your fuel tank.
- Or spray the cleaner directly into the intake manifold.
Naturally, most people prefer the first method because it takes minimal effort and almost no expertise. However, you might find that your mechanic likes the second method instead.
Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions when using their product, whatever the case. They've formulated the product to work under specific conditions, so their instructions will get you the best results possible.
Catalytic converter cleaners are convenient and practical products to use. However, they might not be enough to get the job done if you’ve got a severe clog. In that kind of situation, removing the converter for a deep clean might be the only option you have.
Is Cleaning a Catalytic Converter Instead of Replacing It a Good Idea?
Yes, cleaning your catalytic converter first before you think about buying a new one is an excellent idea.
Sure, catalytic converter cleaning will take time and cost you money. But any cash you spend doing that will pale in comparison to the cost of a new catalytic converter.
A brand-new catalytic converter will cost you anywhere from $200 to $1,600 or more in Australia. Of course, like anything else, that price will depend on your car’s brand and model. That’s pretty pricey, even if you get a discount by purchasing a used catalytic converter.
So, before you go down that road, it’s worth spending a bit of time and money to clean your catalytic converter. In many cases, you’ll find that a good clean is all it takes to make it work like new.
Of course, some unavoidable situations force you to buy a replacement catalytic converter. In those cases, you can buy them new or used through CarPartAU.
If you’ve decided to replace your damaged cats-con, did you know that you could get cold cash from that unusable car part? Learn about making money out of an old catalytic converter here!
By Ray Hasbollah