Fuel emissions especially from a vehicle have been one of the major reasons for global warming. The emissions war has been going on for the last 5 decades. In 1970, every car manufacturer was told to install a catalytic converter into the exhaust pipes. This was widely accepted by the car manufacturers and then became common for emissions control. Today, catalytic converters are integrated into any modern exhaust system to reduce emissions.

A catalytic converter, in simple words, is a device that contains a catalyst. This catalyst converts three hazardous compounds into non-toxic compounds present in the fuel emissions. The three harmful compounds include:

  1. Hydrocarbons
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Nitrogen oxide

Hydrocarbons are in the form of is unburnt fuel. Carbon monoxide is released as a result of fuel combustion. Whereas nitrogen oxide is formed when the engine heat forces nitrogen to combine with oxygen. All these compounds are harmful to nature. Carbon monoxide is poisonous and makes it difficult to breathe for humans as well as animals. Nitrogen oxide in the air leads to smog and acid rain, so does hydrocarbons.

A catalytic converter contains platinum or palladium as a catalyst. This catalyst is coated over a ceramic honeycomb or beads housed in the car muffler attached to the exhaust pipe. The catalyst helps convert hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water. It splits nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and oxygen and converts carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide making the emissions less harmful.

Types of Catalytic Converter

There are two types of catalytic converters found in different cars. One is a “Two Way” converter and the other is a “Three Way” catalytic converter.

Two-way Converter

A two-way catalytic converter has two jobs:

  1. It oxidizes carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide
  2. and oxidized hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide.

A two-way catalytic converter is mostly found in diesel engines for the reduction of fuel emissions. They were also used in petrol and gasoline engines in American automobiles before the 1980s. The major drawback of two-way converters was that it could not control the nitrogen oxide emissions. Hence, they were suspended.

Three-way Converter

The suspension of a two-way catalytic converter leads to the design of this Three-way catalytic converter. A three-way converter is the one used in automobiles today. It was introduced in the late 1980s. It works for the reduction of emissions in three parts.

  1. The first part breaks nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and oxygen.
  2. The second part converts carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide, making it less harmful and un-poisonous.
  3. The third and last part converts unburnt fuel (hydrocarbons) into carbon dioxide and water.

The three-way catalytic converter also works as oxygen storage. When sufficient oxygen is not available in the exhaust stream. The storage chamber releases oxygen to prevent the formation of nitrogen oxide making the exhaust emissions less harmful.

The three-way catalytic converter also comes as a Three-Way Plus or Dual Bed converter. This type of converter allows air to enter the three-way catalyst. An extra oxidation reaction occurs, which helps to further clean the exhaust stream and reduce fuel emissions.

A Sports Converter

A sports converter or a sports Cat is another type of catalytic converter. This type of converter has the same job but comes in a more sleek and sporty design. For all the motorheads, who want to fit a compact and sleeky catalytic converter to their wheels, a sports cat would serve best.

A sports converter is also known as a performance exhaust. In a standard exhaust system, the main aim is to get the gasses away from the engine smoothly. The honeycomb structure although allows exhaust passage. But has due to their large surface area, they tend to obstruct the gases and slows the exhaust passage. However, performance exhaust systems have a smaller chamber size creating a smoother surface and allowing exhaust gasses to flow quicker and easier.

Car enthusiasts can get a performance exhaust for their rides to make them more environmentally friendly and increase engine power. BMW owners may search for BMW performance exhaust to find the best suited catalytic converter for their cars.

Can You Drive a Car with a Bad Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are an important component in a car’s exhaust system. If your car is showing problems like engine misfiring, fuel vapors, or drawing less power on acceleration. Chances are, that it might be having a bad catalytic converter.

Although cars should be kept maintained for any problems to enjoy their longer life. However, sometimes it isn’t possible to go to a garage and get things fixed. If your car catalytic converter is showing problems. You might be worried too while driving your car. So, is it okay to drive your car with a bad catalytic converter?

Well, the answer to that is yes. But not for so long. Driving with a bad catalytic converter can not be too dangerous. Sometimes the catalyst coated ceramic honeycomb burns due to high temperature and falls off. Or small parts of your exhaust system get worn out. Now it might not be good for the environment, but you may still be able to drive your car. However, you will feel a major performance drop in your car. In that case, your catalytic converter would be completely dead and may create problems for you when you drive. In that case, you should immediately replace the part and install a new one. The problems relating to catalytic converters do not prevent your car from functioning. If you feel that your catalytic converter is creating a problem, it is better to avoid driving your car. The internal parts of a catalytic converter may get burnt due to high engine temperatures or too much oil burning. If you are driving your car with a bad catalytic converter, you may observe some smell or smoke from your car. Now, this might get you a heavy fine for polluting the environment as well. So, it’s better to replace your car’s catalytic converter and be on the safer side.


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