A car comprises a considerable number of different components that work as a unit to help run the car smoothly and properly. With that in mind, do you think a car requires every one of those mechanical components to work? If it doesn’t have one of those parts, will it still get you from point A to point B? Can you drive without a catalytic converter, which is one of these essential mechanical parts?
We have done a lot of research on catalytic converters so that you can know just how important that part is in your car. Even without a catalytic converter, your car will still run. However, your vehicle may be negatively affected by driving without this part in the long run.
Not to mention that there may be some legal issues and fines associated with not having a catalytic converter depending on vehicle emission laws governing your area. There are also some very noticeable side effects of not having it in your car’s exhaust system.
Just because you can remove something from your car doesn’t mean you should. Of course, there are other reasons your catalytic converter might disappear.
Theft of this specific part is also a big problem in all areas. While it’s good to have an overview of the consequences of missing a mechanical part of your car, it’s even better to have in-depth knowledge.
Contents of this article entail;
What Is A Catalytic Converter
The catalytic converter is an emission control device found in the exhaust system. This component was first introduced in the 1970s and quickly became the standard-issue equipment for most vehicles.
Today, federal and state laws require its presence in nearly all vehicles. As previously mentioned, it’s illegal to remove, change, or vandalize the converter for whatever reason.
Functions Of A Catalytic Converter
The catalytic converter has one job: to reduce harmful emissions in your car’s exhaust to help mitigate the pollution. It uses a catalyst (actually more than one) to convert harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides into harmless substances. The catalyst might be one of three metals or a combination of the three:
Some catalytic converter manufacturers are now adding gold to the mix, because it’s cheaper than the other three metals, and can offer better oxidation of some chemicals.
Oxidation is used in this sense to mean “burning.” Essentially, the catalyst heats to very high temperatures. These temperatures combined with the unique properties of the metals used as catalysts to create a chemical change in the unwanted substances. By altering the chemical composition, they’re made harmless.
Carbon monoxide (which is poisonous) becomes carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxides are split apart into nitrogen and oxygen, two naturally occurring elements in the atmosphere, anyway. Hydrocarbons leftover from unburned fuel is turned into water and carbon dioxide.
Symptoms Of A Bad Catalytic Converter
Usually, a faulty catalytic converter will produce a few symptoms that alert the driver that maintenance or a replacement may be required. These symptoms include;
#1. Reduced Engine Performance
One of the first symptoms commonly associated with a bad or failing catalytic converter is a reduction in engine performance. The catalytic converter is built into the vehicle’s exhaust system, and as a result, can affect the performance of the engine if it develops any problems.
#2. Rattling Noise
Rattling noises are another symptom of a bad or failing catalytic converter. If a catalytic converter becomes old or damaged internally from excessively rich fuel mixtures, the catalyst coated honeycomb meshes on the inside of the converter can collapse or break apart, causing a rattle. The rattle may be more obvious when starting the vehicle and will get worse.
#3. Check Engine Light Comes On
A bad or failing catalytic converter can also cause an illuminated Check Engine Light. The oxygen and air-fuel ratio sensors that modern vehicles monitor the efficiency of the catalytic converter by monitoring the gas levels in the exhaust.
If the computer detects that the catalytic converter is not operating correctly, or not catalyzing the exhaust gases properly, it will set off the Check Engine Light to alert the driver that there is a problem.
A Check Engine Light can also be activated by a variety of other problems, so it is recommended to have the vehicle scanned for trouble codes to be certain of the issue.
#4. Failing Periodical Emission Tests
In most places, cars run into a periodic inspection to check if the vehicle is in a good technical condition to drive on public roads. The inspection period differs, can be once every 3 or 6 months, once a year, or on newer cars, once every 2-3 years.
Because the catalytic converter has failed or you had removed it, you will certainly fail this inspection and the car will no longer be driven unless you do so at your own risk. In severe situations, the car may be impounded and a heavy fine put on you for violating emission law.
