Last Updated on February 20, 2024
A catalytic converter is a crucial component of the vehicle’s exhaust system. And like any automotive part, it can start to malfunction or fail altogether. If you are on a tight budget, you might be wondering what is the cheapest way to fix a catalytic converter?
To fix a catalytic converter on a budget, cleaning it is the first and cheapest step. If that doesn’t work, check warranty coverage, explore aftermarket parts, and browse online classifieds or forums for used converters being sold by others.
If you suspect a catalytic converter problem due to a clogged converter, there may be a chance to restore its functionality by cleaning it. Nonetheless, if the converter is irreparably damaged, you will need to replace it.
The good news is that there are a few tips that can help you save your hard-earned bucks. So, let’s jump into what’s the cheapest way to fix catalytic converter.
What is The Cheapest Way to Fix Catalytic Converter That is Clogged?
There are two cost-effective approaches to fixing a catalytic converter that is dirty. The first option, and the cheapest, is to run a few bottles of catalytic converter cleaner through the fuel tank.
The second, and much more involved process is to remove the converter and soak the catalyst materials in cleaner.
Let’s take a look at each option.
Using Catalytic Converter Cleaner
If the catalytic material isn’t excessively dirty, you can add the converter cleaner to a fuel tank that is only about ¼ full. After a certain amount of miles, the cleaner circulates through the exhaust system cleaning the precious metals inside the converter.
Catalytic converter cleaner, when added to the fuel tank, helps remove carbon deposits from the catalytic converter. This quick fix improves emissions, fuel efficiency, and potentially restoring some lost engine performance.
This method typically requires an investment of only $8 to $20.
Truth be told, catalytic converter cleaner should be used every 3,000 miles to keep from having catalytic converter issues. This is particularity the case if your vehicle consumes oil, requiring frequently oil changes.
Soaking Converter in Cleaner
If running a few bottles of catalytic converter cleaner doesn’t yield satisfactory results, you may need to remove the catalytic converter from the car and clean it manually. Typically this is not a DIY car repair, and you will need to seek a professional mechanic.
But, by soaking the catalytic material overnight in a bucket of laundry detergent or Purple Power, the cleaner will break down and dissolve deposits.
Submerging the converter in a cleaning solution could save you hundreds of dollars compared to purchasing a brand-new one. Not to mention helping pass smog tests.
What Are The Signs of a Clogged Catalytic Converter?
If you experience sluggish engine performance, diminished acceleration, a foul odor resembling rotten eggs or sulfur emitting from the exhaust, excessive dark exhaust smoke, or intense heat emanating from beneath the vehicle, these signs indicate a blocked Catalytic Converter.
Other Cheap Ways to Fix Catalytic Converter
Sometimes, the problem is not with your catalytic converter, but with the oxygen sensor. The element is typically mounted directly onto the exhaust pipe, next to the catalytic converter.
Both of these elements can trigger the ‘check engine’ light and might make it difficult for you to start the engine.
However, replacing the oxygen sensor is a lot cheaper than taking care of the catalytic converter (the element would cost you $20-$100). So, it might be worth inspecting the sensor before spending a thousand dollars on the converter.
It the converter needs to be replaced, purchasing an aftermarket unit will be the cheapest route to take. Auto parts stores such as Autozone, RockAuto, and Advanced Auto provide plenty of affordable options.
In fact, aftermarket catalytic converters often cost 20% to 50% less than OEM units installed by car manufacturers.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Catalytic Converter?
Check Engine Light
There are several signs that indicate potential issues with a vehicle’s engine and exhaust system. One of the most common indicators is a triggered ‘check engine‘ light displayed on the dashboard. This warning light serves as an early signal that something might be wrong and requires attention.
Reduced Power While Driving
Another indication of engine problems is reduced performance and efficiency. If you notice that your vehicle is not running as smoothly as before or experiencing a decrease in power, it could be a sign of underlying engine issues.
Smoke or Smoke of Unusual Colors Coming From The Exhaust
Unusual smoke coming from the exhaust is also a cause for concern. If you observe an excessive amount of smoke or notice smoke of unusual colors, it may indicate problems with the engine or the exhaust system.
A Strange Rotten Egg Smell
Pay attention to any strange odors, particularly the smell of rotten eggs. Such odors could be a sign of a malfunctioning catalytic converter, which is responsible for reducing harmful emissions.
Additionally, abnormal sounds coming from the catalytic converter can be indicative of a problem. These noises may suggest that the internal components of the converter are damaged or deteriorating.
Keep in mind, a catalytic converter heat shield rattle will not affect the performance of the convertor. So if you notice that the heat shield is lose, it can either be removed or welded back on.
Failed Emission Test
Lastly, a failed emissions test is a clear indication that your vehicle is not meeting the required environmental standards. This failure typically points to issues within the engine or exhaust system that need to be addressed.
If you encounter any of these signs, it is advisable to have your vehicle inspected by your local mechanic. Ignoring these warning signs could potentially lead to further damage and more expensive repairs down the line.
Are Catalytic Converters Worth Fixing?
Fixing your car’s catalytic converter is usually worth it, as it is much cheaper to fix than replace. Cleaners can be purchased for less than $30 dollars at a local auto parts store.
Now compare that to the average catalytic converter replacement cost of $300 to $2,500, according to AutoZone.
Is it Bad to Keep Driving With a Bad Catalytic Converter?
Driving with a faulty catalytic converter can cause several problems. It can reduce your vehicle’s performance, making it less powerful and fuel-efficient. It can also lead to higher emissions, which might make your vehicle fail emissions tests and result in fines.
Moreover, a bad catalytic converter can potentially damage your engine and trigger the check engine light, leading to reduced fuel efficiency. Ignoring the issue can result in more extensive damage and expensive repairs.
Final Thoughts: Cheapest Way to Fix Catalytic Converter
The cheapest way to fix catalytic converter is by giving it a good clean. Furthermore, a faulty oxygen sensor can sometimes have the same symptoms as a failed converter. And in such a case, all you would have to do is simply replace the sensor.
And if you need a new catalytic converter, the best avenue may be to check your warranty coverage or explore aftermarket parts as they are often significantly cheaper than OEM replacements.