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Do All Cars Have a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic Converters  ·  March 4, 2022

Do All Cars Have a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are rarely spoken about unless people discuss cat converter thefts. Still, there’s plenty you should know about these parts and the role they play in your vehicle.

Not all vehicles have a cat converter. The catalytic converter is only needed for combustion engine vehicles, particularly those built after the 1970s, to change harmful emissions into harmless gases. You won't find them on electric cars, but hybrids will still have them. 

Cat-cons only started becoming a standard feature for ICE cars after the 1970s.

Most cars have a catalytic converter, but some don’t. A few might even have more than one! Keep reading to understand everything there is to know about why that is!

This guide will have answers to the most common cat con questions.

Are There Cars Without Catalytic Converters?

Do all cars have a catalytic converter? The answer is ‘no’. Catalytic converters exist only on vehicles with combustion-engine vehicles, and cat cons only started becoming a standard feature in the mid- to late-70s.

To understand why that’s the case, you must first understand the purpose of the catalytic converter in the first place.

The catalysts inside the part are there to convert harmful engine emissions into less-toxic gases flowing out the exhaust pipe, hence the name ‘catalytic converter’.

So, do any cars NOT have catalytic converters?

Yes! You might have already guessed a few types of vehicles that don’t need a cat converter, but we’ve listed them below:

One thing to note about classic cars: While they didn’t come standard with a catalytic converter, many collectors choose to retrofit their vehicle with cat-cons. Why?

They’ll give you different reasons for doing that. The most likely reason is that the law requires it in some places. Besides that, they probably want to participate in reducing their vehicle’s harmful emissions and protect the environment.

How Many Catalytic Converters Are in a Car?

In most cases, one catalytic converter is all that a car needs. It’s part of the exhaust system that filters engine emissions flowing out of the vehicle.

However, some cars do have more than one catalytic converter.

What Vehicles Have More Than One Catalytic Converter?

Naturally, you’re probably wondering what vehicles have more than one catalytic converter.

Always remember that a catalytic converter works alongside an exhaust pipe. So, vehicles with dual exhausts will likely have two catalytic converters instead.

However, the number of exhaust pipes doesn't necessarily match the number of catalytic converters in a car. Also, don't forget: Some exhaust pipes are just for show!

There are cases where a vehicle has multiple catalytic converters to keep up with emissions regulations. In that case, the engine's gases go through conversion twice and should come out of the exhaust as extra-clean emissions.

Why Does My Car Have Four Catalytic Converters?

Even though cars can have more than one cat-con, it's unlikely that yours has four. What your car might actually have instead is a four-way catalytic converter, which is a whole different thing.

You see, a four-way catalytic converter is a fairly new cat-con technology that removes not only harmful gases coming out from the engine but also solids and other particulates from the outgoing air.

Another over-simplified way to look at it is that it's a combination between a catalytic converter and an air filter in one unit.

Can a Car Run Without a Cat Converter?

No, from both a legal and technical perspective, a car cannot operate without a catalytic converter.

The only exception would be older cars that manufacturers didn’t build to include a catalytic converter in the first place. So, while the law might not let you drive those cars without a cat-con, they’ll still function perfectly well without one.

What Happens If I Remove My Catalytic Converter?

Let’s suppose you decide to take out your catalytic converter, or perhaps it got stolen. In that case, here’s what’s going to happen:

#1 Your Car Is Going to Get Painfully Loud

First and foremost, your car will get deafeningly loud, especially when you start the engine or try to accelerate.

The reason for that is simple: your catalytic converter is part of your exhaust system, which also reduces the noise your engine lets out. So, if the cat-con is suddenly missing, that leaves a lot of room for all that noise to escape.

#2 The Car Will Accelerate and Drive Very Roughly

As I’ve said, modern-day cars are designed to work with a catalytic converter. The cat-con essentially regulates outgoing airflow from the engine through the exhaust system.

Without the catalytic converter to keep the air moving in a controlled way, the airflow becomes a little haywire and affects the engine’s ability to accelerate.

#3 Toxic Gas Will Come Out of Your Exhaust

Don’t forget why the catalytic converter is there in the first place. It’s meant to convert toxic and harmful gases into safe ones to be released into the environment.

Without the cat converter in place, there’s nothing to neutralise those harmful gases without the cat converter in place. Now, that’s bad enough if you’re releasing those gases straight into the open air.

Worse than that, it could be poisonous to other people if you’re doing it in a closed space like a car park.

#4 You’ll Fail Any Kind of Vehicle Inspection

Last but not least, you can’t expect to pass any kind of vehicle inspection if your car’s missing its catalytic converter. 

So, whether you voluntarily removed your catalytic converter, or it was stolen, you’ll want to get a replacement as soon as possible to keep your car roadworthy.

Searching for a new or used catalytic converter? CarpartAU has got you covered. Browse the Marketplace to find great deals on used cat-cons or submit a request through the Parts Finder to get your hands on a brand-new converter.

By Ray Hasbollah

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