Catalytic converters are an essential part of making cars safer for the environment. But do all cars have catalytic converters?
All cars manufactured after 1974 have a catalytic converter. It’s an important component of a car’s exhaust system because they reduce emissions of harmful compounds found in car exhaust. As part of the 1970 Clean Air Act, all vehicles are required by law to have a catalytic converter.
Ever since 1974, catalytic converters have been mandatory in all cars. But why is this? What sparked this necessity?
The answer lies in the environment and how automobiles contribute to pollution levels and global warming. In order to reduce smog and toxic waste that contributes to climate change, cars were outfitted with catalytic converters to minimize exhaust emissions.
In the 1970s Congress took decisive action to address public concern about air pollution. The Clean Air Act of 1970 established standards for clean and healthy air.
As part of the Clean Air Act, it required all cars to have a catalytic converter to reduce harmful emissions. This was an important step towards improving air quality and the environment.
Currently, catalytic converters are common features on passenger vehicles.
There’s a lot you might not know about this simple, yet highly important part of the car. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about catalytic converters, and whether all cars have them.
What Cars Have Catalytic Converters?
All internal combustion engine cars manufactured after 1974 will have a catalytic converter. Some vehicles with dual exhaust systems might feature two catalytic converters instead of just one.
In fact, many modern cars also have a pre-catalytic converter to help aid in the cleaning of harmful emissions on cold start-up.
Legally speaking, all cars are required to meet emissions standards, which is impossible to do without a catalytic converter.
In addition, this piece of equipment is essential for filtering out harmful compounds from your car’s exhaust. They effectively convert 90% of destructive toxic by-products of fuel into less hazardous substances.
What Cars Don’t Have Catalytic Converters?
The only cars that don’t have catalytic converters fall into one of the three categories: classic cars, electric vehicles, and cars being driven illegally.
Of course, the catalytic converter hasn’t been around as long as automobiles have, although early prototypes span back to the 19th century.
It wasn’t until lead, which prevented the chemical reaction required for catalytic converters to work properly, was removed from gas. At which point, manufacturers were obligated to install catalytic converters.
Efforts going back as far as the ‘70s expressed concerns about car emissions, and when lead was removed, manufacturers had no excuse.
As such, classic cars, which predate these manufacturing standards, might not feature a catalytic converter.
Electric vehicles don’t use internal combustion to power the vehicle — it’s more like a ginormous battery. So there’s no need for a catalytic converter.
Cars Being Driven Illegally
If a catalytic converter is stolen or removed, the car will still run. Some people may choose to remove the converter to amplify the exhaust noises. In both scenarios, it’s illegal to drive without a catalytic converter.
How Long Does a Catalytic Converter Last?
Long term durability is an important factor in the design of catalytic converters, and typically these parts last up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
Beyond that time frame, the mechanisms within the converter may start to fail or become clogged which may necessitate a replacement.
Do Catalytic Converters Require Maintenance?
Catalytic converters offer the advantage of not having any moving parts, meaning no maintenance or servicing is required.
As a result, this makes cat converters cost effective and long-lasting as well as guaranteeing improved longevity of a vehicle’s overall life span.
Do Hybrid Cars Have Catalytic Converters?
Yes, Hybrids require catalytic converters since they rely on a gasoline engine in combination with an electric motor for power.
As a general rule, all cars that run on gasoline require catalytic converters. So, even though hybrid cars run on gasoline and electricity interchangeably, they still require catalytic converters.
What is The Future of Catalytic Converters?
Recent breakthroughs in catalytic convertor technology anticipate increased performance and durability.
Manufacturers have developed designs that require fewer rare materials to operate. As innovation drives the next generation of catalytic converters, extended service life also becomes a more tangible reality.
These breakthroughs in design will lead to greater sustainability, and reduce the need for rare metals such as: Platinum (Pt), Palladium (Pd), and Rhodium (Rh). and contributing to environmental progress.
All gas-powered vehicles produced after 1974 feature catalytic converters, except for electric vehicles. Hybrids also require catalytic converters, since they rely on a gasoline engine in combination with an electric motor for power.
However, many classic vehicles manufactured before the 1970 Clean Air Act took effect still feature an exhaust design without a converter.
Now you should know a bit more about catalytic converters and why all vehicles are required by law to have them. And, next time someone asks why hybrids need a converter when they don’t use gas all the time, you can drop some knowledge on them!
Loves anything with a motor and wheels.
Christopher is an automotive technical writer. When he’s not at the local autocross event, he can often be found working on one of his cars. Specializes in automotive class action law, industry trends, and automotive maintenance. Email me direct, or learn more about us