The catalytic converter is an integral part of the exhaust system of modern cars. This mechanical device helps to reduce the harmful emissions that the car emits when the engine is running, converting them into harmless compounds that do not pollute the air.
Why is the catalyst clogged?
The catalyst is designed to operate efficiently for up to ten years, but for a number of reasons it can always fail long before that. In fact, there can be really many reasons.
Since the catalytic converter is located between the engine and is part of the exhaust system, operates at very high temperatures and is attached to the underside of the vehicle, it is often subject to various external and internal influences that can clog or damage it.
What are the symptoms of a clogged catalyst?
You can take care of your car's catalytic converter in time if you recognize the main symptoms that indicate clogging.
Decreased performance or engine downtime during operation
If you notice that your engine is running intermittently even if you pressed the accelerator pedal, it could be due to a problem with the catalytic converter. When the catalytic converter is clogged or blocked, it prevents gases from flowing through it and creates back pressure in the exhaust system, which affects engine performance and performance.
Overheating due to heatstroke
Thermal shock is usually the result of a very rich fuel mixture that contains unburned fuel. This mixture enters the catalyst, burns directly in it, melts the substrate and causes clogging of the converter.
To check if your catalytic converter is okay, you need to look at what the oxygen sensor in the exhaust pipe shows to see if the fuel mixture is rich or lean. Another way to check this is to inspect the outside of the catalyst for visible damage. If you notice a color change or distortion in the hull, this means you should visit the workshop as your catalyst is most likely clogged due to heatstroke / shock.
Exhaust fumes smell like rotten eggs (sulfur)
If for some time you have sensed that the gases coming out of your car's exhaust system smell like rotten eggs, 99,9% of the time this means that you have a problem with the catalytic converter. The gases smell strongly of sulfur are caused by improper mixing of the fuel or improper treatment of the exhaust gases. Unfortunately, this symptom appears rather late, and in very few cases it is possible to restore the catalyst.
Increased fuel consumption
An increase in fuel consumption is one of the main symptoms that indicate that the catalyst may be clogged. The reason for the increase in fuel consumption is that the catalytic converter is clogged and cannot maintain the optimum temperature for converting harmful gases into harmless ones.
In an attempt to restore optimal temperature and converter operation, the oxygen injection system (oxygen sensor) automatically increases the oxygen supply, but it does not reach the engine and works harder and uses more fuel.
This is one of the most common symptoms of a clogged catalyst and luckily you can check it yourself with a very simple test. You only need one person to ask him to hold the car between 1800 and 2000 rpm.
During this time, you just need to move your hand closer to the muffler (be careful not to burn yourself) and check the fumes from the pipe. If even from a distance you can sense that the exhaust gases are hot, this means that the catalyst is clogged.
Plugged catalyst symptoms
Antifreeze and engine oil entering the engine can sometimes interfere with the proper functioning of the catalytic converter. If this happens, you will significantly increase the level of carbon dioxide emissions from the vehicle's exhaust system. Not only can you smell sulfur, but the smoke from the exhaust can be too dark.
If you find such a problem, you must take immediate action and replace the clogged or damaged catalytic converter before it damages the entire exhaust system and emits large amounts of harmful emissions.
Check Engine lights up on the dashboard
You know that the operation of the catalytic converter is controlled by two oxygen sensors. One sensor is located in front of the catalytic converter and the other is located behind it. If any of the sensors detect a drop in pressure, improper gas handling, or other problem, the dashboard lights will illuminate and alert you to a problem with the catalytic converter.
How to check if the catalyst is really blocked?
If you already know what the symptoms of a clogged catalyst are, but still want to make sure you really have a problem, there are several ways you can do it.
The first way that we highly recommend you is to take your car to a specialized service where you can check the catalyst. The price you pay to perform the test is not at all high and you will receive extremely accurate and truthful information about the condition of the catalyst.
If you want to test the catalyst yourself, you will need an endoscope camera or a conventional pressure gauge.
The endoscopic camera is a tiny camera with a light and a long flexible wire. To test a catalytic converter with it, you have to unscrew the upper sensor (in front of the catalytic converter) and insert the chamber into the hole. Then you can see what state the cells are in. If it is not clogged with soot or something else, then on the one hand everything is in order, but on the other hand it should be checked. Unscrew the second sensor in the same way, insert the camera and see if everything is ok on this side.
If you don't have a full box of endoscopic cameras on hand and don't feel like spending money on it, you can use a pressure gauge to check. Checking is done by unscrewing the top sensor, installing a special adapter and turning the pressure gauge. When starting the engine and maintaining about 2500 - 3000 rpm, if the catalytic converter is in order, the pressure gauge should show a pressure of 0,3 kgf / cm2. If the pressure is not within these limits, it means that your catalyst is most likely clogged, broken, or melted.
Another way to determine if the catalyst is working is to perform the following simple test. Take out the oxygen sensors for a while and tour the area. If you notice a clear change in your vehicle's performance, it means the catalytic converter is clogged or about to break.
How long can you drive if your catalytic converter is clogged?
The good news is that driving with a clogged catalytic converter is not very dangerous and there is no danger of other vehicle damage or accidents.
The bad thing is that even if it is not dangerous, if you drive your car for a long time with a faulty catalytic converter, it will reduce its performance, it will lose power, start to fail, and increase fuel consumption. Worst of all, a clogged catalyst will not be able to properly convert harmful gases and will release more and more harmful emissions into the air.
Whereas in recent years the checks for the presence of a catalytic converter have been strengthened and that you can get a fine if you don't have one or it is clogged, it becomes more than obvious that the idea of driving for a long time with a faulty catalyst is simply not worth it. this.
Replacing the catalytic converter
Unlike many other automotive components that you can replace yourself if your catalytic converter is clogged or completely defective, it makes more sense to go to a specialized service center. This will ensure the removal, testing and replacement of the catalytic converter (if necessary) in accordance with all specifications. After replacing the catalytic converter, the workshop will test the device again, taking into account its efficiency and measuring the level of exhaust gas emissions.
Clogged catalyst symptoms
Of course, if you know well how the car works and have the necessary tools, you can try to replace the catalytic converter yourself.
To do this, you need to raise the car to a comfortable working position, unscrew the screws that secure the catalytic converter to the muffler, and put the new converter in place. After installing it, it is necessary to measure the emission level.