It’s All About Science, Yeah, Science!
When your engine is running, it produces fumes that are passed through the exhaust system and through to the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter, which contains a honeycomb structure of precious metals and ceramic block, help filters the fumes into less-harmful chemicals.
The Culprits – Harmful Gases Produced
- Hydrocarbons – This is in the form of unburned gasoline
- Carbon Monoxide – Created by the combustion of gasoline
- Nitrogen Oxide – Produce when the engine’s heat forces nitrogen in the air to combine with oxygen.
The Winners – Converted Gases Exhausted
The harmful chemicals are converted into the following chemicals after the process:
- Carbon Dioxide & Water – Converted from the Hydrocarbons
- Carbon Dioxide – Converted from Carbon Monoxide, while it is still harmful, it is much less harmful than Carbon Monoxide
- Nitrogen & Oxygen – Converted from the Nitrogen Oxide, so they are separated back into the air
Those fumes are then passed through the honeycomb and ceramic that makes up the catalytic converter and are passed through the exhaust system with the less harmful fumes. See the video below on how an exhaust system works with various chemicals.
What Happens When They Breakdown?
When catalytic converters no longer work, they are difficult to diagnose by a mechanic without taking the whole unit off the car. Some telltale signs that your catalytic converter is failing is your car won’t go faster when you press the gas pedal or you see a large drop off in your gas mileage. If your catalytic converter breaks down and it is time to replace it, you can bring your old one to a scrap yard and usually get some good money for them.
What is a Catalytic Converter? – How Stuff Works
How do I know if my Catalytic Converter has failed? – How Stuff Works