Catalytic converters are an important part of a machine that emits gases. It is used in cars, buses, aircrafts, forklifts and electric generators to control the emission and convert them into less harmful forms with the help of a redox reaction. This eventually helps in controlling air pollution. Catalytic converters go through a lot of stress and get worked up when the machine is in continuous use. Bad catalytic converters need to be replaced by new ones at regular intervals to maintain proper emission control. Let us now go through some major catalytic converter problems.
Matrix contamination is a serious catalytic converter problem. The matrix or washcoat carries the catalytic substances that react with the emissions and spreads them over a large surface area to facilitate the redox reaction. Contamination of the matrix by substances like lead, sulphur and zinc leads to reduction in its efficiency. Therefore, it is advised to use lead-free fuel. The matrix is placed over a support and if this support is damaged then it affects the matrix’s efficacy. Bad catalytic converters then lose their power to convert the exhaust to harmless emission. Driving through high water level or contact of converter with snow also leads to damages due to thermal shock.
Overheating is another catalytic converter problem. Due to excessive use of the vehicle, the catalytic converter heats up and become non-functional very soon. A bad catalytic converter may abruptly catch fire on being overheated. This is mainly due to failure of oxygen sensors that measures the fuel mix. High levels of unburnt hydrocarbons melt and destroy the catalytic substances which then become inactive and are not able to react with the emissions. Another reason for overheating is damage to the ceramic catalyst support. It is lightweight and located below the undercarriage. If it gets fractured then the broken outer pieces come off and break into smaller pieces. This interrupts the flow of the exhaust and leads to overheating.
Bad catalytic converters get clogged up and can’t function properly. This happens when the exhaust isn’t working properly or the fuel mix isn’t right. Fixing a clog is difficult and often the converter has to be replaced with a new one which can be expensive. Formation of byproducts during the redox reaction can also be a reason for this catalytic converter problem. Unnecessary reactions lead to the formation of dioxins and nickel tetracarbonyl. Poor quality of fuel and improper maintenance of a car leads to the drainage of precious metals like platinum, rhodium and palladium present in the converter. Clogging also occurs from the broken pieces of a ceramic catalyst support or by deposition of coolant that has entered the exhaust through some leakage.
Over-used or bad catalytic converters start to emit 10% extra carbon dioxide. It affects the mileage of the vehicle and makes it work harder to maintain its good performance. Hence, the vehicle burns more fuel. This is a catalytic converter problem because it reduces the engine’s power at high speeds and also prevents a smooth start. Formation of soot or particulate matter further hinders the function. When you feel that your car is stalling quite often and just not gain speed even with repeat stepping on the gas, you can be sure it is time to change the catalytic converter.
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A bad catalytic converter should be replaced soon. Catalytic converter problems are not hard to detect ad should be acted upon at the earliest.
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