Catalytic converters – what they do, how they work and what they cost to replace. Our mobile mechanics are here to help, every step of the way.
How much does a catalytic converter cost?
The cost of replacing your catalytic converter
The price of a catalytic converter doesn’t just apply to how much its repair or replacement costs. If you fail to take care of a clogged or damaged converter, you could be adding further expensive repair costs. The damage a faulty converter can cause to your engine and other associated components shouldn’t be underestimated.
A faulty catalytic converter will also affect the performance of your vehicle. It will cause your car to burn more fuel to attain the same performance, produce a reduction in engine power and cause overheating. Any significant overheating can damage your engine and the components surrounding it.
What does a catalytic converter do?
A catalytic converter is an essential part of your exhaust system. Its job is to reduce the toxic emissions and pollutants, produced by your engine, into less harmful gasses.
Your vehicle’s emissions will be measured during your MOT test. If your car is found to break the legal limits, then that’s an immediate fail.
In 2018, over 744k vehicles failed their MOT test due to dangerously high emissions. If you’re trying to keep your motoring costs down, then MOT retests are easily avoidable with regular checks and maintenance.
How does a catalytic converter work?
Your catalytic converter is made of ceramic blocks with a porous structure. By coating the pores with a selection of valuable metals: platinum, rhodium and palladium, they act as a filter to break down the toxic exhaust gases produced by burning petrol. The gasses your converter is designed to break down include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
The metal coatings work far better as filters when they’re heated, so their position next to the engine offers a premium opportunity for just that. They can then perform the chemical reaction required to break down the poisonous gasses into less harmful products with much greater ease.
So, you know what they do and how they work, the next question is: how much should it cost to replace a catalytic converter in the UK?
How much is a catalytic converter?
Just as you’ll find with every other car component, it depends on the make and model of your car. The bigger the engine and the exhaust system, the more likely you’ll be hit with a higher figure.
The price of the parts alone can be quite costly—they do include that selection of valuable metals after all—and that’s before you’ve included the installation cost.
So, how much does a catalytic converter cost to install? Here are a few ballpark figures to give you a rough idea.
For most modern cars, you should be expecting a figure anywhere in the region of £150 to £800.
Remember, franchise and dealership costs will feature at the top end of the scale whatever your car, so shop around, and always choose a reputable and trustworthy mechanic to carry out the work.
City cars and smaller hatchbacks will sit at the bottom end of the scale—around the £150–£250 mark. Larger saloons and estate models from major marques will be a little nearer the £300–£400 and the deluxe or sports options will take you to the top line prices of over £500.
In fact, as a warning, your high-performance sports cars could cost you well over £1k for your replacement. However, if you can afford to buy a £100k+ vehicle in the first place, you probably aren’t too worried about covering the costs of its running and upkeep.
How can you tell if the catalytic converter is clogged?
Your catalytic converter is designed to perform over an extended lifespan, but in time it will become clogged and fail to operate as it should.
There are a few revealing factors that can point to a failing catalytic converter. If you notice any of the following, it’s probably a good time to have it tested, if:
- You smell something akin to rotten eggs or sulphur coming from your car’s exhaust
- The smoke from your exhaust is heavier or darker than normal
- You notice a reduction in engine performance
- Your engine runs rough or staggers
- The engine cuts out
- Your car is suffering reduced fuel efficiency compared to normal
- The car has issues when accelerating
- Your car fails an emissions test
- The engine warning light illuminates on your dashboard console
A less obvious problem with catalytic converters—theft!
Not too far in the past, drivers were concerned with finding their cars stacked up on bricks, where chancers would have stolen their car’s alloy wheels. These thieves would then sell them on the used car market or for scrap.
Due to the valuable metals that a catalytic converter contains, it has made the component a surprise new target for thieves. Palladium and platinum fetch a healthy price even in small quantities, which has led to catalytic converter crime rising along with those of the bare metal prices.
How to prevent catalytic converter theft
First, find out where your converter is positioned and how much access a would-be thief has to it. Then, take steps to make it harder for thieves to remove it.
- The simplest ways are the best—lock your car in your garage overnight or at a patrolled car park during the day.
- If you can, park wherever it will create access problems for thieves. Next to walls, close to other vehicles, outside a police station…
- Fit a special protective cover or unorthodox bolts. Any extra step in removing the component will help deter your thief. They’ll be looking for the fastest and simplest way to claim their prize. If the car next to yours is easier to strip, then there’s a much higher chance they’ll go for that one instead.
- Fit an alarm or a locking device. There are specialist alarms designed to go off exclusively when your converter is being tampered with.
- It might not stop the thief entirely, but having a serial number or security code engraved into it may cause them to think twice. Not only will it be more difficult to sell, but it should also be easier to trace back to the thief.
How long should your catalytic converter last?
The expected lifespan of your catalytic converter will be estimated at between 70k and 100k miles.
Again, regular maintenance and checks will determine whether you need to replace your converter or if it’s good to go for a few more miles.
How you drive, and the typical usage of your car, will affect its lifespan too.
Your converter could wear out quicker if your car is predominantly used for short journeys in stop/start traffic. Your converter works better at a required temperature, so if it’s not getting the chance to heat up properly, it isn’t going to be as efficient. This could shorten its effective life.