What exactly is a catalytic converter and what does it do?

Author Name – Jack Underwood

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Within this article, we will be looking at how catalytic converters work and if they are necessary for your vehicle. We will also be looking at the main purpose of a catalytic converter and will be discussing what would happen if a catalytic converter was not fitted to your vehicle.

what is the purpose of a catalytic converter

The main purpose of a catalytic converter

A catalytic converter is designed to increase the efficiency of your vehicle engine. It performs this by reducing harmful emissions such as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide, effectively removing them from the atmosphere. It has to be fitted if your car has an internal combustion engine, whether it is a classic car or a modern high-performance vehicle.

It may sound like an extremely minor function, but it is a necessary one and you would be surprised how many cars are not fitted with one. A catalytic converter does not remove NOx pollution completely, instead it reacts with the carbon monoxide and NOx in order to reduce their potency. It isn't illegal to not have a catalytic converter fitted to your vehicle, however during your MOT test, if your car is found to be producing harmful emissions, then this will be classed as an MOT failure.

The Sun reported that over 13,000 catalytic converters had been stolen in the UK since 2013- leaving many vehicles unroadworthy.

What is a catalytic converter?

The most common explanation of a catalytic converter is that it is a device that generates oxygen from nitrogen oxide emissions. When a vehicle is running, nitrogen oxides are created within the exhaust, giving the vehicle a nasty smell of burning petrol. The exhaust gases are in turn heated by the catalytic converter which combusts the gases. The emitted oxygen helps to remove the toxic emissions from the air.

The more efficient the emission control system, the less toxic the air is. This in turn can help to reduce the emissions from the exhaust system and is the main purpose of a catalytic converter. 

What does it do?

A catalytic converter does one thing and that is to reduce harmful substances that have been sprayed onto an exhaust pipe. A catalytic converter works by using a catalyst to reduce the amount of harmful exhaust fumes by up to 99%. But, what is a catalyst? A catalyst is the substance that causes an electrochemical reaction when applied to an alloy of a certain type.

These materials are known as catalysts and they act as an electric current. It is these reactions that do the beneficial work and ensure that a catalytic converter works properly. The other chemicals that are present in the system at the time of the reaction will be released as the system deactivates. 

How the catalyst converts harmful emissions

The engine of a vehicle produces harmful emissions into the air. This can lead to the formation of harmful toxins, which have negative effects on human health. The most common harmful emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels in a vehicle are carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and particulate matter (PM).

A catalytic converter works to remove these harmful emissions and also reduces the amount of pollution produced by your engine. This is done by absorbing the dangerous pollutants and emitting clean, environmentally friendly emissions into the air. In doing this, it also prevents the build-up of unwanted substances, known as SOx, in the vehicle’s exhaust system.

Does my vehicle need one?

One question you may ask is whether or not you really need to have one fitted to your vehicle. There are some vehicles that do not require one, but there are others that need one fitted. Most cars will need a catalytic converter fitted, but reducing harmful emissions isn’t all the catalytic converters do. They can even be used for things like cleaning the air filters. 

It is not illegal to not have a catalytic converter fitted however if you are stopped by the police and your vehicle is found to be producing harmful emissions then you run the risk of being prosecuted. You will also fail your MOT if the vehicle fails the MOT emissions test. You are running the risk of your vehicle being unroadworthy if your vehicle is not fitted with a catalytic converter.

Free Exhaust Check

At your local National Tyres and Autocare branch, we offer a FREE exhaust check. During the check, our branch staff will check the exhaust system, as well as the catalytic converter. To book in for an exhaust check at National, then please click on the button below.

Related: Book now

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