#5. Engine Misfiring
The catalytic converter can overheat and show signs of failing when the engine misfires. And it is the first symptom of the bad catalytic converter symptoms.
Also, you will see similar signs when there is a very rich fuel mixture in the oil tank. An extremely rich fuel mixture causes ignition by making raw fuel enter the converter. The condition is dangerous since it can melt the catalyst components.
#6. Loss Of Power When Accelerating
Losing power during acceleration or going uphill is one of the most common clogged catalytic converter symptoms. Mechanics often misdiagnose this cause, especially in the case of partial clogging, and suggest changing a few unnecessary components.
About this problem by applying for a simple test. Apart from the obvious low-powered acceleration, you can check the exhaust with your hand.
Ask an assistant to hold the car’s RPM at between 1800 and 2000 while you check the exhaust with a push of your hand from behind the tailpipe. If you get a hot feeling of exhaust flow, the converter is clogged.
#7. Increased Emissions
Increasing emissions is one of the bad catalytic converter symptoms you should notice. When a converter is failing, it can’t do its job properly, which is to reduce gaseous emission.
So, a high level of carbon emission is the obvious consequence of a faulty exhaust system. The effects of a bad catalytic converter are the damage to the entire exhaust system if you don’t fix it quickly.
#8. Fuel Vapour
If your vehicle has a carburetor instead of a fuel injection, you can be sure of a poor catalytic converter by doing the fuel vapor test. Remove the air cleaner and ask an assistant to flash a torchlight near the carburetor intake.
Rev the engine and see if there’s a cloud of vaporized fuel over the carburetor. If this is the case, you can assume without a trace of doubt that your car’s catalytic converter has a clog.
Can You Drive Without A Catalytic Converter?
Are you planning to run a car without a catalytic converter? You might be asking as to can you drive without a catalytic converter. Now, you can still drive your car with no catalytic converter in it. Driving your car without a catalytic converter won’t be a major problem.
The catalytic converter helps to emit less pollution in the air by reducing the engine’s power. But if you get caught without a catalytic converter, you will be fined.
The government handles matters strictly. So you might ask, do you still have to pay penalties for driving with a bad catalytic converter? Well, the simple answer is no.
You don’t have to. Besides the catalytic converter, engineers are using cold air intake for getting better efficiency in modern cars.
Here are some reasons for which you need to drive with a catalytic converter-
#1. Avoid Paying Fines
Well, a catalytic converter is not something for which your car works or can’t work. Rather, it’s a device on the lower side of your car (honeycomb-shaped) to convert the harmful pollutants into water and carbon dioxide.
The catalytic converter is compulsory to protect the environment from pollution. If someone violates this, they have to pay fines. So, do think about this before you ask as to can you drive without a catalytic converter.
#2. Avoid Environmental Effects
Driving without a catalytic converter and with a damaged or failed one are completely two different things. There are some catalytic converter symptoms by which you can identify a damaged converter.
As it is a mechanical device, so it can get damaged. And with a damaged catalytic converter, more harmful substances will be in the environment. As a result, it’ll spoil the surroundings and human life.
#3. Increase Engine Lifetime
If we put aside environmental effects because of a faulty catalytic converter, the engine gets excess pressure. If the converter is not working or gets stuck or clogged, the vehicle will get stuck for sure.
It will lack power, and in the worst case, you’ll not be able to drive it. And this will cause engine damage and decrease lifetime.
#4. Help Renew Registration
You can remove your catalytic converter. If you remove the converter, the engine light checker will be activated. There will be a blinking of Engine Check Light on the dashboard. For this, you won’t be able to renew your car registration as it’ll fail the emission test.
Safety Of Driving With A Bad/Without Catalytic Converter
Although we suggest using catalytic converters in your car, some people go against it. But they are not wrong. Alongside some importance, the catalytic converter has some drawbacks as well. Here are some drawbacks of the catalytic converter, as you ask can you drive without a catalytic converter –
#1. Horsepower Issue
You can’t remove your car’s catalytic converter just to get more power! Catalytic converters reduce engine power. The catalytic converters produce a back-pressure in the engine.
