A car’s internal combustion engine is really powerful, it burns gallons of fuel to generate energy used in moving a car from one place to another. The waste product from the combustion of the fuel in the car engine is released through the exhaust and do contain harmful gases that can harm us. So to solve the problem of harmful emission from cars a catalytic converter is installed by car manufacturers.
If you own a car produced from 1975 upwards, chances are there’s a catalytic converter installed in your car. This wonderful gadget don’t ideally make the engine work or keep it running but perform the singular function of filtering out the toxic waste. So even if you don’t have a catalytic converter installed in your car, your engine will still run efficiently but won’t be able to stop toxic gas emission. The catalytic converter is also installed on kerosene heaters, stove, electrical generator, forklifts, mining equipment, locomotives and ships.
Read also: What Happens When Your Catalytic Converter Goes Bad
Owning a car comes with a lot of responsibility, you have to routinely maintain the car and replace worn out parts. The catalytic converter is one of these component that will need replacement. Therefore if you want to install a new catalytic converter in your car or maybe you are checking out a used car online and want to be sure if the catalytic converter is still good, then it is important to know about the durability of a catalytic converter. You will find the answer to this critical question in this article as well as useful information about a catalytic converter. Let’s delve straight into how this device works.
How does a catalytic converter work
A catalytic converter is made up of different materials and has a core and a substrate. The way it works is more simpler than u thinks and I’ll explain. The filtration is actually a chemical reaction involving a catalyst and the exhaust gas coming from the engine. The core is made with ceramics while the catalyts used can be platinum, palladium or rhodium. In others it can be cerium or nickel, even manganese and iron. The reaction has no effect on the catalyst, therefore the catalyst remain the same way it was. .
The catalytic converter works together with the control unit of the vehicle. The control unit constantly monitors the quantity of oxygen passing through the exhaust and adjust the air/fuel mixture accordingly for optimal performance. The catalytic converter is fitted under the belly of a car close to the engine and you might need to bend down to see it. The reason it fixed close to the engine is so that the heat produces by the engine can be transfer to the catalytic converter as the catalytic converter only works at a high temperature of about 800°C. This high temperature can only be produced by the engine.
A catalytic converter works by turning harmful by-product of combustion into harmless substances through a series of chemical reaction. The kind of chemical reaction that occurs will depend on the type of catalytic converter installed on a particular vehicle.
Types of catalytic converter
- Two way catalytic converter: this is the much older type of converter. It carries out a dual function of oxidizing carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide and oxidation of hydrocarbon to carbon dioxide and water. This chemical reactions occur at the same time. Because of the inability of a two way catalytic converter to filter out oxides of nitrogen, they are no longer used in most countries today.
- Three way oxidation reduction: this is the more advance type of catalytic converter. Here three different reactions happen simultaneously. The reactions are the reduction of nitrogen oxide to nitrigen and oxygen, the oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide and conversion of hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide and water.
- Diesel oxidation catalyst: this type is used on a diesel engine as the name implies. It makes use of the oxygen present in the exhaust to convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide and unburnt hydrocarbon to water and carbon dioxide.
Where do the harmful gases come from
The engine used in a car is known as an internal combustion engine. This engine run on gasoline which are fractions of crude oil distillation. When the gasoline is burned with oxygen from the air in the engine, it produces water and carbon dioxide in the gaseous form. This is accompanied by other substances including toxic materials.
Harmful gases are also produced when we use leaded fuel in our cars. A bad engine is also a culprit as it doesn’t burn the fuel efficiently, this causes unburnt substances to pass out of the exhaust. This is likely to happen as the engine experience wear and tear after along time of usage.
Why should I be concerned
Environmental impact of harmful substances released by the exhaust of vehicles are devastating. This toxic substances include hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Hydrocarbons accumulation will produces smog as witnessed in large cities. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that harms both humans and other animals while the nitrogen oxide causes acid rain and smog. This harmful substances are also thought to cause global warming in the long run. This is why the catalytic converter is employed to reduce emission of this substances.
How effective are catalytic converters
Catalytic converters have proven to be highly effective in controlling toxic emission. Recent studies have shown that a car that has a catalytic converter installed will produces 87% less hydrocarbon, 85% less carbon monoxide and 62% less nitrous oxide in its entire life cycle.
The catalytic converter typically last for ten years but like other car components, this may not always be the case. There are a lot of factors that are responsible for the damage of a catalytic converter. Generally, after 50, 000 miles of driving it will not be as effective as a new one and it is right to change it now. It is a durable component of the car that hardly gets damaged but if it eventually gets bad, it will lead to a sluggish engine performance or total shutdown. In an ideal situation, the catalytic converter is replaced only two times in a particular car.
Maintenance tips for your catalytic converter
- Avoid speeding through bumps and pot holes as they can potentially damage your catalytic converter. Remember they are installed under the car.
- Install an alarm system in your car, this will ensure your catalytic converter is not stolen from your vehicle.
- Other contaminate of a catalytic converter is the engine coolant when it leaks into the combustion system. Always check to make sure the cylinder head is intact to prevent this leakage.
- Don’t use leaded fuel as this will make the catalyst inactive, thereby preventing it from working properly.
Final say: the catalytic converter is a durable component of the car, it will last as long as you maintain it. Because of the special elements it contains, it is a major target of car theft. Make sure you park in a good place and have your alarm switched on. Whenever you need to replace it, make sure you get a good one and also ensure it is properly installed.