What You Must Know About Catalytic Converters

Toyota Highlander
The high profile of most SUVs and trucks makes stealing a catalytic converter an easier task for brazen thieves.

Just about every vehicle sold in the United States must come equipped with a catalytic converter, a device which helps to convert noxious and polluting gases into low emissions carbon dioxide and water. Though the widespread use of catalytic converters has done a wonderful job in cutting down on air pollution, there are some cautions motorists must consider with this technology, a part which works quietly with your vehicle’s exhaust system. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about your car’s catalytic converter.

Nixon Administration Initiative

Known in the automotive parts industry as “catcon” or simply as “cat,” catalytic converters began to show up on passenger vehicles in 1975. The Nixon Administration, which founded the Environmental Protection Agency, was behind the Clean Air Act, legislation designed to manage the air pollution problem impacting our nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since then, catcons have been added to trucks, buses, forklifts, and a host of other transportation vehicles.

As helpful as catalytic converters can be, problems with these devices can occur. Other than possible clogging or failure, which typically goes unnoticed until your vehicle fails its next DMV inspection, the intense heat associated with this device can cause problems.

Specifically, if you tinker with your own vehicle, you must permit your car to cool down completely before working in the vicinity of the exhaust system. Catalytic converters can get as hot as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, thus any burns sustained from touching a hot catcon can be extremely painful, possibly even lethal.

Potential Fire Hazard

Car owners have also discovered that a catalytic converter can be a fire hazard. Since 1975, fire department have found that many automotive fires have been started because a motorist parked a car over dry leaves. Even with the engine turned off a hot catcon can emit sparks which can ignite leaves underneath. Should that unfortunate event happen, your car could be devoured by flames within minutes and destroyed.

Additionally, there are dangers to the catalytic converter itself. The fact that the unit burns at such hot temperatures means that they can suffer rapid thermal deactivation. Some experts suggest switching to synthetic engine oil to help reduce phosphorous contaminants which are a known contributor to failure.

By law, you may not remove your catcon without risk of being subjected to legal action. Thieves love to steal catalytic converters which are easily removed from cars and can be resold for a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, the resultant damage that may occur can be extensive including harm done to your electrical system or fuel line.

Keeping Air Clean

Overall, catalytic converters have benefited society tremendously by helping to keep our air clean. Like any part associated with your car, knowing its capabilities, cautions, and limitations is essential to keeping you and your passengers safe.

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Matthew Keegan
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