Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a catalytic converter last?

The truth is, on modern vehicles, the catalytic converter should last the life of the car or truck, given an “average” life of about 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers). Good thing, too, because this auto part uses rare, precious and therefore expensive metals such as gold, palladium or rhodium. They act as catalysts in chemical reactions that convert air-polluting oxides of nitrogen, unburned fuel and carbon monoxide into plain old nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water.

That said, things sometimes do go wrong with catalytic converters prematurely. A sharp blow to the unit, after say, bottoming out the vehicle, could damage the catalyst material or the metal housing of the unit, blocking the flow of exhaust gases out the back (and hurting engine performance). An engine that’s burning excessive oil could also wear out a catalytic converter before its time. In addition, certain fuel additives can (and do) counteract and prematurely age the catalysts.

Sometimes a car owner might smell foul odors emanating from the engine or exhaust system. Armchair technicians often blame the funk on a failing catalytic converter- but it could be any number of things, so you’re best-advised to have an authorized auto technician check it out. – HowStuffWorks