All car repairs cost money, but some automotive parts are more expensive than others. Most people think of big ticket items like an engine or transmission, but there are other pricey components as well. A catalytic converter is an example of one of these car parts. If you need a replacement catalytic converter, it could require a significant chunk of cash. So, how much is a catalytic converter? Let’s take a closer look at catalytic converter replacement cost. We’ll also share some basic information regarding the role this part plays in your car’s performance.
As your car’s engine does its work, it creates exhaust. These waste gases can be noxious. A catalytic converter converts these toxic gases into emissions that are less harmful before they leave your vehicle’s exhaust system.
How does a catalytic converter make this happen? This car part looks a lot like a muffler. It’s made of stainless steel and has a honeycomb within its interior. The honeycomb is made largely of ceramic and includes elements such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. These elements create oxidation-reduction chemical reactions that clean up the harmful emissions that the car’s engine creates. Extremely high temperatures inside the catalytic converter (up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit) help get rid of unburned fuel (hydrocarbons) by turning it into water and carbon dioxide.
Why Is a Catalytic Converter So Expensive?
As we’ve mentioned, a catalytic converter relies on elements such as platinum and rhodium to clean your car’s emissions. These elements are precious metals, and they’re expensive. The inclusion of these costly materials is what makes a catalytic converter one of the most expensive car parts you can buy. Vehicles such as the Toyota Prius have special catalytic converters designed for a hybrid drivetrain and can easily cost well over $1,000 to replace. Unfortunately the same precious metals that make a catalytic converter work also make it a target of theft for scrap metal. The best protection from thieves is a catalytic converter lock.
How Can You Tell if a Catalytic Converter Needs to Be Replaced?
If your catalytic converter needs to be replaced, it could cause your car’s check engine light to illuminate. If the check engine light is on a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0420 may be stored in the onboard computer. It may also cause your car’s exhaust to have a strange odor. Additionally, it could cause your car to fail emissions tests. Ultimately, if this car part isn’t working properly, it could result in a loss of engine power.
How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Cost?
So how much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter? It’s common for catalytic converters to come with a four-figure price. On average, this part costs about $1,500, not including labor. However, the price can vary dramatically from car to car. A replacement unit can cost anywhere from $300 to $2,500. Of course if your vehicle has more than one converter (some vehicles have up to four) the cost will multiply.
The price may depend on the type of unit you choose. You have two options when getting your catalytic converter replaced: You can choose a direct-fit or a universal-fit unit. Both will function the same as the original factory catalytic converter so the choice comes down to installation preference. There are even high-flow catalytic converters designed to keep your performance vehicle emissions legal while still cleaning the exhaust.
A universal-fit unit is the less costly option of the two. It’s installed by cutting out the old converter from the car’s exhaust section. Then, the new unit is put in place via welding or clamping. In many cases, a universal-fit unit can be purchased for as little as $200 to $300. A universal-fit unit only replaced the converter itself while the connecting exhaust pipes remain in place. This can make for a quicker installation for some vehicles as it reduces the amount of disassembly.
To install a direct-fit unit, the old converter’s flanges need to be unbolted from the engine side and the exhaust side. Then, a new unit needs to be bolted in. The direct-fit unit may include large portions of exhaust pipe as well. If you choose a direct-fit converter, the cost can range from $300 to $2,500. Depending on the location of the converter other components may need to removed to provide access. If the converter is part of the exhaust manifold it can take time to access all of the necessary bolts.
If you’re having your catalytic converter replaced at an auto shop, you’ll also need to factor in labor costs. These can run between $140 and $180 in total, assuming this is the only work you need done.
Can You Fix A Catalytic Converter?
Since the cost of catalytic converter replacement is high some might wonder how much does it cost to fix a catalytic converter. Unfortunately the answer is it cannot be repaired. Once a catalytic converter wears out the precious metals inside have likely been depleted or are have reached the end of their usable life. Replacement of the entire unit is the only option.
A catalytic converter isn’t cheap. But it plays a key role in your car’s performance, so it’s important to get it replaced if there’s a problem. If your catalytic converter was stolen check with your insurance company to see if it is covered under your policy.
Check out all the catalytic converter parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how much a catalytic converter costs and the cost to replace catalytic converter related parts, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.