Do Catalytic Converter Cleaners Actually Work?

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Since 1950s, car manufacturers introduced the use of catalytic converters to reduce the emissions of harmful gases into the air. Before then, all the hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and the Nitrogen oxides were released directly into the atmosphere.

Of course, this was not good for the environment as it resulted in more smog and acidic rains, on top of destroying the ozone layer. In 1975, catalytic converter was conceived to reduce this by half. This was later enacted into law in the Americas and Europe.

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How does a catalytic converter work?

A catalytic converter is usually made of two ceramic blocks. Inside, there are thousands of cellular channels. The cat converter surface made from Rhodium, Palladium and platinum speeds up the conversion of hydrocarbons into water vapor and Carbon (IV) oxide.

If you notice that your car is “running rich”, this is a red flag indicating that your catalytic converter is on its way to kaput. Similarly, you won’t want to be pulled over for failing the emission test.

What a catalytic converter cleaner does

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When there is a major build-up of carbon particles on the inside of the catalytic converter, it is the duty of the cat converter cleaner to expel these impurities to restore fuel economy, optimal engine performance and ensure compliance with the emission standards. Most of the best catalytic converter cleaners have acetone and solvents which are added to your fuel tank. As the fuel is used up, the byproducts are Carboxylic acids, active peroxy oxides and Aldehydes.

These compounds help to clean and unclog your exhaust, catalytic converter, cylinders and fuel injectors. The overall result is an optimal engine performance, fuel efficiency and a green light for having successfully passed the emission test.

You may be asking yourself the question: How can I know my catalytic converter’s performance is below par? Here, there are two ways.

    • Dashboard warning: When the effectiveness of your cat converter takes a dip, your car’s on-board diagnostics (ODB2) will display a “Service Engine Soon” message which may be accompanied by a P0420 or a P0430 code. This is usually a sign that your carbon emissions have exceeded the stipulated cap.
    • Running rich: If you notice that your car or truck is consuming more gas than usual, you need to check out your cat converter closely. However, there are some other causes of running rich like defective spark plugs. If your spark plugs are new or simply in good condition, then you may want to cross-examine your cat converter.

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What are the signs of a clogged converter?

As mentioned, a red check engine indicator or illuminating engine light on your car dashboard means a clogged converter. Another warning sign that your engine’s converter is clogged, aside from reduced engine performance, includes a rotten egg smell. This foul smell comes from the exhaust system caused by the failure to convert sulfur dioxide into carbon dioxide (a less harmful gas).

If you’re having difficulty starting the car engine, then the converter might be clogged. Moreover, a failed emission test result is also a tell-tale sign of a clogged catalytic converter. If you notice any of these clogged converter symptoms, consider using a catalytic converter cleaner. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and safety.

Do catalytic converter cleaners really work?

For years, the catalytic converters have helped to break down the carbon build-up on the inside of catalytic converters, car exhausts and fuel injectors. In spite of all these, a section of car owners have had a different experience. Some have even gone to extreme lengths to label the cat converter cleaners a snake oil!

But nothing can be further from the truth. The catalytic converter cleaner absolutely works!  One of the most common problems a section of car owners may have is expecting just one can of cat cleaner to break down decades-old particles in the engine and converter.

Catalytic converter cleaners contain additives and special detergents, such as polyether amine (PEA), that can help dissolve solid debris inside the converter. Aside from cleaning, catalytic converter cleaners also lubricate the engine and reduce harmful hydrocarbon gas emissions.

Using catalytic converter cleaners in cleaning car engines is pretty straightforward. Just pour a bottle of catalytic converter cleaner into the fuel tank and then drive. The catalytic converter cleaner combines with the fuel and passes through the vehicle’s combustion chamber, exiting from the exhaust system as you drive your car.

There is a valid reason why specialists recommend the application of the cat converter cleaners at least four times a year. This regular maintenance of the engine ensures there are no build-ups that may clog the converter.

The other concern is that cars which barely run long enough to heat up the engine may not reap the full benefits of the cat converter cleaner. Most catalytic converters are placed near the engine as this place generates more heat to speed up the reactions that help to purify harmful emissions produced by the engine.

Catalytic Converters Cleaners That Actually Work!

From the discussion above, it is evident that catalytic converter cleaners work. It is important, however, to use more than one bottle of cat converter cleaner in the event that your car has built up more carbon particles over time.

Likewise, we have gathered that the ODB2 error codes of P0420 or P0430 may not only be caused by a clogged catalytic converter but also faulty spark plugs. After 50,000 miles or so, you should get yourself a new set of spark plugs as the faulty ones make your car run rich and clog the catalytic converter.

It is, therefore, more economical to buy a few more bottles of cat converter cleaners than a new catalytic converter which will set you back several hundred dollars, with a few more bucks for installation.

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