The catalytic converter in your vehicle is responsible for getting rid of emission gases in a responsible way. When it isn’t working as intended, your vehicle could fail an emissions test.
The only option in most cases is to replace the catalytic converter. How much does a catalytic converter replacement cost, and is it worth you keeping the vehicle to repair?
In this guide, I cover the basics of the catalytic converter, and show you what it will cost to repair. I also discuss some signs that the catalytic converter needs to be replaced.
Table Of Contents show
How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost?
The average catalytic converter replacement cost is between $400 and $2,500, including both parts and labor. Despite the high cost, it’s not the labor that’s hurting your wallet. Rather, the catalytic converter makes up most of the cost, mainly because of the expensive materials used in the interior construction of the part.
Catalytic converter replacement can be one of the most expensive auto repair tasks. Depending on the value of your car, it might not be worth replacing the catalytic converter.
However, you can prevent the need for a new catalytic converter by maintaining your vehicle. If you get the spark plugs changed regularly and keep the engine running at its best, the catalytic converter will continue working as it was intended. It’s when you neglect your vehicle’s care that the catalytic converter starts to fail. If the Check Engine Light comes on, take it seriously and have it looked at.
RELATED: How to Clean a Catalytic Converter (Without Removing it)
Factors that Affect Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost
1. Vehicle Type
If you drive an older car, you might spend less to replace the catalytic converter. Older vehicles have cheaper catalytic converters, possibly only costing a few hundred dollars.
However, newer cars contain more sophisticated catalytic converters, which drastically increases the price. Additionally, if your vehicle has a dual exhaust system, there might be two catalytic converters to deal with.
2. Quality of New Part
As with any auto part, no two are created the same. You can find a generic catalytic converter that will get the job done, but it might not provide the best fit or superior materials.
A cheap catalytic converter won’t have the same level of precious metals inside, making it less efficient and not as durable. You will be replacing the catalytic converter again in the future. A higher-end catalytic converter can contain a density of six times the amount of materials when compared with a cheaper option.You may also notice a check engine light together with the P0420 code on your dashboard if you install a cheap catalytic converter.
3. Labor Expenses
As with any auto repair, the labor expense factors into what you will spend. If you can do the job yourself, you might save some money. However, replacing a catalytic converter isn’t normally a job to be done in a home garage.
It’s possible that the old catalytic converter needs to be cut off, with the new one being welded in its place. If you have a dual exhaust, you’ll need to perform the task twice.
Additionally, labor rates are different within every region. If you live in a city, you might spend more than your countryside neighbors. You will also pay more if you visit a dealership or specialized exhaust shop instead of using your local auto repair garage. Evaluate the pricing around you, but don’t choose a shop based on the cheapest rates. If the job takes them twice the time to complete, you could actually end up spending more.
4. Other Diagnostics/Repairs
When you take your vehicle to the auto repair shop, you have more expenses than just getting the catalytic converter replaced. You will also need to pay for any relevant diagnostic charges.
Aside from that, if there are other issues with the exhaust system, those repairs could also be added in. It’s possible for multiple systems or parts to fail at the same time, especially if another fault has caused the catalytic converter to go bad.
Symptoms of Bad Catalytic Converter
Here is a brief overview of the most common symptoms you may notice. Check our other article if you want a more detailed guide: 8 Symptoms of a Bad Catalytic Converter
1. Failed Emissions Test
Thirty-four states now require emissions testing. Sometimes, the first time that drivers recognize something is wrong is when their car fails its emissions test.
When the catalytic converter isn’t working right, the emissions aren’t going to be ideal for the environment. Because additional gases are getting pumped into the atmosphere, you won’t be able to pass the test until you have the catalytic converter replaced.
2. Check Engine Light
Another one of the earliest signs is when the Check Engine Light comes on. As the catalytic converter starts to fail, the oxygen sensors send a signal to the ECU, letting it know that there’s a problem.
When you use your code scanner to read the Check Engine Light, you should see where the problem lies. Replacing the catalytic converter and any other failed parts will be required to get the Check Engine Light off once again.
3. Rotten Egg Smell
If you smell rotten eggs in your car, it could be that you just left some trash in the cabin. However, it’s more likely that there’s a problem with the catalytic converter.
The rotten egg smell occurs because of hydrogen sulfide. When the catalytic converter is working as it should, this compound gets turned into sulfur dioxide, which doesn’t have any smell. However, when the compound comes out of the tailpipe without being properly converted, it leads to a terrible stench.
4. Poor Acceleration
As carbon builds up in the catalytic converter’s honeycomb design, it becomes impossible for it to continue converting gases as it should. This blockage creates poor performance, because the engine needs a good amount of airflow to be optimized.
The blockage leads to the wrong amount of backpressure, which can dramatically influence the overall airflow. The less airflow there is, the more the power is reduced. You will notice the lack of power the most when you attempt to accelerate.
5. Decreased Fuel Economy
When the catalytic converters backs up, it causes more than just poor performance. As the engine becomes starved of air, it can’t run efficiently.
