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Catalytic Converter Replacement and Repair: How Much Do They Cost?

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Many mechanics and car enthusiasts will agree that driving a vehicle with a bad catalytic converter isn’t all that dangerous. However, over time a clogged converter can lead to some pretty severe engine damage.

Perhaps dangerous is a subjective term, but regardless of what “they” say, you shouldn’t ignore any issues that arise due to a faulty catalytic converter. While arguably the most underappreciated system in your vehicle, the cost of a catalytic converter replacement is nothing to scoff at.

Here’s everything you need to know about catalytic converter repair, issues, and costs:

The Cost of a Catalytic Converter Replacement

The price of your catalytic convert replacement or repair doesn’t necessarily stop at parts and labor—which are already expensive. If you’ve been driving with a damaged or clogged catalytic converter, you may just be adding on to your problems.

A catalytic converter that isn’t working properly can impact the performance of your car—in a negative way. It will cause your car to burn through more fuel than normal, decrease your engine’s power, and cause it to overheat. Overheating engines can lead to irreparable damage, and if you love your car, sadness.

So, how much does a catalytic converter cost?

Between costs and labor, your catalytic converter replacement cost can range anywhere from $100 to $2,000 and up!

This will, of course, depend on the car you drive. If you have an older car or SUV, the price for the part itself will be relatively affordable. However, for newer vehicles, you’re looking at bank-breaking prices. The labor costs will depend on your mechanic and how long the replacement takes.

Why Does My Car Need a Catalytic Converter?

Your catalytic converter is responsible for filtering and eliminating excess emissions, toxic gases, and pollutants from your car’s exhaust system. It’s made of the precious metals platinum, rhodium, and palladium. Those metals form an internal honeycomb-like structure and provide the catalyst particles that break down toxic gases before they’re released into the environment.

The toxic gases come from the burning of fossil fuels in a combustion engine, and they include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. So it goes without saying, your catalytic converter minimizes your carbon footprint.

It’s also technically illegal in most states to run your car without a catalytic converter. You can get away without one in the few states that don’t have mandatory emissions testing—but do you really want to be that guy? 

How Do I Know if My Catalytic’s Gone Bad?

Catalytic converters are meant to last for the lifetime of your vehicle with little to no maintenance. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get their fair share of abuse from unburned fuel, oil, and/or antifreeze entering the exhaust system, as well as additives, road damage, malfunctioning oxygen sensors, and overall poor maintenance of your vehicle.

If your car is experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a damaged or clogged catalytic converter:

  • Your check engine light is on
  • Your engine runs rough, stalls, and/or cuts out
  • You notice decreased engine performance
  • You notice decreased fuel efficiency
  • Your exhaust smoke is dark and/or heavy
  • There’s a sulfur-like smell coming from the tailpipe
  • Your car has trouble accelerating
  • The catalytic converter rattles when the car is idling
  • Your car failed its emissions test

Remember, you can drive with a broken catalytic convert, but a clogged one will lead to a whole mess of problems due to excessive backpressure in your car’s exhaust system.

Catalytic Converter “Fixes”

If you think you may have a clogged catalytic converter, there may be a few things you can do to salvage it before putting a huge dent in your bank account. Luckily you don’t have to be a full-blown mechanic to try out these fixes:

Give it an Italian Tune-Up

The Italian tune-up is actually a pretty common method for most vehicular issues. The science behind this “fix” relies on the fact that most drivers don’t run their cars hard enough to heat the catalytic converter properly.

A vehicle’s catalytic converter is most efficient when it reaches between 800 and 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. Not running your car efficiently can lead to an early death for your catalytic in some cases.

To perform the Italian tune-up, all you have to do is take a drive—and run a few hard accelerations over a few miles. By doing so you may be able to heat up the catalytic just enough to burn off any deposits that may be stuck throughout your engine and exhaust system.

Try Better Fuel and Fuel Additives

Next time you go to pump gas, rather than hitting the regular button, give your car a dose of premium or special gas. High-octane fuel is much cleaner compared to its cheaper options. A few tanks of the better quality stuff may help to loosen and flush out those deposits.

Along with using better fuel, you can try using fuel additives to clean out your catalytic. Some people also make use of lacquer thinner in a 1:10 gallon ratio. The fuel additives and high-octane fuel should be utilized in conjunction with the Italian tune-up.

Clean the Actual Catalytic Converter

This method involves a little handy-work since you’ll have to remove your catalytic converter and open it up. From there you would use a pressure washer to flush it out. You could also soak it overnight in a mixture of hot water, degreaser, and detergent. Afterward, make sure that it’s completely dry before reinstalling.

Always take notice of your check engine light. If it was illuminated prior to attempting these “fixes” and remains illuminated after, take your car to the mechanic. There may be other issues that need immediate attention.

Selling Your Car (or Catalytic Converter) is an Option

A catalytic converter replacement can end up costing you more than what your car is actually worth. This means, it may not be worth it to have it repaired or replaced at all. If not, you have a couple of options, both of which we can help you with:

  1. Sell your catalytic converter to us
  2. Sell your entire vehicle to us

Either way, we’ll give you an honest, no obligation offer for either of them!

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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