Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost (Best Cost Guide)

Do you need to change your catalytic converter and are wondering how much catalytic converter replacement costs? If so, you are on the right page.

The catalytic converter is probably not a new word for someone who knows about cars. The only thing is that most of these people are unaware of its functions or how much a catalytic converter replacement costs.

A catalytic converter is an essential part of the exhaust system, which is equally expensive. How much is the cost, and why is the cost very expensive?

This article will enlighten you on everything you’re to know when you get into a situation that requires you to replace your car’s exhaust system’s catalytic converter.

Unfortunately, replacing a catalytic converter is not cheap. So what will it cost to replace it? The parts are costly, while the cost of labor is relatively low. This is because of the part’s composition. The metals they add to the catalytic converter are expensive, and the part’s prices are high.

One new single catalytic converter’s cost can be anything between$500 – $2,000, depending on the car’s model and make. In addition, the job’s labor cost is between $100 – $300. In many cases, this increases the total cost of replacing a catalytic converter to between $1,000 – $1,500.

Keep in mind that some cars’ catalytic converter is more than 1. Therefore, problems with your car’s engine can make you replace the whole converters.

For example, letting antifreeze enter your combustion chamber or dumping so much fuel that is unburned inside the exhaust can spoil all the catalytic converters. You should expect a huge repair bill to fix your car when this occurs.

Also Read: Catalytic Converter Repair Without Replacing It

What Is A Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

The catalytic converter is a part of the car’s exhaust system, which converts dangerous exhaust gas from the car to carbon dioxide, and other gasses that are less harmful. The converter sits between a tailpipe or muffler and the manifold of the exhaust.

When you look under your car, you’ll usually see these parts. The outside view looks like a metal connected to the exhaust pipe. Although the outside view looks simple, the inside is very complex.

The catalytic converter inside has the look of a honeycomb. This is for an increased surface area, so the exhaust gasses would pass over larger surface areas. Precious metals, like palladium, platinum, rhodium, and others, make up the inside.

When these harmful exhaust gases come in contact with the metals, the gasses are converted to lesser harmful emissions by chemical reactions. The next section will discuss it more. How does the conversion happen? Continue reading to find out.

What Does A Catalytic Converter Do?

Most people wonder what a catalytic converter does. Just like the name “catalytic converter,” it converts harmful exhaust gases to less harmful gases. Gasses the combustion in your engine produces are harmful to both humans and the environment.

The gases are hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide & other gasses. They are properly filtered when they flow across the catalytic converter’s honeycomb structure.

Chemical reactions convert these gasses into less toxic emissions like water vapor, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen.

Your car equally measures how well the catalytic converter performs, and the quantity of fuel sprayed in the engine can be adjusted if necessary.

In addition, the car can measure the quantity of oxygen in its exhaust gas with oxygen sensors. This sensor can be located in the car’s exhaust pipe after the car’s catalytic converter. With this, the care knows whether the catalytic converter is working.

Sometimes, the oxygen sensors may be located after and before the converter. Additionally, some cars have many catalytic converters. Especially high-performance cars, because their exhaust system releases a lot of exhaust gases.

Also Read: How Many Catalytic Converters Are in a Car?

What Causes a Catalytic Converter to Go Bad?

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

As we mentioned, many catalytic converters last throughout a car’s lifetime. But in certain situations, a catalytic converter goes bad and would need replacement.

Engine issues cause almost all the problems with catalytic converters. This is mostly caused by too much fuel getting into the car’s exhaust system because of incorrect bad spark plugs, air/fuel mixture, failed oxygen sensor, incorrect engine timing, or other problems where the fuel is unburned and leaves the engine’s combustion chamber.

This causes the catalytic converter to get a very high temperature and start melting the catalytic converter’s internals or breaking the honeycomb materials. It results in a catalytic converter that doesn’t function.

In addition, worn piston rings failed gaskets or bad valve seals can cause antifreeze or oil to get into the car’s exhaust system, coating its ceramic catalyst around the catalytic converter with strong carbon soot.

