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Causes of Catalytic Converter Failure in Cars

Catalytic converters play an integral role in your vehicle’s overall function. While you might be able to drive under some circumstances where the catalytic converter is compromised or damaged, there are other potential scenarios where damage to this part can cause your vehicle to exhibit symptoms of serious problems. It is most important to keep up on maintenance and repair procedures; however, despite our best efforts, sometimes the catalytic converter can become damaged or worn anyway.

The catalytic converter is in a particularly vulnerable spot on most vehicles. Located beneath the car, about midway from the engine, the converter is susceptible to damage by large bumps and debris in the road—particularly in cars that are lower to the ground. There is a lot that can go wrong with a catalytic converter, and it’s important that your automotive specialist knows how to properly address the issue. Here is some more background information about catalytic converters, including troubling symptoms indicating failure, potential causes of the damage, and how you can prevent such issues in the future.

What is a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter is part of the exhaust/emissions system in a car. It’s main function is to convert harmful gasses that your engine produces into less-obtrusive emissions that meet environmental protective standards. All vehicles must have this protective mechanism installed, with the exception of older, classic cars produced before the 1970s.

Potential causes of failure

While there are many issues that can cause a catalytic converter to fail or malfunction, the greatest culprit of such problems is mileage and vehicle age. It’s important to keep in mind that, generally-speaking, simply replacing the converter won’t solve the problem entirely. There are, however, specific avenues that professional automotive specialists tend to follow when attempting to diagnose a problem with the catalytic converter; these are a few of them.

Faulty valve seals

Valve seals are designed to keep pressurized gasses intact within the exhaust and emission systems. When the seal fails or becomes degraded and compromised, it can cause significant performance issues related to the catalytic converter functioning.

Failing spark plugs

Spark plugs are necessary for the combustion process. When they aren’t functioning properly, it can cause fuel to leak into the converter. Not only is this dangerous, but it can cause significant damage to the converter.

Signs and symptoms of a failing converter

The signs and symptoms of a failing catalytic converter are not uncommon or unique—in other words, they mimic signs of other issues. Therefore, in order to properly diagnose catalytic converter failure it’s essential for the driver to monitor the symptoms closely so that the automotive professional can attempt to re-create the issue accurately.

Performance issues

Perhaps the most troubling sign of catalytic converter clogging or failure is a decrease in fuel efficiency. Depending on what type of car you drive and your typical driving habits, it might not be easy to recognize slight changes in fuel efficiency; however, any noticeable changes in gas mileage should be addressed immediately. Furthermore, you might experience exhaust and emission issues, such as not being able to pass a smog test.

Engine misfiring

Another concerning symptom of catalytic converter failure or clogs is engine misfiring and overheating. Although engine misfiring is typical of other automotive issues as well, it’s critical to have the issue properly diagnosed before spending money attending to only spark plugs or other areas of question.

What you can do to prevent problems

The best way to combat catalytic converter issues is to stay on top of routine maintenance procedures and to follow up on any troubling signs or symptoms you may notice. Here at Bay Diagnostic, we proudly serve the areas of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New York, NY. Attending to European imports like BMW, Land Rover, and Porsche, we have a specialized basis in automotive care and continue to educate ourselves and our clients on current procedures and automotive knowledge. If you are experiencing concerning symptoms in your vehicle performance and would like to schedule an inspection or diagnostic procedure, please call one of our professionals directly. We pride ourselves on our diagnostic skill, accuracy, and efficiency, which is critical when it comes to saving our clients time and money in repairs. For more information about our business philosophy, please get in touch!

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