How Do Catalytic Converters Work?

How do catalytic converters work?

  1. Fumes enter the converter
  2. Gases flow through a structure coated with catalysts
  3. Harmful gases are converted
  4. They are released through the tailpipe


It’s no secret that cars and almost all vehicles produce gases that are harmful to both people and the environment. Exhaust fumes are made up of harmful gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Releasing enough of these gases could cause acid rain, heart disease, and even cancer. It takes a lot, but think about how many cars there are in just a single city.

The solution? Catalytic converters. They are small, metal boxes with two pipes attached to the underside of your car that cleans up the air it releases. But how do catalytic converters work exactly? Keep reading to learn more about the process!


Fumes enter the converter

Fumes enter the converter

To convert the fumes, they need to enter the converter itself. One of its pipes is connected to the engine, the main source of exhaust fumes. As fuel is burned, it releases harmful fumes as chemical by-products. The fumes from the cylinders will pass through the pipe to enter the converter.


Gases flow through a structure coated with catalysts

Once they’re inside, the gases will flow through a structure coated with catalysts. The structure is a honeycomb placed in the middle of the converter. The shape is to maximize the surface area covered by both the catalyst and exhaust fumes. It also makes the conversion process faster and more efficient.

A catalyst is a chemical that speeds up a chemical reaction without affecting the process itself. It is usually made of platinum or a similar metal like palladium or rhodium. Take note that for catalytic converters to work, you have to use unleaded fuel. The lead found in other fuels contaminates the catalyst.


Harmful gases are converted

There are two ways that catalytic converters can clean your vehicle’s exhaust fumes. The first is a process called reduction.

Reduction removes oxygen from a compound. When you apply this process to nitrogen oxides, the gases are broken down. The result is nitrogen and oxygen gases separately, which are both harmless and already present in the air. (Provigil)

The second process is called oxidation. This time, oxygen is added to the compound to change it. The noxious carbon monoxide is turned into harmless carbon dioxide. Unburned hydrocarbons are turned into carbon dioxide and water.

These three reactions are the reason why they’re called three-way catalytic converters. Some others only do the two oxidation processes. These are the less effective two-way catalytic converters.


They are released through the tailpipe

After being converted into harmless substances, the product is released through the tailpipe. The vehicle would produce nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water, which are naturally present in the air.


Key Takeaway

Since almost every vehicle has them nowadays, people don’t think about catalytic converters too much anymore. The work that the converters do have slowed down air pollution everywhere, and made cars even just a bit more environmentally friendly. Now, you know the answer to the question: how do catalytic converters work?

Catalytic converters are important and we at Roberts AIPMC have been manufacturing efficient and dependable products since 1992. If you need car parts, you can send us a message with your inquiries here!