How to Clean a Catalytic Converter

Reducing the emission of substances that pollute the air is something everybody should care about. Been a car owner, you have your part to play.

The car on its side, has a catalytic converter, which helps in reducing air pollution. But it is your responsibility to ensure the catalytic converter is correctly performing its tasks. And one of the ways you can do this is by cleaning it and maintaining it.

This article focuses on cleaning your catalytic converter to ensure it is in excellent condition; without doing that, you can expect nothing but pollution.

The guide will also feature the benefits of keeping the converter clean and things to note before starting the job. Techniques you should use, and those you shouldn’t also are discussed.

How to Clean a Catalytic Converter

Definition of Catalytic Converter and the Importance of Cleaning it

The Environmental Protection Agency has set tough rules in regards to fuel and emissions standards, and they are right to do so. One of the significant sources of pollution today is transportation. There is also considerable debate about the contribution of transport to increased global warming and climate change.

When you ride your car, it emits gases through its exhaust pipe. These fumes are a combination of various harmful gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen oxides.

The catalytic converter connected to the car exhaust system works to convert these poisonous fumes into less harmful gases before they are expelled out of the vehicle into the air. It does this work through two processes, namely, reduction and oxidation processes.

The reduction process involves the removal of oxygen from nitrogen oxides forming oxygen and nitrogen gases.

On the other hand, the oxidation process involves adding oxygen to carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide. Both processes take place with the help of a honeycomb-like structure coated with catalysts.

A catalyst is any substance that makes a chemical process take place faster than usual without being changed. Precious metals such as platinum are used to make these catalysts.

Importance of Cleaning Catalytic Converter

Failure to clean the catalytic converter can lead to the following:

Air Pollution

It goes without saying. If the catalytic converter’s work is to clean fumes before they are released into the air, if these fumes are not effectively cleaned, it means some level of poisonous gases will be emitted.

Breaking the Law

You know the consequences. Failing to clean your catalytic converter can get you on the wrong side. 

You will have a problem with the police and may end up paying massive amounts in fines if you do not start using roads that don’t have police checkpoints to avoid them, which can make you arrive late. Instead of getting yourself in such situations, why not clean the cat con?

Damage to Vital Car Components

An unclean catalytic converter makes the car to overheat. In return, this can damage essential car components, which would be very costly to replace or repair.

Cleaning Catalytic Converter: Methods you Should Not Use

Soaking the Cat Con in Strong Chemicals

Some people think that soaking the cat con in strong elements will clean it up. These elements may end up eating the honeycomb structure inside the cat con, making the situation worse. Bleach and grout-eating gel should not be used.

You may argue that these chemicals are effective in removing firmly embedded dirt, and you are right. However, these elements can be acidic and corrosive, and a catalytic converter is something very delicate, which requires the cat con cleaners.

Pouring Thinners or Paint Lacquer into the Gas Tank

There is so much information on the internet about how to clean a cat con, and using thinners or paint lacquer is one of them. The automotive industry itself uses many solvents for various purposes, but this is not the right way to use them.

Non-specific substances should not be used. You may end up damaging your car.

You may think these solvents will break down the clog inside the cat con, and yes, they can. But such substances are not supposed to be in your car’s fuel system as they can lead to internal damages. They are not worth using.

Removing the Cat Con by Sawing It

Some converters are welded into position while others are bolted. In the case of welded cat cons, removing by cutting it from its place is risky. A slight accident can be very costly. You would rather have it done by a mechanic.

Using a Cleaner to Clean a Catalytic Converter

The easiest way to clean a catalytic converter is by using a cleaner. This method cleans the cat con without having to remove it. The soap also cleans oxygen sensors and the fuel system.

What You Need

  • Suitable Cleaner
  • Fuel

The Process

Purchase a Compatible Cleaner

Not every cleaner out there can effectively clean the catalytic converter without hurting it. So you must get one that is compatible with the type of fuel your car uses.

Make sure you read the details carefully to avoid buying the wrong item.