When this is permitted to happen for a long time, the catalytic converter gets clogged by carbon deposits, making it not function properly. Worst case, the exhaust flow gets blocked completely and builds back pressure until it reaches the engine. This can cause engine overheating and many other issues.

Finally, the catalytic converter can get physical damage. Although it’s not common, potholes, rocks, or road debris can all crack or damage the outer shell of the catalytic converter or its supporting hangers.

A dented cat usually denotes that, apart from the ceramic catalyst inside, which is fragile, has broken off, and the catalytic converter’s functionality has been reduced.

Bad Catalytic Converter Symptoms

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Here are six common symptoms that tell you that your car (catalytic converter) is bad or clogged.

1. Illuminated Check Engine Light

When your car’s catalytic converter goes bad or fails, your “Check Engine Light” on the dashboard comes on. In addition, modern cars contain oxygen sensors that can monitor the efficiency of a catalytic converter by checking the levels of the exhaust gas.

“Check Engine Light” comes on once the sensors notice the exhaust gas is not catalyzed properly, not minding the reason for it. This will alert the driver that there’s something wrong, although the exact problem won’t be known because the check engine light coming on can mean different things.

The best move is to retrieve trouble codes using the diagnostic scan tool. For example, two common codes that show that the catalytic converter is failing are P0430 and P0420.

2. Failed Emissions Test

Most areas in the United States expect that your car should pass a smog test every few years to be sure the car is burning fuel properly and not releasing dangerous gas into the atmosphere.

A faulty catalytic converter can be seen as one common reason to fail the smog test.

Depending on your car type, a check-up will commerce through your car’s OBD2 port (1996 cars or newer) or by connecting a hose on the end of your tailpipe to directly measure the level of harmful gas (cars before 1996).

3. Smell like Rotten Egg coming From the Exhaust

When you perceive a smell like rotten eggs, it is a sign of a faulty catalytic converter. In combustion, a small quantity of sulfur is contained in gasoline converted to hydrogen sulfide.

A functional catalytic converter converts smelly sulfide to sulfur dioxide, that’s odorless. When a catalytic converter goes bad, this conversion ceases, so part of the gasses that are not burnt and contain smelly hydrogen sulfide remains in the exhaust.

A catalytic converter that’s working as it’s supposed to convert the smelly sulfide into odorless sulfur dioxide. When the cat is bad, the conversion doesn’t occur, so some of the unburnt gases containing the smelly hydrogen sulfide exit your exhaust.

4. Poor Acceleration

One common symptom of a clogged catalytic converter is a lack of engine power, particularly when accelerating or when you want to pass a car quickly.

When the carbon buildup in honeycomb design becomes excess, or the internals begins to melt because of too much heat from the unburned fuel, the catalytic converter experiences partial blockage.

The engine needs a sound exhaust flow to work at its peak power. If a clogged converter restricts this flow, you’ll notice poor power when you try accelerating to go uphill or tow a very heavy load.

In situations where carbon buildup is the cause of clogging, cleaning the catalytic converter will help remove the blockages.

5. Reduced Fuel Economy

When there’s a blockage in the catalytic converter, your car could burn more fuel than it needs because of lower airflow. Also, with symptoms of bad acceleration above, when your exhaust is not getting a proper flow, you’ll be forced to match your gas pedal more than usual since acceptance is bad.

That makes the engine inject more fuel into the cylinders, giving the car a much more rich fuel mixture than what it actually needs.

A decrease in gas mileage alone doesn’t necessarily mean you should change the catalytic converter because a decrease in gas mileage can be a symptom of many other issues.

6. Rattling Noise

When a part of the honeycomb material inside the catalytic converter breaks because of excessive damage or heat, you might notice rattling sounds from under the car while driving or idling. The sound will usually be loud when you’re starting your car.

You need to replace the catalytic converter quickly because those particles of broken materials can go further into your exhaust system and muffler. The blockage can stall the car and stop you from getting your car started.

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost For Engine Types

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Because of all the metals used in construction (i.e., palladium and platinum), replacing a catalytic converter is expensive. You will need to consider the car’s make and age, whether the catalytic converter is an aftermarket part or OEM, and how many catalytic converters are in the car.

