How To Clean A Catalytic Converter

How To Clean A Catalytic Converter – Step-By-Step Guide

Keeping the device that keeps our environment clean is more than a responsibility. That’s why a catalytic converter needs regular maintenance and cleaning to make sure it’s working fine to convert harmful emissions into harmless gases.

Now, if you have no idea how to do it, it’s better to leave it with a mechanic or an expert. However, the more you have first-hand experience on cleaning the converter, the better it is, as you can repeatedly clean it up to keep it functioning well.

If you are trying to find out methods for how to clean a catalytic converter, this article will help you get started in no time. Keep reading till the end to dive into details.

What Causes a Catalytic Converter to Clog?

It’s not that the catalytic converter clogs itself. If you are not keeping a sharp eye on the machine once in a while, there are a number of reasons the device can get clogged. However, the key reason for the converter to clog is its poor Air-to-Fuel Mixture Ratio.

If the Air-to-fuel mixture ratio is not tuned in a proper way, it can increase the carbon build-up on the converter that leads to clogging. Even the fuel can enter the device and immediately burn it.

So, how do you know if the converter is clogged? Well, here are some of the symptoms that give you proper signals that you need to clean it up immediately.

  • The exhaust fume will start to emit a bad smell like rotten eggs
  • The engine will perform poorly, and you will notice acceleration issues
  • Exhaust smoke will be totally black
  • The temperature beneath the vehicle will be higher than normal
  • The fuel economy will degrade

Thing Need To Be Considered Before Starting

Before you start cleaning the catalytic converter, there are some issues you need to consider. Go through the following issues to make sure you are doing it right.

To Remove or Not To Remove?

There are two ways you can clean your catalytic converter. You can remove it completely or not keep it that way. However, if the converter is jammed and clogged too much, the engine won’t run. In this case, you need to remove the device completely to start cleaning it.

If it’s not too clogged, the next thing you need to check is if there is any loose part inside. Starting to clean the device with small loose particles inside can be dangerous. So if there’s anything dangling inside, the converter should be removed before the cleaning process starts.

Oil Leakage

If there’s a case of oil leakage inside, the first thing you need to do is to fix it. Cleaning without solving the leakage issue will deteriorate the problem even more. So, make sure you are taking care of the leakage first.

How to Clean a Catalytic Converter?

We have mentioned earlier that there are two ways to clean the converter - by removing it or not removing it. At this point, we are going to discuss both methods here for your convenience.

Let’s get started with the easiest method - Cleaning without removing the converter.

Cleaning Method 1 - Without Removing

This process doesn’t require you to take the converter off. On top of that, it also cleans up the fuel and exhaust system at the same time. However, make sure that the converter’s honeycomb is not broken, and the exhaust system is clean.

Now that you are ready to clean it, carry on the following steps.

  • Get a well-functioning, good-quality catalytic converter cleaner from the store. Have some fuel, as well, and keep in a can. Check if the cleaner works with the engine you have. Some of the cleaners won’t work unless it’s a gasoline or diesel engine.

  • Open the fuel tank and pour the cleaner inside the tank. Regarding how much you need to pour, you will have a clear guideline on the cleaner packaging. Follow the guideline and pour the necessary amount.  

  • Now, as you have poured the solution inside, it’s time to ignite the engine. Start the engine and drive the vehicle a bit. This way, The cleaner will automatically start cleaning the converter and the exhaust system at the same time. How long should you drive will also be labeled on the cleaner’s package?

Cleaning Method 2 - Removing It

Okay, so that was the easiest part. Cleaning without removing the converter from your vehicle. Now it’s time for the rather harder part – cleaning by removing it. Let’s get into it.

All you need

  • Floor jack
  • Pressure washer
  • Wrench or impact wrench
  • A large container
  • Automotive degreaser
  • WD-40
  • Oxygen sensor wrench

Now follow the following procedure carefully.

  • Before you start, give the exhaust system some time to cool down.
  • Use the jack to lift the car up so that you can get beneath
  • Use the oxygen sensor wrench to remove the oxygen sensors
  • As you locate the converter, use oil to make the bolts loosen. If the catalytic converter is welded, then this method won’t work. Contact a professional.
  • Now remove the bolts, take the converter out, and check for any damage. Try shaking it to hear any rattle inside. If there’s no sound, then the parts inside are okay. If you can hear a loud sound, then the tiny parts inside are damaged and you need to replace it.
  • If there’s no significant rattling sound, then power washes the inside of the device at a lower setting.
  • After washing, pour the degreaser and warm water into a container. Take the converter and drown it in the mixture in the container for an hour.
  • An hour later, take the converter out and use the pressure washer again to clean it up and let it dry.
  • Once it completely dries up, inspect it again if it has been cleaned alright. Reset the oxygen sensors and put them back in your vehicle.

Does Cleaning Always Work?

This goes without saying that nothing is guaranteed when you are taking care of things by yourself. Cleaning a catalytic converter doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get back a completely working-condition converter.

Rather, if the converter is too clogged and damaged from inside, hardly any cleaning can make it work again. In that case, there’s nothing you can do except for replacing it with a new and fresh one.

What NOT To Do

Here are some pro tips for you when you are cleaning the catalytic converter.

  • Do not drown the device in bleach, grout-removing gel, or anything of similar nature.
  • Do not pour thinner into the gas tank of your vehicle
  • Do not use a converter that doesn’t match your vehicle’s model
  • Do not try to weld on the converter if it is not a bolted one by yourself

Final Words

Well, that sums up everything you need to know about how to clean a Catalytic converter. Let us remind you one more time if you are not confident enough to clean it up, consider hiring an expert.

Then again, if it is already damaged enough so that cleaning can’t do any good, consider replacing it. Cleaning is only recommended if you are doing it regularly before things get out of hand and the clogging is already too much.

Good luck!

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