The harder the engine needs to work, the more fuel it will go through. You will see reduced fuel economy, which only further hurts your pocket every time you need to fill the tank.
RELATED: How To Protect Your Car Against Catalytic Converter Theft
What is the Catalytic Converter?
The catalytic converter is part of your car’s exhaust system. It looks similar to a muffler, but it is constructed with different materials. Inside the catalytic converter, there’s a unique honeycomb-like structure that contains catalyst particles that interact with the exhaust gases. These particles can include rhodium, palladium and platinum.
The unburned hydrocarbons located in your car’s exhaust react with these materials in the catalytic converter. As the hydrocarbons are heated up, they break down into emissions that are less toxic and harmful to the environment. After the catalytic converter, these gases exit into the atmosphere through the tailpipe.
Can the Catalytic Converter Be Removed?
You might think that the most obvious solution is to simply take off the catalytic converter. Some people choose to do this and install a straight pipe, but is that the best solution? Yes, it makes for a cheaper repair, but there are reasons that it’s a terrible idea.
First of all, your car is going to fail emissions testing; there’s no way around it. Additionally, the car is going to dramatically suffer in terms of its performance and efficiency. On top of that, you are allowing more pollution to enter the environment, making you part of the problem.
The only real solution is to replace the catalytic converter. If the car isn’t worth the expense, then it’s time to get rid of it and buy a new one. Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to replacing the catalytic converter.
Categories:Estimator, Engine, Exhaust
For most modern cars, you can expect to pay around $300 – $1,650 (not including labor) for a new catalytic converter. However, these prices usually depend on the cost of the parts and local labor charges. For example, replacing a standard catalytic converter (CAT) in newer cars can cost between $500 and $2,200.What does it cost to replace the catalytic converter? ›
For direct-fit options, a replacement can cost anywhere from $300.00 to $2,500.00, depending on the model, for just the cost of the part. You should also think about labor costs, which could cost between $70 and $130 an hour to install the converter.Is it a big job to replace a catalytic converter? ›
Since replacing a catalytic converter can be such a big job, you may end up paying higher labour costs. The car needs to be lifted off the floor, and if the converter is welded or bolted to the car the mechanic may need to use specialist tools.Is it worth replacing a catalytic converter? ›
A failing catalytic converter will lead to incomplete combustion within the cylinder. This scenario affects the efficiency of the engine and may make it challenging for your car to start. Any time you notice engine misfires, you need to have your catalytic converter changed and replaced immediately.What happens to your car if you don t replace catalytic converter? ›
Yes, you could temporarily drive without a catalytic converter, and it won't damage a modern car or engine. But in the long run, it'll emit harmful gas, sacrifice your car's engine performance and fuel economy, and possibly get you in trouble with the law.What happens if your catalytic converter needs to be replaced? ›
Loss of Power. A faulty converter can restrict the flow of exhaust gases and result in a loss of power from the engine. A sluggish response when accelerating or driving at speed could be an indication that the cat has become clogged or damaged.Can I drive with a bad catalytic converter? ›
A Bad Catalytic Converter Can Burn Through Overtime
Most of the problems related to catalytic converters do not affect the function of your vehicle. If you have to deal with a fully plugged catalytic, avoid driving your car. If you notice smog coming from your car, it is best to seek professional help immediately.
Catalytic Converters are estimated to last at least 10 years, but they don't need to be swapped out as soon as those 10 years are up.Is catalytic converter easy to replace? ›
If it has been welded in position then you may not be able to remove it yourself. If you have access to the correct tools and are confident removing the converter then you will be able to continue with the replacement yourself. If not, you will need to take your car to a garage to have a professional look at it.What are 2 symptoms of a failed catalytic converter? ›
If you're noticing sluggish engine performance, reduced acceleration, a smell of rotten eggs or sulfur from the exhaust, dark exhaust smoke, or extreme heat coming from under the vehicle, these are symptoms of a clogged Catalytic Converter, and it should be repaired soon.
Cost to replace the catalytic converter of your car
So, why is this small part so expensive? Mainly because of the precious metals that are included in the converter, such as platinum, or platinum-like material such as palladium or rhodium. So, the more expensive the material, the more expensive it is to replace.
Small amounts of rhodium are also found within a catalytic converter. Rhodium, like platinum and palladium, is very rare and valuable. Even though the monolith is the most valuable part, recyclers are almost always buying the full converter and extract the ceramic themself in order to avoid depreciation or fraud.Is it better to clean or replace a catalytic converter? ›
If cleaning the catalytic converter with either method does not yield results, it is time to invest in a new converter. The cost of a replacement is high, but it ensures that your vehicle is safe and functional. Also, if you have an internal oil or coolant leak, cleaning may not help.How many miles does a catalytic converter usually last? ›
The average catalytic converter is designed to last about 100,000 miles, so if your car is nearing six figures on the odometer, chances are you need to give some thought to your catalytic converter.How often you will need to replace the catalytic converter for your car? ›
A new catalytic converter should last for around 10 years but, as with most other vehicle components, the exact lifespan can differ. Mileage and engine tune can impact on the durability of the item, so it's worth checking the condition after 50,000 miles.