How to Clean a Catalytic Converter

If your vehicle has a working catalytic converter, your pollution and carbon footprint will be greatly reduced. Catalysts do not harm you or the environment by converting carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and other exhaust engine emissions into less harmful components.

To keep your vehicle environmentally friendly and operating at its best, you should know when and how to clean a catalytic converter.

What Causes a Catalytic Converter to Clog?

Over time, catalysts build up carbon deposits that reduce their efficiency. This is usually because a rich air-fuel ratio has been used for too long. In this case, your vehicle will show symptoms such as:

  • Trouble code P0420, which says the car’s computer detected a catalytic converter problem
  • The exhaust fumes that smell like rotten eggs
  • Reduced engine power and acceleration
  • Black exhaust smoke
  • High temperatures under the vehicle

In most cases, cleaning the catalytic converter will clear the P0420 code and other symptoms as well. If you want to do the cleaning yourself, you can use both methods. One does not remove the converter first, the other does not.

Before we dive into how to clean the catalytic converter, here are some things you can do to prevent the following causes of catalytic converter clogging:

  • When driving on bumpy roads, the ceramic catalyst honeycomb in the catalyst is broken. Broken parts can clog the system.
  • Oil or antifreeze can get into the exhaust system. When heated, the leak turns into thick exhaust fumes and soot that clogs it. Leakage may occur due to vehicle aging, broken seals, infrequent maintenance or too much engine oil.
  • If you use only short distances, your catalytic converter will not get hot enough to burn the engine hydrocarbons it contains. These hydrocarbons accumulate until they clog the system.


Can a clogged catalytic converter be cleaned? Yes, we’ll show you two ways you can do this yourself to save money and time.

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