Catalytic converters are the unsung heroes of the car world. In addition to keeping you safe, they also reduce the negative impact driving has on our environment. But what exactly is a catalytic converter, and how does it work? Learn how catalytic converters protect you and the environment from harmful pollutants in your car’s engine.

What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?

A catalytic converter is a device that uses a catalyst to convert the harmful gases from your car’s engine into less harmful substances before releasing them into the atmosphere. Specifically, catalytic converters target three main pollutants:

  • Carbon monoxide: a poisonous gas that’s converted into carbon dioxide.
  • Nitrogen oxides: pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain that are converted into nitrogen and oxygen.
  • Hydrocarbons: unburned fuel that is converted into carbon dioxide and water.

This conversion process helps protect the environment and ensures your vehicle meets the emissions standards set by governments worldwide.

Where Is the Catalytic Converter Located?

Catalytic converters are generally located in the exhaust system between the engine and the muffler, typically closer to the engine. The exact location can vary based on the vehicle’s design and the type of converter. Catalytic converters are strategically placed next to your vehicle’s engine to make the conversion process more efficient by borrowing the engine’s heat.

Vehicle underbody exhaust pipe, catalyst, resonator, exhaust system. Old parts require repair and replacement. Car service and maintenance. cardan and outboard bearing

How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?

The catalytic converter has two primary functions and stages:

  1. The Reduction Catalyst: This stage reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by separating the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the compound.
  2. The Oxidation Catalyst: This stage aids in the oxidation of carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water.

Catalytic converters are coated with three types of precious metals known for their excellent catalytic properties: platinum, palladium, and rhodium. As gas passes through the converter these metals help convert dangerous substances into less harmful chemicals.

Do All Cars Have Catalytic Converters?

Most modern gasoline-powered vehicles are equipped with catalytic converters. Due to the Clean Air Act regulations, catalytic converters have been required in all cars sold after 1974. Diesel vehicles also have versions of catalytic converters, designed to address their specific emission profiles. However, fully electric vehicles don’t include catalytic converters, as their engines don’t produce chemicals that require conversion. The adoption of catalytic converters in 1974 has been a significant step forward in protecting the environment.

Where Is the Catalytic Converter Located in Different Types of Vehicles?

While most catalytic converters are found in the exhaust system, the exact placement can vary:

  • In most cars, the catalytic converter is found underneath the vehicle, close to the engine.
  • In trucks and larger vehicles, it may be located more toward the middle of the exhaust system to accommodate longer pipe lengths.

Catalytic converters play an important role in controlling your vehicle’s emissions. By converting harmful pollutants into less harmful gases, catalytic converters make our journeys cleaner and more environmentally friendly. If you want to learn more about your vehicle’s components and how they work, explore our car insurance blog and read up on all things car maintenance.