What is a Catalytic Converter?


It is no secret that because California has highest levels of smog in the country, we also have strictest car emissions regulations. Your car’s catalytic converter plays an important part in reducing the amount of air pollution both here in SoCal and around the world.

What is Smog?

When you are driving, your there are three harmful emissions that are produced in your car’s engine:

  1. Carbon Monoxide
  2. Hydrocarbons
  3. Nitrogen Oxides

The hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide particles combine and become what we know as smog. Continuously breathing in smog can cause major problems in your lungs and heart. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and highly toxic gas. In order to stop releasing smog and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, your vehicle’s catalytic converter changes these harmful emissions into harmless particles.

How the Catalytic Converter Works

Catalytic Converter

You may remember from high school chemistry that a catalyst is any substance that accelerates a chemical reaction. The catalytic converter forces the harmful emissions listed above to pass through various catalysts. There are two different chemical reactions that happen inside of the catalytic converter:

  1. Reduction: A reduction catalyst breaks down the nitrogen oxide into separate particles of nitrogen and oxygen.
  2. Oxidation: Oxidation catalysts add oxygen to the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide particles which turns them into water and carbon dioxide.

What is the Result?

The result is what comes out of your car’s tailpipe: a harmless mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water, all of which are already in our atmosphere. If your catalytic converter is not working properly, it will not properly change the compounds and the harmful emissions will add to our ongoing smog problem. If your catalytic converter isn’t functioning correctly, your car will let you know using the check engine light. Take your car to a STAR certified smog check and repair center to get it checked and fixed.

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