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A Comprehensive Guide For Cleaning Your Vehicle’s Catalytic Converter

Several states across the country require car owners to conduct smog tests before issuing vehicle registration. The purpose of the test is to protect the environment by screening for toxic gases at the source. Upon failing the test, car owners can conduct repairs, including engine maintenance and cleaning or repairing catalytic converters. One of the primary roles of a catalytic converter is to take in harmful fumes, sieve them, and emit less toxic fumes.

As a result, the car runs smoothly and complies with emission regulations. A catalytic converter requires frequent clean-up to remove carbon build-up that clogs the piping network. Frequent maintenance and cleaning can extend the life of the catalytic converter and its functionality. Let's explore.

How a Catalytic Converter Cleans Toxic Gases

A catalytic converter creates a micro-environment for the purifying process. It utilizes catalysts, usually expensive metals such as platinum or palladium. Then, a chemical reaction occurs where the oxygen breaks down the pollutants into less harmful gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen gas.

Typically, the cleaning process done by a catalytic converter eliminates 98% of all the pollutants, which improves the air quality.

Symptoms of a Clogged Catalytic Converter

Besides controlling emissions, a catalytic converter has other benefits like minimizing fuel consumption and enhancing low-end torque. In addition, it's also expensive to replace a catalytic converter. It's therefore essential to keep a close eye on potential symptoms that may affect its functionality.

A top-quality catalytic converter can last 8-10 years; however, they become damaged or clogged over time, necessitating check-ups. Overheating is another common problem that can arise due to a misfiring spark plug, failed oxygen sensors, or a leaky exhaust valve.

Even so, clogging is a slightly more common problem that the vehicle diagnostic system can spot. A diagnostic system records it using code P0420, which is interpreted as the catalytic converter operating below its threshold performance.

Clogging impedes the peak efficiency of a converter by reducing the sensory traits of the oxygen sensor. Here are a few symptoms of a clogged or a defective converter:

  • Depressed engine performance
  • Loss of engine power
  • The exhaust produces a rotten egg smell
  • Excessive heat under the vehicle
  • Hard starts

Cleaning Process of the Catalytic Converter

You can clean the catalytic system either by using cleaners while still intact or by disassembling it. However, it's advisable to start with cleaning solutions first before proceeding to remove the catalytic converter.

Cleaning Without Removing the System

Cleaning the converter without opening it up is affordable, takes minimal time, and you can't mess it up. In addition, the clean up also works on the exhaust system, the fuel tank, and oxygen sensors.

A point to note: Cleaning without removing the piping cannot be effective in the presence of excess carbon build-up. In addition, the catalyst holder should also be intact for the cleaning solution to deliver results. Additionally, you can tap the catalytic converter, albeit gently, to identify possible sediments. The presence of sediment is a pointer to a bigger problem better solved through disassembling.

Here's how to clean your catalytic converter using this method:

Step 1: Ensure your car has enough fuel required in the cleaning process. Buy enough catalytic converter cleaner that matches your emission type. Some cleaners only work for diesel, others for gasoline, and some both.

Step 2: Pour the cleaner into the fuel tank. Conform with the manufacturer's instructions on mixing ratio, and close the lid.

Step 3: Start the engine and drive around to circulate the solution in the catalytic converter. It's also essential to adhere to instructions on the label for the best results.

Some tips that can maximize the efficiency of the process include:

  • Drive the car in sports mode
  • Check the vehicle's temperature to prevent overheating
  • Drive the vehicle at over 3000rpm for ultimate heating and elimination of pollutants.
A blue car's exhaust pipe over a stone pavement.
The cleaning process done by a catalytic converter eliminates 98% of all the pollutants.

Cleaning Through Removal Method

You can use this method if the solution doesn't yield results or directly after assessing the level of clogging. The process is relatively technical but achievable using the right tools and knowledge.

Some of the tools you need include a large container to soak the exhaust system, a floor jack, pressure washer, penetrating oil, a wrench, oxygen sensor wrench, and a jack stand.

After gathering the necessary equipment, these are the steps you need to take:

Step1: If you drove recently, let the vehicle cool down, making it easy to work on the catalytic converter.

Step 2: Jack up the car to create working space underneath the vehicle. Use jack stands to keep the vehicle in position and block the wheels as a safety measure.

Step 3: Remove the oxygen sensors.

Step 4: Loosen all the bolts. If some are stuck, use penetrating oil, e.g., Forney 20857, to make the process easy.

Step 5: After unscrewing all the bolts, remove the system and inspect. If the converter is shaky, it's an indication of the need to replace it.

Step 6: If the system is intact, it's time to start the clean-up process. Start by cleaning the body of the converter, followed by a thorough clean-up of inlet and outlet pipes using a pressure washer on low PSI.

Step 7: Fill the large container with hot water and degreaser mixture and let it soak for an hour. After that, dry the system using a pressure washer.

Step 8: Reinstall the oxygen sensor and re-assemble the system back to the vehicle. Finally, run the engine and take the car for a drive to assess the improvements.

A point to note: If the catalytic converter is welded, it's prudent to consult a technician during the clean-up. An oil or coolant leak can give a false alarm to a damaged catalytic converter. Also, if the cleaning process fails to yield results, consider a replacement to keep the vehicle compliant and efficient.

Keep Your Catalytic Converter Clean Using Unlimited Products Available

The catalytic converter plays a vital role in checking the emission levels and efficiency of your engine. Therefore, it's crucial to conduct thorough and frequent clean-ups to boost longevity and achieve optimum performance. On that note, Product IQ is the ideal source for cleaning products and accessories. We work with over 70,000 retailers, which makes us the ideal site. Visit us to sample the products.

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