How Do Catalytic Converters Work?

how do catalytic converters workA Catalytic Converter is one of the most valuable parts of scrap within your vehicle, however it is one of the most important for the environment too. The catalytic converter is valuable for the previous metals that make up the inside of it, however those valuable metals have a large part of the filtering less harmful emissions that come from your car.

It’s All About Science, Yeah Science!

So a catalytic converter has a good name considering it works as a catalyst for the harmful fumes and emissions that are produced from your car’s engine. While the fumes and pollution that come from your car are still harmful like, Carbon Dioxide it is much better than the gases like Carbon Monoxide and Hydrocarbons.

When your engine is running, it produces a number of fumes that are then passed through the exhaust system and through to the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter, which contains a honeycomb structure made up of precious metals and ceramic block, help filters the fumes into less-harmful chemicals.

The Culprits – Harmful Gases Produced

The harmful fumes created by engines are:
  • Hydrocarbons – This is in the form of unburned gasoline
  • Carbon Monoxide – Created by the combustion of gasoline
  • Nitrogen Oxide – Produce when the heat of the engine forces nitrogen in the air to combine with oxygen.
science behind catalytic convertersOnce the fumes begin to go through the catalytic converter they hit the first set of honeycomb that is made up from palladium and platinum which convert the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. They are then filtered through the ceramic and placed through another honeycomb of precious metals. This one is made up from palladium and rhodium which converts the nitrogen oxide, which is a large producer of smog.

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 the Carbon Monoxide, while it is still harmful, it is much less than 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 is passed through the exhaust system with the less harmful fumes. See the video below on how an exhaust system works with the various chemicals.

What Happens When They Breakdown?

When catalytic converters no longer work, they are difficult to diagnose by a mechanic without actually taking the whole unit off of 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 get it replaced, you can bring your old one to a scrap yard and usually get some good money for them.

scrapping catalytic converters

Not all scrap yards purchase them because they are difficult to classify for the correct price. The range of prices can be from $5 all the way up to $200 per catalytic converter. Find your local scrap yard through the iScrap App and ask them if they accept catalytic converters. If not, you may want to ask around if they know any auto body shops that do.

Sources:
What is a Catalytic Converter? – How Stuff Works
How do I know if my Catalytic Converter has failed? – How Stuff Works


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