The catalytic converter is an emissions related component that is mounted in the exhaust pipe. Its purpose is to superheat unburned particles in the exhaust gases that are expelled from the engine. As the engine runs, the catalytic converter warms up to an operating temperature of 500-1200 °F. At this temperature the particles in the ‘dirty’ exhaust are burned and converted into water vapor and carbon dioxide. The catalyst inside is nearly always comprised of precious metals such as platinum, rhodium, or palladium. When the catalyst isn’t able to burn off the unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust, an unpleasant odor can occur, a rough run or misfire may be felt, or the Check Engine light may illuminate.
If you are consistently taking short trips with your vehicle, the catalytic converter may not be getting hot enough to completely burn away the hydrocarbons. To prevent the catalytic converter from getting clogged, take your vehicle for the occasional drive on the highway for 15 minutes. This allows the exhaust to sufficiently heat up and burn off any deposits in the catalytic converter.
If the catalytic converter isn’t operating efficiently, the check engine light will come on and your engine can begin to lose performance. If the catalytic converter becomes plugged, the engine light will begin to flash and your engine may stall or no longer start. In extreme cases where the converter is plugged, the excess back pressure created can actually cause internal engine damage. If you are experiencing symptoms related to catalytic converter failure, get it checked soon.
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