There are a couple of known signs telling you that you’re driving with a clogged catalytic converter in your car. Today’s we’ll talk about the most common symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter that make it go rogue and turn against you. By the way, do you know that a clogged catalytic converter can boil up to a temperature of over 650 degrees Celsius (that’s about 1200 degrees Fahrenheit)? That’s like a lot of heat! Not to mention it’s a very bad (and dangerous) thing, because with all that heat the transmission fluid starts to boil as well.

Furthermore, your whole transmission system can break down, the clutch can easily slip, and, finally, the RPM can go ballistic on you. Yeah, those are probably one of the worst symptoms of a bad catalytic converter! And so, if you don’t want your engine blowing up (I hope not) and costing you a pretty penny, I suggest you take your time and really get your head around this. And also keep your eyes open for signs of a blocked catalytic converter, a partially clogged catalytic converter, and other misfortunes that could happen with the engine.

See also some posts of mine:

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Full guide How to change the oil in your car
Article about the cost of fixing an oil leak
The post about vacuum leak repair cost
Coolant leak repair cost – the article
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Keeping your old car healthy

What’s It All About: Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter

Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter photo

Ok, so, every driver with some experience behind his/her back knows that a catalytic converter is a vital part of the exhaust system of a modern-day vehicle. Basically, what it does is it helps in confirming your car’s performance with the emission standards. The converter is located right between the exhaust pipe and the car’s engine. Let’s get a bit into the techy stuff: the converter’s inner spongy (honeycombed, rather) structure consists of ceramic, and is “equipped” with platinum and/or palladium in order to effectively clean out the fumes of burned out fuel. This may sound like complicated stuff, but it really isn’t. Converters have been around for quite some time now, proving their worth every day out on the streets.

Early Troubles In Paradise

Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter photo

The catalytic converter is called that because it “converts” those really bad fumes (including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons) into innoxious compounds of water, oxygen, etc. Normally, the basic warranty for a converter is at least 10 full years, but usually they serve a lot longer than that. So, you shouldn’t really be bothered with clogged catalytic converter symptoms unless you’ve been driving the same car with the same engine for the last 15 to 20 years. However, one way or the other, the converter can cause you inconveniences long before that timeline; to be fair, I gotta say, that it gives more than enough warning signals – you just gotta be able to listen to them.

Symptoms Of A Bad Catalytic Converter

Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter photo

I don’t think I’ll surprise you if I say that any instrument or machine – no matter how solid and sturdy – will eventually break down one day if it is made to work under pressure. The catalytic converter is initially designed to work at very high temperatures, cleaning out the fumes. However, when the converter gets clogged or damaged, that will immediately have an effect on the performance of your car. Symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter are not that hard to notice if you know your way around a vehicle. You don’t even have to be a mechanic or anything, just an experienced driver.

The Obvious Signs Of Trouble

Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter pic

If you’re not really into all that techy engine stuff, then you should know that a definite sign that something’s wrong with your engine (the catalytic converter, to be exact) is the obvious loss of power when going up-hill. If your engine starts groaning, roaring and conquering that small hill with too much of a struggle, then something’s wrong with your converter – for sure. One of the most easy-to-notice and in-your-face clogged catalytic converter symptoms is reduction in fuel economy. Even if you’re not a pro at all the mechanical stuff, you’ll feel that drop in MPG immediately. If you do, don’t hesitate to visit the nearest service center – the sooner the better.

Thermal Shock And Overheating

Symptoms Of A Clogged Catalytic Converter photo. clogged catalytic converter symptoms

Look for visible damaged on the exterior surface. Warping and/or change of color of the catalytic converter’s housing are signs of thermal damage due to overheating. That usually happens when too rich of a fuel mixture leaks through the converter which is full of unburned fuel. What happens next is this deadly mixture starts burning up in the converter and slowly but steadily melts the substrate, which results into clogging.

Thermal shock could also happen if the steaming hot converter comes into contact with cold water (or ice) – another clogging scenario. I don’t want to get too much into technical stuff, because that’s not the point here. The point is – thermal shock in the catalytic converter is probably the most dangerous of all the symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter. So, as I said in the beginning, have your car checked immediately if you so much as suspect that something’s wrong with your converter (or the engine in general).

Clogged Catalytic Converter Symptoms: Rattling Noise And Bad Smell

clogged catalytic converter symptoms photo - I talk about cars

Sometimes (rarely, but still) stones and all kinds of scrap on the road can hit the converter and severely damage it. This kind of damage is actually visible from the outside. If the converter is cracked or broken then you’ll hear rattling-like noise if you thump on it. If you leave it be and don’t treat the problem properly, over the period of time you’ll have a clogging converter in your hands. And it will eventually result in exhaust system back-pressure, and you don’t want that.

If you’re looking for one of the oldest and easiest to notice clogged catalytic converter symptoms, here it is: if the fumes from the exhaust smell really-really bad (like rotten eggs bad), then there can be no doubt about it – your converter needs help! So, if you’re wondering whether the bad performance of your car is a result of a clogged converter, try smelling the fumes.

Sounds stupid, I know, and the flavor is not very compelling, but this method works 100%. So, what causes the odor? Wrong mix of fuel. Unfortunately, this symptom tends to reveal itself at the very end, when there’s nothing you can do. If you notice this problem at a late date, you can kiss your catalytic converter goodbye. Because pretty much no mechanic out there will be able to repair clogged catalytic converter at such a “rusty” state, so, be ready to cash in for a new one.

Got some ideas on how to detect symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter? Do tell! Share your knowledge in the comments section below.

Watch this video on How To Diagnose A Bad Catalytic Converter: