What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is used to convert exhaust gases like carbon monoxide in to safer emission substances such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. Vehicles have been fitted with catalytic converters since their introduction in the 1970's in a bid to reduce the level of pollutants emitted. Originally positioned close to the engine, the converter tends to be located further down the modern car toward the exhaust outlet.

How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?

The catalytic converter works by taking in harmful exhaust gases and purifying them through a chemical reaction within the converter chamber. This chamber has a metal exterior but contained within the chamber is a delicate honeycomb structure. The catalyst needed to create the chemical reaction that converts the exhaust gases to safer emissions comes in the form of precious metals which are coated on to the honeycomb structure of the converter. These precious metals can include platinum, palladium and rhodium. Unfortunately it is the presence of these precious metals which make catalytic converters a target for thieves.

There are usually two types of catalyst required to remove the more harmful exhaust pollutants. A reduction catalyst involves platinum and rhodium to help remove nitrogen oxides, while a further catalyst involving platinum and palladium tackles carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. A sensor located near the converter on modern cars forms part of a computerized feedback loop which records the level of oxygen within exhaust gasses, adjusting them to assist with oxidization within the secondary catalyst process.

Types of Catalytic Converter

The main types of converters include:

  • A two-way converter, often used on cars during the 1980's and still often used with diesel engines. They primarily reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions

  • The three-way converter superseded the two-way variety, with the ability to convert nitrogen oxides as well as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons

  • A diesel engine uses a specially designed catalytic converter called a diesel oxidization catalyst, which performs in a way similar to a standard converter

  • A sports catalytic converter is a sleeker version, with the smaller chamber size designed to allow a smoother, faster flow of emission gases

If you find that you need catalytic converter repair performed, don't hesitate to contact
our local auto repair shop today!

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