How Long Do Catalytic Converters Last?

How Long Do Catalytic Converters Last

The enormous metal box with two pipes coming out of it that is mounted and attached underneath your automobile is the catalytic converter. Another component of a car that transforms harmful emissions into safe gas is the catalytic converter. 

In order to remove hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other harmful substances from exhaust emissions, modern vehicles rely on catalytic converters. 

The catalytic converter depends on pricey, precious metals with unique chemical properties to accomplish its task efficiently. This article will discuss catalytic converters and how long you can expect them to last in your vehicle.

Who Was The Catalytic Converter’s Inventor?

What is said to be the earliest catalytic converter model in the United States was patented by French engineer Eugene Houdry. In 1950, he submitted the invention.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Catalytic Converter?

The catalytic converter has a ten-year or longer lifespan. Replacement of the part should only occur when necessary. 

The catalytic converter is susceptible to physical damage, contamination with oils or engine coolant, and even clogging with time. Overheating of the catalytic converter is another possibility.

What Materials Make Up A Catalytic Converter?

The catalyst is made of platinum or a metal that resembles platinum. It might also contain palladium or rhodium.

How Does A Catalytic Converter Function?

Prior to when catalytic converters were designed, waste gases generated by a motor engine just came right down its exhaust pipe and into the atmosphere. 

The catalytic converter, which is located between the exhaust pipe and the engine, performs more functions than only serving as a filter. 

Consider a catalytic converter as a device that takes the exhaust gases and rearranges their atoms to alter their chemical composition. 


  • Polluting gas atoms are propelled through the honeycomb catalyst by the engine before entering the atmosphere.
  • Metals like platinum, rhodium, or palladium are used to create the catalyst.
  • The catalyst breaks down molecules into their constituent atoms.

What Are The Three Most Common Catalytic Converter Failures?

One of a car’s most essential parts is the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter, which is made of priceless metals and is in charge of eliminating hazardous pollutants, occasionally has problems. 

One would anticipate that the catalytic converter can continue to be strong and long-lasting since it has no moving parts. However, despite their design, catalytic converters can malfunction.

Read about a few of the most typical issues with them below:

  • Spark plugs or wires that are defective – Unburned fuel is forced into your car’s exhaust system by spark plugs which misfire or just don’t fire at all. 

This unburned fuel may fire inside the catalytic converter, which might cause the ceramic catalyst to completely or partially melt since the converter can get quite hot.

  • Oil or antifreeze getting into the exhaust system – The dense ash and carbon that is produced whenever antifreeze or oil enter a car’s exhaust system covers and blocks the air passageways inside the ceramic catalyst of a converter. 

There are now two problems. The first is carbon buildup, which prevents a catalytic converter from performing its function of filtering out hazardous emissions from the exhaust flow. 

The second problem is that once the ceramic catalyst’s pores are blocked, the exhaust flow is restricted, which raises backpressure. 

How Long Do Catalytic Converters Last (1)

This causes heat and exhaust to build up inside the engine of your car while it is in motion. This can result in internal engine damage due to the backup of excess pressure.

  • Oxygen sensor issues – An oxygen sensor that isn’t working properly could give your car’s computer erroneous exhaust gas readings. Inadequate fuel mixtures, which can be either too thin or too rich, can be caused by inaccurate sensor readings. 

The catalyst may melt due to fuel combustion in the converter if the fuel mixture is excessively rich. 

The converter may not be able to remove chemicals and hazardous gases if the mixture is too lean. Additionally, your vehicle may fail the yearly state vehicle inspection and the emissions test.

What Takes Place When A Catalytic Converter Fails?

There are some clear indicators that start to emerge when a catalytic converter is starting to fail. Here are a few of the most typical signs of a failing catalytic converter:

  • You experience a check engine light – The first and sometimes only indication of a failing catalytic converter is when the check engine light illuminates. 

Your car’s ECM, or engine control module, will store a diagnostic fault code in its memory as soon as that light illuminates.

  • Poor engine performance – A catalytic converter may occasionally become constrained or blocked, which will lead to an excessive amount of exhaust backpressure. 

This pressure will stifle the engine and eventually cause performance problems (see also ‘How To Fix A Knocking Rod‘), such as lack of power and stalling.

  • Your car isn’t starting – A severely constrained catalytic converter may be able to generate enough exhaust backpressure to prevent the engine from starting.
  • Emissions test fails – The job of a catalytic converter is to remove hazardous pollutants from your car’s engine. A state emissions test may be quickly failed if your converter is broken.

How Can I Make My Catalytic Converter Last Longer?

Maintaining your catalytic converter in functioning order is in your best interest because it may be highly expensive to fix or replace one. There are various ways to maintain your catalytic converter’s effectiveness and efficiency while preventing expensive repairs:

Final Thoughts

Due to being overly blocked, a catalytic converter might have to be removed. Oil reaching the cylinders and combusting inside the hot catalytic converter could be the cause of your catalytic converter being clogged. 

You must stop the inner oil leak if this is the situation. Ultimately, it could be preferable to remove a catalytic converter than to clean it. If you don’t remove the catalytic converter to diagnose the problems, you can have difficulties that can’t be fixed.

Dave Oliver

Dave Oliver is a seasoned car modification expert with over twenty years of experience in the field. His knowledge spans from restoring vintage models to implementing the latest customization technologies. He brings his passion and expertise to life through informative and engaging articles.

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