When removed, the engines have more horsepower. It reduces the effect of exhaust gases. These gases will escape the engine, and more gases will flow into the exhaust at a higher rate.
#2. Exhaust Sounds Impact
The catalytic converter acts to reduce the impact of the gasses coming from the engine. So the exhaust noises can also be muffled, along with the catalytic converter.
With it gone, you’ll hear a close to zero, clearer, and more recognizable exhaust tone. Depending on the rider’s choice, this can also be a drawback for those who want a smoother journey.
#3. Running Engine Temperature
The catalytic converter gives extra load to the engine. Without a catalytic converter, you can minimize the vehicle’s engine’s workload and discharge the exhaust at a higher pace.
As a result, there is a lower running temperature of the engine. When the engine runs with less power, it produces less wear and tear. It further minimizes the corrosion on your car and its components.
#4. More Fuel Options
The catalytic converter allows the car to use only unleaded fuel. The lead present in synthetic fuel can be toxic to certain materials and prevents it from doing its job.
You can get more fuel options when you disassemble the catalytic converter from your car. You may continue to use certain high-efficiency fuels that are available on the market.
#5. Better Gas Mileage
Removing the catalytic converter decreases the pressure on the engine, and the engine can perform better. The engine would no longer have to operate twice to generate the same energy while the converter is already operating.
As the engine faces less pressure, you can get a smooth ride. As a result, it contributes to lower fuel consumption and higher gas mileage.
Cost Of Repair/Replacing A Catalytic Converter
It is quite expensive to replace a catalytic converter in your car. The average cost of catalytic converter replacement is $1,530, depending on your vehicle model and model year.
Why Do Drivers Want To Remove The Catalytic Converter?
Removing the catalytic converter is not a legal procedure in most countries. This comprises cutting out the part completely or knocking out its filling.
This is done for several reasons, but the result is always the same, the car emits exhaust gases into the atmosphere with no reduction in toxicity.
It is also believed that the removal of the catalyst can reduce fuel and engine oil consumption, and also increase engine power, but this is not true. It is not a good and cheap form of tuning.
Under ideal conditions, the catalytic converter can work 120,000 to 170,000 kilometers or 74,000 to 100,000 miles. After that, problems will begin. In particular, the engine power will decrease, the fuel consumption will escalate, the idle speed may float, and so on.
Most of the time, drivers think that removing the catalytic converter will increase engine power or reduce fuel consumption. Almost no one even remembers this element of the exhaust system as long as it works properly. However, like any other part, a catalytic converter will fail at some point.
Another common reason drivers want to remove the catalytic converter is its wear. When it is failing, it gets clogged and needs to be replaced, but a new catalytic converter is very expensive because of the precious metals it contains, platinum, rhodium, and palladium.
Here, resorting to searching for a used catalyst from a car junkyard is not advisable. And neither is buying an aftermarket one or a cheap fake instead of the original.
How Long Can You Go Without A Catalytic Converter?
Many car owners often wonder about this question, since replacing catalytic converters is very expensive. So it makes sense that you would want to drive your car for as long as possible while figuring out what to do. Because this part is so expensive and its placement in your vehicle, it costs a lot to replace.
When it comes to your vehicle running, it can still do that for a long time. Your car will not break down because it doesn’t have this part in it. However, thinking about how long you can legally go without one is another issue.
If you live in a state where emissions testing is required, your vehicle will fail that. The emission laws governing your area and the need for your car have to be weighed when deciding how to proceed in this situation.
Why Catalytic Converters Are Stolen
Catalytic converter theft is an ongoing problem no matter where you live. The main reason for this is that they are made out of very valuable materials.