Buy the Right Quantity

Well, cars come in different sizes, and as such, the amount of cleaner required to clean car A is not the amount required for car B. Therefore, buy enough quantity for your car.

Pour the Cleaner into the Gas Tank

Every cleaning agent comes with directives on how to apply them. So, following the given instructions, pour the cleaner into the gas tank. Before you do this, make sure the tank is almost empty, although that varies depending on the type of cleaner you are using.

Read another post: Average lifespan of a Truck – Here’s What You Need to Know

Go for a Ride

For the cleaner to circulate, you need to drive the car as directed. Using the guidelines provided alongside the cleaner, you will know how long you need to drive.

A successful clean-up will result in car improvement. Signs like slow acceleration, smoky exhaust, and engine misfiring will cease.

How to Clean a Catalytic Converter

Cleaning a Cat Con by Dismantling It

You can remove the car con for cleaning, but this option is only for experienced home mechanics. Do not try this if you are still new in conducting car repairs.

A severely blocked catalytic converter cannot be cleaned using a cleaner. But also, if the cat con fails to clean even after removing it and soaking it, get it replaced.


  • A jack
  • A wrench
  • Pressure Washer
  • Goggles
  • A container
  • Gloves
  • Car degreaser
  • Suitable oil

Allow the Car to Cool

High temperatures, especially around the exhaust system of a car, are ordinary. So allow the car to cool before you can start the job. Gather all your tools while the vehicle cools down.

Jack the Vehicle

To access the exhaust system, you need to be underneath the car, so jack it up.

Put on Protective Gear

Put on gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes from the dirt underneath the car.

Find the Converter

It is a square or round box located in the middle of the exhaust system, although sometimes it can be located almost at the end of the pipes.

Remove the Converter

If the cat con is bolted into its position, remove the bolts to get it out. If it is welded, let a professional do it for you.

Inspect the Converter

Hit the cat con with another metal to ascertain whether there are broken pieces on the inside. If that is the case, there is no need to clean the cat con as it is completely damaged. Get it replaced. If that is not the case, proceed with your cleaning process.

Wipe the Converter

Remove residue from the surface of the converter using a clean piece of cloth.

Wash the Converter

Use low pressure to clear bad crud and deposits from inside the converter. Wash through both pipes (the inlet and outlet).

Get the Solution Ready

Pour warm water in a container and add the car degreaser

Soak the Cat Con

Dip the cat con in the solution and leave it for 50 minutes

Rinsing and Drying

Using the low pressure, rinse the cat con, and place the gadget on a clean piece of cloth to dry. It may take hours to dry completely, but you must do so.


The catalytic converter is now clean, and you have to get it back to its position. Bolt it back to it’s position or have it welded back by a mechanic.

Drive the Vehicle

You need to be sure the catalytic converter is clean by driving the car. There should be a change in the performance of your car. If there is no change, replacing the unit is the right decision.

Read more: How to Reprogram Key Fobs by Yourself at Home

How Frequent Should You Clean the Unit

Catalytic Converters are costly. Therefore, it is better to have it cleaned as often as possible to avoid over-blocking, which would make you buy a new one. Cleaning a cat con is less costly than purchasing a new one.

In the case of heavy vehicles, the cat con should be cleaned at a minimum five times annually, whereas, if a car is not driven frequently, cleaning the unit once a year is appropriate.

You can do this by pouring the right cleaner into the car gas tank and going for a ride instead of removing it.

Final Words

This guide outlines two ways of cleaning your catalytic converter; cleaning it without removal and removing it.

You should always try to clean it while it’s intact and proceed to remove it only when the first method hasn’t been successful. Removing it should not be the first method; it can be hectic and costly, primarily if the cat con is welded into position.

Converter cleaners are easy to use and effective. They can help the unit last longer.

You do not need to take your car to a mechanic for cat con cleaning. Doing it yourself will save you money, and with this guide, you can perform the cleaning without any hassle.

Do not use corrosive acidic cleaners and thinners to clean the cat con. Use the appropriate methods discussed, and the cat con will serve your car for a longer time.

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