How to Clean Your Catalytic Converter

How do you clean your catalytic converter?

  1. Inspect the catalytic converter
  2. Don’t use DIY cleaners
  3. Clean the catalytic converter by removing it
  4. Clean the catalytic converter without removing it
  5. Take your vehicle for a test drive


A catalytic converter also referred to as “cat” is a device that converts harmful gases into less harmful substances. Without it, you might inhale toxic gases or cause smog in the environment. However, this component becomes dirty or clogged over time, which might be the reason that you failed an emission test. In that case, you might need to clean or replace it entirely. To know how to clean a catalytic converter, keep on reading!


Inspect The Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converters have the role of filtering a vehicle’s exhaust. But these can get clogged due to a variety of reasons. For instance, if antifreeze or oil leaks into the exhaust, it can turn into soot that can block the catalytic converter.

If you often use your vehicle to drive short trips, the unburned gasoline can accumulate, which causes clogging. Other than that, driving through bumpy roads can also cause an impact on the converter, which can lead to fracture. As the broken pieces block the system, the flow of exhaust is interrupted and leads to clogging.

Before proceeding to the clean-up process, it’s advisable to inspect your catalytic converter first. If the cause of the clogging is due to leaks, it’s advisable to have that fixed to prevent the exhaust system from becoming clogged again.


Don’t Use DIY Cleaners

Don’t Use DIY Cleaners

Using the wrong cleaners might do more harm than good for your catalytic converter. It’s advisable to avoid the following products:

  • Dish soap
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Bleach and other corrosive chemicals

Other than that, it’s also not a good idea to try opening a welded catalytic converter because you’ll damage the part. Instead, listen for internal rattling by tapping the component gently. If there are broken pieces inside it, then a cleaner might not be able to help you. Instead, you might need to replace the automotive part completely.


Clean The Catalytic Converter by Removing It

If your catalytic converter is too congested, you might need to remove it to inspect it properly. To do this, make sure that the exhaust system has cooled down to prevent burning your hands. You can use a jack to lift the vehicle so you can reach the catalytic converter.

Use a wrench to remove the oxygen sensor and the bolts. Keep in mind that some catalytic converters are welded, so you might have to call a professional to have them cleaned. Once the bolts are removed, put them in a safe place so you can find them again later. Wipe off any residue on the surface once you have successfully removed the catalytic converter.

Inspect the automotive part for rattling as this may signify that you need a replacement. If you don’t hear anything, you can use a pressure washer to clean the pipes. This way, the debris can be blown out. You can also soak the converter in a solution of degreaser and hot water for less than an hour if it’s still dirty. Then rinse it with the pressure water and allow it to drain and fully dry. After this, you can reattach the catalytic converter to your vehicle.


Clean The Catalytic Converter Without Removing It

Clean The Catalytic Converter Without Removing It

If your catalytic converter isn’t too dirty or doesn’t have any broken pieces inside, then you might opt to clean it without removing the component. This is also useful for cleaning your exhaust and fuel system. This method involves pouring a special cleaning liquid into your fuel tank. This will mix in with your fuel and penetrate the buildup on the catalytic converter.

To do this, you need to purchase a cleaner specifically made to clean a catalytic converter. Make sure that it’s compatible with your vehicle and fuel type. Follow the directions on the label regarding the quantity you need to pour in. After this, you might need to drive for a while to let the cleaner do its job.


Take Your Vehicle for A Test Drive

After cleaning your catalytic converter, you need to take it for a test drive. If using a special cleaner, the amount of time you need to drive will be specified in the instructions. This also allows you to feel if the cleaning made a difference.

For example, if you successfully cleaned your catalytic converter, you might notice an improvement in your gas mileage. You’ll also see a reduction in exhaust smoke and better acceleration.

If you don’t see positive changes, you might need to take your vehicle for a professional cleaning. In the worst-case scenario, you will need a replacement. This way, you won’t have to smell the rotten egg odor from the exhaust, have difficulty accelerating your vehicle, or fail an emissions test.


Key Takeaway

If you follow these tips on how to clean a catalytic converter, there is a chance that you can fix a vehicle problem—such as poor acceleration, reduced fuel economy, or bad exhaust odor. Depending on the severity of the clog, you can opt to have your catalytic converter removed or not. Just make sure to read the label on your cleaner to prevent further problems.

Roberts is the leading source of automotive parts in the Philippines. If you need spare parts, we can provide you with high-quality components that will last a long time.