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How Long Do Catalytic Converters Last?

Catalytic Converters  ·  March 16, 2022

How Long Do Catalytic Converters Last?

Catalytic converters are one of those car parts that you easily forget about. Yes, it’s a crucial auto part, but it stays out of sight and seems to last an eternity. Still, nothing lasts forever, so how long do catalytic converters last before you need to replace them?

A catalytic converter can last at least 10 years or 160,000 kilometres, and most people switch to a newer vehicle before the cat-con starts to fail. So, if you're driving an old car or bought it used, you'll have to get it replaced when you notice signs of failure. 

Keep reading through this guide to discover how long your catalytic converter should last, the signs that it’s about to fail, and how you can maximise its lifespan. 

How Long Should a Catalytic Converter Last?

Generally, catalytic converters should last as long as the car they’re attached to, which is around 10 years. That’s excellent news, considering how expensive the part is.

Still, some people keep their cars around for much longer than average. If that sounds like you, you’ll want to be certain about your catalytic converter lifespan.

Here’s how long you can expect your cat converter to last, based on time and mileage:

How Many Years Will a Catalytic Converter Last? 

You can expect your catalytic converter to last around 10 years. Like any other car part, that duration will differ depending on how well you treat it.

For example, if you keep your engine in tip-top shape all year round, you'll make things easier on your cat-con, and it'll last a little longer.

How Many Kilometres Will a Catalytic Converter Last?

A catalytic converter can last approximately 160,000 kilometres. 

To put that into perspective, driving a full lap around Australia is about 15,000 kilometres. So, you could probably drive the equivalent of going 10 times around Australia with the same catalytic converter.

How Can You Make a Catalytic Converter Last Longer?

Your catalytic converter is a sealed component permanently attached to your car’s exhaust system. It’s easy to forget that the part exists simply because there probably won’t be any need for you to handle it directly with your own two hands.

Still, you can take a few steps to maintain it and help to maximise its lifespan. These steps don't take much effort or many resources to do, and you're likely doing some of them already.

For example, you can:

Simply put, a well-maintained engine minimises harmful emissions and reduces the burden suffered by the catalytic converter, making it last longer.

However, it’s important to note that people are divided over these products. Some swear by it, but others question its effectiveness.

Simply put, short trips don’t give the converter enough time to warm up sufficiently. So, it won’t function as well as it could

If keeping your catalytic converter (and the engine and other components) running smoothly is a top priority, then avoiding the cheap stuff at the petrol pump will help you with that.

When to Replace a Catalytic Converter

No matter how hard you try to maximise the catalytic converter lifespan, you’ll still need to replace it at some point. Your car might still run for a while, even with a failing cat con, but not for long.

5 Signs of a Failing Catalytic Converter

Some of the signs that your catalytic converter is failing include:

  1. Sluggish engine: Firstly, you’ll notice that your engine starts to get sluggish, especially when you’re trying to start it up in the morning.
  2. Weak acceleration: Accelerating will also be a lot weaker than average. Remember: your engine needs to breathe, with air coming and going out smoothly. When the catalytic converter fails, air can’t flow out smoothly, choking the whole system.
  3. Dark smoke: A healthy exhaust system should only let out somewhat clear air from the exhaust pipe. Once you see dark smoke coming out instead, you’ve likely got a problem with the converter.
  4. Bad smells: Sure, exhaust gases won’t smell like roses, even on a good day. But when you notice your tailpipe smelling like rotten eggs or sulphur, that means you've got a real problem.
  5. Hot underbody: Your catalytic converter is meant to get hot, but it’s also designed to manage that heat within reasonable levels. If you notice the underside of your car getting excessively hot for some reason, or the cat-con starts to glow, that’s a clear sign that your converter is at the end of its life.

Is It Worth Replacing a Cats-Con?

Yes. To say that the cat-con is worth replacing is an understatement. You’ll have to replace it when it starts to fail, whether you like it or not. 

Why You Should Replace a Failing Cat Con

Just in case you’re not convinced, here’s a quick list of reasons for replacing a cat con past its lifespan:

  1. Reduced engine performance: As you've seen above, your engine can only function optimally if air can smoothly go in and out of it. A clogged-up cat-con will choke the air that's supposed to exit smoothly, and that will cause your engine performance to drop. Leave it for too long, and your engine will stop running.
  2. Shortened engine lifespan: Car engines are rugged, but that’s no excuse to punish them. The longer you wait to replace a failing catalytic converter, the shorter the engine’s lifespan becomes.
  3. Drop in fuel efficiency: A failing cat-con undermines the engine's efficiency, which means that you will be spending a lot more than you should be on fuel.
  4. Legal issues: Lastly, you’ll probably get fined, assuming your car is allowed to be on the road at all. A failing cat con means your car will be spewing dark smoke and toxic gases out of the exhaust, aside from likely failing any emissions tests.

Although the catalytic converter lifespan is relatively long compared to most car parts, you’ll still need to replace it eventually. The good news is that you can get used can cons with low mileage from the Marketplace at CarpartAU

Alternatively, you can also request for quotes from sellers of both used and brand-new cat converters through the Part Finder instead.

By Ray Hasbollah

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