Are Catalytic Converters Really That Important?


You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘catalytic converter,’ and you probably recognize it as a component on your vehicle, but you may not be familiar with what the device does or why it’s essential to the vehicle.

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Most people know that cars and trucks produce carbon dioxide. Of course, in a perfect world, water and carbon dioxide are the only byproducts of combustion, but everyone knows that other byproducts are produced. Because of the changes in the vehicle’s fuel-to-air ratio, other pollutants are created, and they can be extremely harmful to the environment. These pollutants include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons. Therefore, your vehicle needs a system in place to help remove some of these pollutants and reuse them so that they don’t get pushed into the air you breathe.

One way to create a better and more efficient engine is to make the idea of perfect combustion a reality so that only carbon dioxide and water are produced. These are already in the environment and considered safe. While engine technology has vastly improved throughout the decades, hazardous pollutants are still there in the exhaust system and must be removed. This is where your catalytic converter helps.

How It Works

The catalytic converter catalyzes the reactions of the vehicle. If you’re not very familiar with chemistry, you may not understand what that means and why it is so important. It just means that your catalytic converter is a surface that inhibits reactions from happening. The catalytic converter in a car or truck converts the hazardous pollutants mentioned earlier into less harmful substances that don’t harm the environment as much. It should be noted that the converted substances are still unhealthy, but they aren’t as damaging.

The catalytic converter has to be highly efficient and give the maximum space for the catalyzed reaction to happen. The metals that make up the converter are highly expensive. These metals include rhodium, palladium, and platinum. You can find two design options for catalytic converters, including ceramic beads and honeycomb. The Honeycomb version is the most popular option.

The catalytic converter works in two stages. The first stage is the reduction catalyst, and it removes nitrogen oxides. To do this effectively, the catalyst must break down the nitrogen atoms from the nitrogen oxides so that more nitrogen and oxygen gases are created. The oxidation catalyst is the second stage. To remove the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, the catalyst mixes the pollutants with oxygen. The process creates carbon dioxide, though it is much less harmful than the other contaminants that get catalyzed.

Two-Way or Three-Way?

You can find two types of catalytic converters: three-way and two-way converters. The primary difference is that the three-way contains an oxygen sensor, which reads how much oxygen is present in the engine’s gases. It can adjust the air amounts that go into the engine. Therefore, the catalytic converter can try to keep the ratio of oxygen to fuel in the right proportions so that there is still enough oxygen in the catalytic converter for it to run effectively.

Maintenance

Now that you understand what your catalytic converter does and why it’s essential for the environment, you need to know how to care for it and maintain it.

Most catalytic converters are designed to last for 100,000 miles. After that, you may need to get it replaced or regenerated. In a sense, regeneration just means getting it cleaned.

Along with such, you should know that the converter works best at high temperatures, so it is placed close to the engine. However, extreme heat can also do damage, so most manufacturers put the converter under the passenger seat.

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Are Catalytic Converters Really That Important?

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