Gasoline Engines – 1981 and Newer

Most cars built since 1981 with a gasoline engine has a three-way catalytic converter. The car’s design is more complex than the ones in the older cars, meaning the cost of the parts is equally high.

An average pay should be within $500 to $2,200 to replace a newer car’s catalytic converter. So the cost price alone would be between $400 and $2,000. The labor cost will be around $75 and $150 for an estimated hour of the labor needed to replace it.

Gasoline Engines – Before 1981 (and Diesel Engines)

Most gasoline (made before 1981) and diesel (any year) engine car’s catalytic converters are two-way. Since it’s a simple design, the replacement cost is usually cheaper.

The total cost to replace catalytic converters in older cars will be between $175 and $750. Price cost will be between $100 and $600, while labor costs $75 and $150. The rarer or older a car gets, the more costly replacing a catalytic converter is because of scarcity.

Also Read: Semi Truck Catalytic Converter Location (Where Exactly Is It?)

Catalytic Converter Repair Options Without Replacing it

What of a situation where you are low on cash, and your catalytic converter goes bad? There are still options for you! So, what is the cost of fixing a catalytic converter? The cost depends on the severe problem, though fixing might be cheaper than replacing. Try using cat cleaner first.

Catalytic converter cleaner is a liquid that you can pour inside the fuel tank. Then, as you drive, the cleanser does its work as it filters and burns through the cat.

In most cases, this process corrects the issue, given that the converter is not blocked. The cleaner usually does a good job if there’s some buildup inside, and a bottle only costs like $20

Other options could be, exploring aftermarket options rather than purchasing an OEM converter. Aftermarket parts can often be found at lower prices, and they’ll do the same job as OEM parts, and the parts are always direct fits as well.

People search auto salvage yards or junkyards for catalytic converters because they can buy used ones at much cheaper rates than new ones. But, unfortunately, its warranty expires before the problems with the catalytic converter start.

You may ask, “Is it worth fixing a catalytic converter?” The answer may depend on if your state does emissions testing. Even though it’s not advised, people remove their catalytic converter once they experience issues with the converter.

It’s not even an option for people in states that do smog testing; it’s only an option for people in states that don’t require it. Other persons may sell their vehicles for scrap to buy another one.

Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

How to Help Prevent Catalytic Converter Clogging

Driving short distances regularly might make hydrocarbons not burn completely because the catalytic converter isn’t getting the opportunity to be hot enough.

So to reduce the chances of getting your catalytic converter clogged, drive your car on highways once in a while for around ten to fifteen minutes.

Doing this creates the heat needed inside the catalytic converter to burn off hydrocarbon deposits effectively, so your catalytic converter would run as smoothly as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions – Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Is the catalytic converter worth replacing?

Bad emissions are converted to harmless gas by catalytic converters. Usually, a catalytic converter lasts for about ten years, so it should be replaced. The converter should also be replaced when other problems like physical damage or clogging arise.

How long do catalytic converters last?

It usually lasts for ten years or more, and a replacement should be made only when needed.

What happens if you don’t fix the catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter that’s not fixed can get clogged, and clogging restricts exhaust gas’s normal flow through it & the entire exhaust system. As a result, it can drastically affect the engine’s performance to the point that you can’t even start your car.

Why are catalytic converters so expensive?

They are expensive due to the precious & rare metals used in constructing them. Moreover, constructing converters and mining precious metals has become more expensive because of the global pandemic.

How do you fix a catalytic converter without replacing it?

For example, if your car is filled with cheap low-octane fuel, then try to run the car on a few tanks containing high-octane fuel. Another move that might be effective in clearing out deposits of the catalytic converter is to add a gallon size of lacquer thinner into 10 gallons of gas when next you refuel.

Conclusion – Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost

Unfortunately, catalytic converters are very expensive, and just one part can cost you over $1,000 in most cases. Cars with double exhausts might even force you to replace both converters simultaneously.

When this happens, you might decide to try cleaning the catalytic converter before concluding to change it. Even though the repair cost is very high, it’s not advisable to drive around with a clogged converter, which blocks the flow of your exhaust because it can lead to more engine damage or even cause your engine to fail totally.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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