What Does a Catalytic Converter Do? (Detailed Analysis)

There are affiliate links on this article. If you make a purchase through any of the links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

As a car owner, you’ve heard pretty much stuff about catalytic converter (Cat) and how it can affect engine performance, but you really can’t wrap your mind around how it works. Well, the catalytic converter is a very important component you should be mindful of. But exactly what does a catalytic converter do?

The main function of the catalytic converter is to reduce the harmfulness of the emissions from the combustion chamber, and then pass them through the exhaust pipe.

But then, there are other functions a catalytic converter does, which we will look at below. If anything goes wrong with the converter, quite many other components might be affected. For example, a bad “cat” can cause fuel injector failure, engine misfiring, and damage to core internal engine components.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

Virtually every car on the road today has a catalytic converter; it is a very crucial exhaust component. Basically, a catalytic converter should last as long as your car still functions, but sometimes, due to several reasons, cat converters can fail.

When they fail, they become unable to carry out their major function, which can also affect your engine’s performance. Hereunder is a detailed explanation of how cat converters work.

What is a Catalytic Converter Made Of?

Catalytic converter theft keeps rising in some regions, and this is connected to the precious metals hidden inside the converter.

Yes, catalytic converters comprise platinum, palladium, and rhodium components. All these are precious metals and they’re quite costly. They work together as the “catalyst” inside the converter.

What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?

What Does a Catalytic Converter Do

Having known what a catalytic converter is and what it is made of, exactly what does a catalytic converter do?

A catalytic converter simply converts the harmful carbon fumes from the engine cylinders into less harmful fumes. Yes, the cat converter does not totally remove the harmfulness of the combusted carbon emissions coming from an engine; it only makes the emissions less harmful.

In order to perform its task efficiently, the catalytic converter is directly connected to the engine. So, when the exhaust valves open, the combusts/burn gases in the cylinders are released into the converter before continuing down the exhaust tailpipe.

Without this important component, your car would emit hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides directly into the atmosphere, which poses serious health hazards.

Can You Drive Without a Catalytic Converter?

Since it is not part of the internal components in the engine, yes, a car can run without a catalytic converter. Some people even remove this component when tuning their vehicle for better performance. But, removing this component is not advisable.

When you drive without a cat converter, the exhaust fumes coming out of your vehicle will be very harmful, and of course, your car would make a loud noise, which would draw the attention of everyone around, including the cops.

In some cities and regions, it is a punishable offense to drive without a catalytic converter or a muffler. Just as a “Cat” is an important exhaust component, the muffler is also essential; it helps to reduce exhaust noise and promote smooth driving.

Inside “Cats” are honeycomb meshes, which are what helps the converter to reduce the harmfulness of the burnt gases coming from the engine.

These honeycomb meshes can get clogged or damaged due to several possible reasons. When this happens, you need to unclog them or get a new catalytic converter.

Final Thoughts

Catalytic converters are on virtually all cars you see on the road today. Yes, they are important, and if yours go bad, you really should fix it back to enjoy smooth, hitch-free driving.

On one important note, a bad “Cat” can indirectly affect your engine, and over time, cause it to break down.

Scroll to Top