Every car enthusiast would know that the catalytic converter is an agile part of a car. It is because its duty requires it to be rigid to operate in high temperatures. Even as solid as a catalytic converter can be, it sometimes breaks down or fails due to rust and its failure or damage will hamper the engine‘s performance.
In this article, we will attain the following questions, can you drive without a catalytic converter? Is it safe to drive without a catalytic converter? How long can you drive before you have to replace it? Let’s get into the details.
Driving with a Bad Catalytic Converter: Is it Possible?
Mechanically, Yes. Car manufactured in the 1970s ran without a catalytic converter. So, you can drive your vehicle without a catalytic converter but the big question is, should you risk it?
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Understand that a catalytic converter is an essential part of your vehicle emission control system. Driving without one or both can be illegal, and you can be charged for driving without a catalytic converter. It is true if you drive in states like California that have stringent laws regarding car emissions systems.
When you remove the light-off catalyst (the one closest to the engine) found in a recent car (newer than 1996). It will trigger the check engine light to the OBD 2 catalyst efficiency monitor.
This is because the light-off catalyst has an oxygen (O2) sensor behind it. The sensor measures the oxygen storage capacity of that particular converter and reports it to the OBD.
Vehicles that drive with six to eight cylinders have up to two light-off converters, one for each back. In contrast, four-cylinder engines consist of one light-off converter.
In each of these light-off catalysts, there is an O2 sensor behind the catalyst that directly observes the exhaust stream. Auto repair shops often refer to the O2 sensor as a “downstream O2 sensor.”
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While the rear catalyst is not monitored for oxygen storage and won’t trigger the check engine light if you uninstall it. But know that any catalyst that is removed from the vehicle will cause it to fail emissions testing. The rear catalyst is in charge of the CO and HC emissions while the front catalyst handles the NOx. It is because one catalyst can’t handle all three.
Depending on your location, if you’re in states where emissions testing is necessary, removing any of the catalysts will cause your car to fail an emissions test. Due to the failed emissions test, your vehicle registration won’t be renewed. Unless the emissions system is restored to OEM specifications.
What If the Converter Is Intact but Not Working Properly?
Your vehicle will fail an emission test if the converter is defective. The OBD will receive a code once the powertrain control module’s catalyst monitor determines a monitored converter’s O2 storage capacity has failed.
The converter can clog when the honeycomb brick has been damaged or broken. When the converter is clogged, your vehicle will exhibit a lack of power and an increase in the fuel consumption rate. You will also experience delayed engine start or the vehicle will fail to start.
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A catalyst that has been damaged may deteriorate slowly without impacting heavily on the vehicle‘s performance. The car will gradually be losing power and fuel economy. Most drivers won’t notice the reduction of power and an increase in fuel consumption during this phase.
Also, during its failing period, it can trigger an illuminating check engine light. The point is, you can drive your vehicle with a failing catalytic converter as it won’t break down your vehicle. But in states where an emissions test is required, your car will fail the emissions test. And that will result in you being charged for a failed emissions test.
How Long Can You Drive Without a Catalytic Converter?
It‘s quite clear that you can drive without a catalytic converter. In locations where emissions testing is not carried out, drivers do remove their catalytic converter. But be warned that removing cat-on is illegal in all states, though, not all states are enforcing it.
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Is it Safe to Drive with a Bad Catalytic Converter?
To address this question. Let’s accept that a missing converter and a failed converter are two different things. You should understand that catalytic converter doesn’t fail the same way often. Suppose you can drive your vehicle from one point to another, then it’s safe to drive.
However, if the converter has failed or is missing, then consider getting a replacement as soon as possible. Driving a vehicle whose catalytic converter is clogged in a thick and fast traffic area can lead to serious road accidents. It is because the vehicle will lack sufficient power and may often trip off.
Also, a defective catalytic converter will increase tailpipe emissions. You may not perceive this, but it‘s dangerous to the environment.
Also, carbon monoxide is dangerous and can lead to death when those close by inhale it enough. In essence, it might be a great danger to drive with a defective or damaged catalytic converter.
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The catalytic converter can fail mechanically and restrains the exhaust flow. When the exhaust flow is hampered, your car will probably develop an engine problem. There won’t be any damage to other components of the car.
When a catalytic converter fails mechanically, it can get extremely hot. The converter can get extremely hot and it can burn dry grass when parked.
It can also lead to the car being burned because some modern cars are equipped with plastic fuel tanks. So, the dry grass that is burnt can lead to the melting of the fuel tank and subsequent explosion of the vehicle. This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t drive without a catalytic converter or with a failed one.