As a new car owner, it's helpful to know the basics of major components in your vehicle. Catalytic converters play a key role by filtering out harmful exhaust byproducts that contribute to air pollution. This guide discusses how this component works, common auto repair needs with this part, and relevant maintenance tips. 

How Do Catalytic Converters Work?

Two chemical events occur in catalytic converters. The first is catalytic reduction, where the converter breaks down polluting nitrogen oxides. Next, there's catalytic oxidation, where carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are burned up in the converter. 

These two events are important because they reduce harmful air pollutants that cars would otherwise expel into the environment. Let loose in huge quantities, these pollutants affect air quality and can cause breathing problems or damage to nature and wildlife. 

Additionally, catalytic converters keep your engine free from pollutants that could affect its performance by facilitating these two types of chemical reactions. 

What Are Some Common Issues With This Part?


By breaking down harmful toxins, the catalytic converter helps your car's engine run efficiently. If the converter gets contaminated, broken, or overheated, the converter may stop functioning. 

Contamination and damage are the most common auto repair concerns with this part. If liquids like antifreeze or engine oil make their way into the converter, the whole part gets clogged up and unable to perform its catalytic functions. Ultimately, this prevents oxygen from flowing to the engine, which can make the car unusable if the problem is severe. 

Since the converter is on the underside of your car near the tailpipe, it's susceptible to road damage. Be careful to avoid road debris, curbs, or other obstacles that could dent or puncture the converter. 

What Catalytic Converter Maintenance Tips Should You Follow?

With proper maintenance, your converter can last up to 100,000 miles. Following the recommended maintenance schedule from your car's manufacturer is one of the best ways to ensure your converter lasts. 

Additionally, regular emissions checks are helpful for verifying that the converter is doing its job. Watch for signs like slow engine performance, dark exhaust, or a sulfuric smell, since these issues can crop up if your converter starts failing. 


If you need help with catalytic converter repair, head to Kalispell Alignment & Auto Repair in Kalispell, MT. This full-service auto repair shop offers general maintenance, diagnostics, and mechanical repairs from ASE®-certified mechanics. See their services online or schedule an appointment at (406) 755-0234.