How To Unclog A Clogged Catalytic Converter

How To Unclog A Clogged Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters help to reduce harmful emissions produced by vehicles. They convert the toxic gases from engine exhaust into less harmful ones before discharging them into the atmosphere. However, over time, these converters can become clogged or damaged, affecting the performance of the vehicle. A clogged catalytic converter can make your engine lose power, overheat, or even misfire. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, here’s how to unclog a clogged catalytic converter.

Step One: Check the Signs

Before you start anything, identify the signs that your car is experiencing. If you notice that your vehicle has reduced performance, difficulty accelerating, or even a rough idle, it is likely that you have a clogged catalytic converter. The problem could also manifest in the form of an illuminated check engine light.

Step Two: Inspect the Converter

The second step involves inspecting the catalytic converter visually. If the converter is dented, cracked, or visibly damages, you will have to replace it. Otherwise, you may be able to clean it out. If you can access the converter, inspect it for discoloration or small particles clogging the converter. An intact converter is usually silver or dull gray in color. It will look burnt, covered in debris, or rusted when clogged.

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Step Three: Use a Cleaning Solution

If you identify signs of a clogged converter and it appears visually okay, try cleaning it out. The first solution is to use a catalytic converter cleaner. These cleaners help to break down the existing deposits and neutralize them. They are readily available at auto part stores like Pep Boys, Autozone, and Walmart.

How to Use a Catalytic Converter Cleaner?

Using a catalytic converter cleaner is a simple process; follow these steps:

  • Buy a catalytic converter cleaner
  • Pour the cleaner into your vehicle’s gas tank – a quarter of a tank is suitable
  • Drive your vehicle for about fifteen minutes
  • You should start noticing an improvement in the vehicle’s performance.

Step Four: Ammonia Soak

If catalytic converter cleaner does not do the job, you can try an ammonia soak. Ammonia is a potent solvent that can break down even the toughest clogging. However, be cautious when handling ammonia, as it can be fume-heavy and cause respiratory problems. Also, ensure you take the necessary safety precautions to protect your hands and eyes from exposure. Here’s how to do an ammonia soak:

  • Park your vehicle in a well-ventilated area
  • Set the parking brake, turn off your engine, and let it cool
  • Locate the catalytic converter
  • Remove the oxygen sensor and spark plugs to prevent backpressure
  • Pour about half a cup of ammonia into the converter’s input tube
  • Let it soak for about forty-five minutes – this allows the ammonia to dissolve the clog and drain out of your vehicle’s exhaust system
  • Reattach the spark plugs and oxygen sensor
  • Run the engine at idle for at least twenty minutes to dry the converter
  • Take a test drive to monitor the vehicle’s performance.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes a catalytic converter to become clogged?

A clogged catalytic converter is often the result of an accumulation of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. These harmful gases often come from incomplete combustion caused by a malfunctioning fuel system, emissions system, or ignition system.

Is it bad to continue driving my vehicle with a clogged converter?

Yes, it is detrimental to the overall health of your vehicle’s engine to continue to drive with a clogged converter. Not only will your engine lose power, but it will also overheat and could even misfire, causing damage that will be expensive to fix.

Can a clogged catalytic converter cause damage to the engine?

Yes, a clogged catalytic converter can affect your engine’s overall health. If it restricts the proper flow of exhaust gases, it will cause an increase in backpressure, which can build up and damage the engine’s internal components. Hence, it is essential to solve the problem promptly when you experience the signs of it.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

The cost of replacing a catalytic converter varies depending on the damage and the vehicle’s make and model. On average, expect to spend between $358 to $1436 to replace a catalytic converter. The repair takes typically two to three hours of labor, and most replacement parts cost around $500 to $2000.


Catalytic converters are an essential component of your vehicle’s emissions system. They protect the environment and help your engine operate efficiently. However, over time, they can become clogged and malfunction, resulting in severe damage to your engine. The steps mentioned above provide you with ways to clean or replace a clogged catalytic converter, ensuring your engine’s optimal function. Remember, it is vital to check for the signs of a clogged converter and solve the problem promptly to avoid irreparable damage to your engine.

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