What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?

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The modern automotive exhaust system is much more advanced than what was available even just a couple of decades ago. After recognizing that the average automobile was one of the primary sources of global pollution, the US government enacted the Clean Air Act, requiring that all vehicles manufactured after that date had to have an operational catalytic converter, among other important components. Your “cat” sits inline in the exhaust system of your car, quietly working away and reducing harmful emissions.

What’s it do?

The catalytic converter has one job: to reduce harmful emissions in your car’s exhaust to help mitigate pollution. It uses a catalyst (actually more than one) to convert harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides into harmless substances. The catalyst might be one of three metals, or a combination of the three:

  • Platinum
  • Palladium
  • Rhodium

Some catalytic converter manufacturers are now adding gold to the mix, because it’s actually cheaper than the other three metals, and can offer better oxidation of some chemicals.

What’s oxidation?

Oxidation is used in this sense to mean “burning.” Essentially, the catalyst heats up to very high temperatures. These temperatures combine with the unique properties of the metals used as catalysts to create a chemical change in the unwanted substances. By altering the chemical composition, they’re made harmless.

Carbon monoxide (which is poisonous) becomes carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxides are split apart into nitrogen and oxygen, two naturally occurring elements in the atmosphere anyway. Hydrocarbons left over from unburned fuel are turned into water and carbon dioxide.


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Eladio

8 years of experience
128 reviews
Eladio
8 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio arrived at the scheduled time and was great to work with. He was very professional and I am very satisfied with his work. This was my first time using YourMechanic and I am very pleased with how easy and convenient this service has been from start to finish. Definitely would recommend.
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Greensboro, North Carolina
Eladio was on time, expedient, and very professional. Very pleased with provided service (brake shoes replacement).

Chris

13 years of experience
107 reviews
Chris
13 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Port Richey, Florida
CHRIS IS THE BEST MECHANIC I HAVE EVER MEET IN MY LIFE. HE IS HONEST AND HE KNOWS HIS STUFF. VERY PROFESSIONAL AND KNOWLEDGEABLE. THANK YOU CHRIS!!!

Pardeep

19 years of experience
587 reviews
Pardeep
19 years of experience
Dodge Caravan - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Pradeep was early to my appointment and during his work he showed me that I didn’t need rear brake shoes saving me money.He cleaned and serviced the existing shoes and he also adjusted my parking brake cable. Great job. I will always use Your mechanic for any car repairs.

Oreste

12 years of experience
117 reviews
Oreste
12 years of experience
Dodge Avenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Miami, Florida
Orestes is very professional. He explained what was done to my vehicle and suggested upcoming maintenance needed. Great person

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