2020-Catalyst-Cleaning-910The catalytic converter is an important unit of any modern car's exhaust system. This simple yet very effective device converts extremely toxic fumes into completely safe ones with the help of chemical reactions triggered by the special substances placed inside. These substances are called catalysts and include such chemical elements as platinum, palladium and rhodium. The device itself is an insulated chamber containing a honeycomb structure within. Toxic compounds simply go through the chamber where they are oxidized. Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon turn into carbon dioxide and water vapour. Hazardous nitrogen oxides end up transformed into nitrogen. All of the resulting gases are completely non-poisonous.

What if it is broken

Less pollution means more health and everything goes fine until one day you see that check engine light is on and your mechanic says that you ought to replace this part, which may cost you up to $1000.

Here are only a few major problems that a clogged catalytic converter can cause:

  1. Highly increased fuel consumption combined with declined engine efficiency and performance;
  2. Gas control is ineffective;
  3. Exhaust emissions are above existing legal numbers meaning you cannot drive your car without breaking the law;
  4. Possible damage to other engine functions due to overheating.

How to repair it yourself

The sad truth is that catalytic converters are unserviceable by design and there is little you can do to solve the problem with bare hands. Nevertheless, several DIY methods to unclog it still exist though most of them are questionable and sometimes weird.  Neither of them can be recommended as 100% working and may only be considered as highly experimental. Some of them are described below.

Lacquer thinner

This method has its own advocates as well as antagonists and it is difficult to conclude whether it works or not because both sides demonstrate either positive or negative experience. The general approach is to put a gallon of generic lacquer thinner bought from a household shop in the gas tank and drive the car for about 100 miles or more on a highway or simply run the engine at 2500 rpm during half an hour, which can burn the impurities out of the converter thus making it working again.

Detergent soap

This method requires removing the part from a vehicle, which can be a really hard job because due to the high operation temperatures it often welds itself on. Once you managed to remove the cat put it into a bucket filled with laundry detergent soap. Let it soak during at least twelve hours to get rid of all the crud inside the chamber.

If nothing worked

If you have tried all the methods but neither of them worked and you finally had your converter replaced you can still make money from a used part by selling it to scrapers. The used catalytic converter can cost up to $100 per piece depending on the car type and manufacturer. Prices can be found here - https://autocatalystmarket.com.

You can look up your converter in this database to find an estimated price for it. The prices are based on the amount of precious metals contained in each peace and actual prices for them on the market. The collection contains information about more than 25 000 units of different car brands and models.


In some cases, you can clean a converter yourself, though methods available are not recommended by professionals. Even if nothing worked, you can still sell it to scrapers thus having a chance to compensate some expenses you had for replacement.