These materials, like platinum and rhodium, fetch a good price at any scrap shop. Depending on the car, the converter is made of different precious metals and expensive materials.
Another reason for the theft is that the actual act of stealing them is pretty simple (to learn more, check out our guide on why are they stealing catalytic converters). Thieves don’t have to get in your car or under your hood. They have to access your vehicle’s exhaust and bring a metal hand saw.
This is a big reason cars that are higher off the ground, like SUVs, are more common targets. Criminals can gain access to these vehicles’ catalytic converters easily.
What To Do When Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen
In case you realize that your catalytic converter has been stolen and you are at high risk of paying heavy fines if your vehicle fails the periodic emission test, take the following actions;
Step 1: Contact The Authorities
If you find your catalytic converter is missing, you should immediately contact the authorities. They will check local security cameras and work to see if they can help catch the person who stole your converter. A police report may be essential to your insurance coverage.
Step 2: Contact Your Insurance Company
Depending on your coverage, your car insurance may cover your catalytic converter replacement. You can contact your insurance agent to see what your options are and whether you are covered.
Step 3: Visit A Mechanic
Finally, bring your vehicle to a mechanic for service. An expert can discuss your repair options with you and prevent you from driving without your catalytic converter.
How To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft
Since this vehicle component comprises precious metals, it has become a major easy target for theft. To minimize losing your vehicle’s catalytic converter to theft, it’s important to come up with a raft of security measures to safeguard your car’s catalytic converter. These measures include;
#1. Install A Protective Device
Catalytic converter theft has become so prominent that companies have started making protective devices. These installations make it impossible for anyone to cut off your catalytic converter.
Unfortunately, high-quality devices and their installation will probably run you a few hundred bucks. However, it could save you thousands of dollars on catalytic converter replacement.
#2. Vibration-Triggered Alarms
Some newer vehicles have a security setting that triggers the alarm when it senses vibrations. The sawing of your catalytic converter will be enough to set off these alarms.
#3. Mindful Parking
When you are at home, you can park in the garage to help avoid catalytic converter theft. What about when you are on the go? When your garage is not an option, here are some parking tips to keep in mind:
- Brightly lit areas: Parking under street lights or in brightly lit locations can help deter theft.
- Highly populated locations: If the lot or parking garage you are in is seeing a lot of foot traffic, it will be hard for someone to steal your catalytic converter without being caught.
- Security camera: Keep an eye out for security cameras in your parking area and try to find a spot visible to the cameras.
These practices can deter the theft of your catalytic converter. Otherwise, it may help the authorities catch the individual who steals vehicle parts.
Cars Targeted For Catalytic Converter Theft
The Toyota Prius is the most targeted car for catalytic converter theft. As a low-emissions vehicle, Prius converters contain larger amounts of the precious metals platinum, rhodium, and palladium. On top of that, these precious metals aren’t as worn down by its emissions output compared to some other cars.
Thieves can fetch as much as $700 per converter from unscrupulous scrap yards. And unfortunately, this can leave Prius owners with bills as high as $2,000.
Trucks and SUVs are also common targets of catalytic converter theft because they are raised off the ground. This makes it easier to climb under and saw through the metal. However, every vehicle on the road is susceptible to a stolen catalytic converter (which you can notice by the missing catalytic converter sound).
Can You Drive Without A Catalytic Converter – Conclusion
It is advisable to replace a stolen, removed, or failed catalytic converter as soon as possible to keep your car road legal.
You can drive without a catalytic converter for as long as you wish. Note that the longer you drive without a catalytic converter, the more potential damage on the engine. When minor issues occur, bigger problems follow, and your repairs or replacement may become expensive.
If you live in a jurisdiction that mandates emission checks, replace your catalytic converter. Failure to replace your catalytic converter may make you fail the test. Besides, you might be caught with no catalytic converter before the next smog check date.
Like driving with no license, you will be fined for having no catalytic converter, and of course, your car will be impounded. This can make matters more complicated financially.