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Can a Bad Catalytic Converter Ruin Your Engine?


A catalytic converter is an essential component of every car. It helps convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before leaving your car’s exhaust system. Catalytic converters can last for years but may sometimes overheat due to incomplete combustion and get clogged, or damaged, resulting in inefficiency.

However, as one of the most durable components of a car’s exhaust, you might have wondered if a bad catalytic converter can ruin your engine. If that’s the case, search no further!

The short answer is YES! Your bad catalytic converter can ruin your engine since no other engine component can play its role. Overheating and engine damage might result from a clogged catalytic converter. As a result, your engine will eventually shut down if you don’t repair the converter components immediately.

Are you still in doubt? Read on as we explore everything related to the subject.

Can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?

As stated above, a bad catalytic converter can ruin your engine.


Typically, to function properly, your catalytic converter should convert three dangerous components in the exhaust into compounds that will not harm your vehicle or the environment. If your catalytic converter fails to remove these gases, it might damage your engine. This will often cause a decrease in your engine performance and eventual shutdown.

Therefore, if your car’s engine malfunctions due to a clogged catalytic converter, you should call a reputable mechanic as soon as possible.

How can I identify a bad catalytic converter?

 They are several ways by which you can identify a bad catalytic convertor, including;

Reduced Acceleration

If you notice a decrease in your car’s acceleration power, the chances are high that your catalytic converter is clogged. Most technicians rarely diagnose this reason of loss of acceleration power, which occurs when the catalytic converter is partially clogged.

You can also check the exhaust’s status to help you determine whether your catalytic converter is clogged by using your hand. In this method, place your hand at the tailpipe while someone holds your vehicle’s RPM at about 1800 and 2000. You will know whether or not the catalytic converter is clogged if you feel a hot exhaust flow on your hand.

Misfiring engine

 This is one of the most typical symptoms of a bad catalytic converter. Incomplete combustion within the cylinder indicates that your car has a misfired. This implies that the catalytic converter isn’t functioning properly.

Contact a reliable mechanic anytime you experience an engine misfire for catalytic converter repair or replacement services. 

Increase in emissions

When the carbon emissions from your car’s exhaust increase, it implies that your catalytic converter is failing. A faulty car’s converter will not reduce the amount of gaseous emission within the exhaust system.

Experiencing a higher carbon emission level from your vehicle is an obvious sign that the converter is clogged. Failure to repair or replace such a converter in time can damage the whole exhaust system.

Sluggish engine performance

The performance of your engines begins to degrade once your catalytic converter is bad. A damaged catalytic converter causes significant backpressure, which reduces engine performance. When this happens, your car will shake often, and if there is a sudden eruption of pressure, the engine may stop even while driving.

Engine light alert.

A bad catalytic converter is one reason why the check engine light alert appears on your car’s dashboard. It could be directing you to a clogged air or fuel filter. Modern vehicles are designed with air-fuel ratio sensors, which monitor the exhaust’s gas levels.

 Rotten egg (sulfur) smells from the exhaust.

This is yet another symptom of a failing catalytic converter. Once your catalytic converter fails, the gases released into the environment have a rotten egg or sulfur odor.

What are the common problems associated with a bad catalytic converter?

Environment Pollution

When the catalytic convertor fails to convert gases into less harmful emissions, these emitted gases cause significant risks to every living thing.

Car manufacturers place catalytic converters along the emissions’ way to purify them before reaching the environment, thereby preventing these toxic gases from being absorbed into the environment. However, when the catalytic converter is damaged, these gases are not converted. They are, therefore, released into the environment, often smelling like sulfur (rotten egg smell), which is environmentally unfriendly, posing risks when inhaled. This implies that these harmful gases are released into the environment causing risks.

Damage to Engine

A clogged catalytic converter will prevent environmental emissions, thus increasing the backpressure. These gases are extremely hot, creating an unhealthy condition for the engine to function. Your engine will slow down as a result, with its performance declining significantly.

Also, these hot gases lead to overheating due to incomplete combustion affecting different parts of the engine. This reduces the engine’s efficiency and eventually leads to a complete shutdown if the problem is not fixed in time.

Can you drive for long with a bad catalytic converter?

Driving with a faulty catalytic converter is not particularly dangerous. You may drive your car as usual if some small parts of your catalytic converter are clogged. However, you will notice a decrease in the catalytic converter’s performance.

Is a Catalytic Converter worth fixing?

Before deciding whether a catalytic converter is worth fixing, some facts need to be considered. This is because fixing a catalytic can be very expensive. After identifying that your catalytic converter has a problem, find out whether you can either repair or change the catalytic converter before splashing your money.

Fixing Catalytic Converter

It is not impossible to clean a catalytic converter. If an authorized mechanic confirms this option, then you can clean it. However, if the better option is to replace it, you should replace it.

Also, replacing a catalytic converter without addressing the root cause of its failure is ineffective. The new catalytic converter will fail due to the same issue. As a result, before replacing a catalytic converter, it is vital to identify and repair the source of the failure. But, if the cost of repairing the cause and replacing the catalytic converter exceeds the car’s value, it is best to replace the car.


Catalytic converters are very important components in vehicles and are located in the exhaust system between the engine and the muffler. They are one of the most long-lasting defense lines against air pollution by vehicles. They help the engine performance and keep the environment off harmful gases emitted by cars.

However, toxic gases may affect your catalytic converter, leading it to fail in its function and might eventually destroy your engine. So it is imperative to check the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter and proceed to either fix or replace it.

Thanks for reading to the end.

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