As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Can a Catalytic Converter Unclog Itself?


Car engines emit harmful gasses that are dangerous to humans and the environment. A catalytic converter is designed for cars to transform these into less toxic gasses. This vehicle part is important to reduce carbon emissions. If there are clogs, can a catalytic converter unclog itself?

The answer is yes, it can unclog itself naturally. The car owner needs to heat the catalytic converter to unclog it. To increase the temperature, you must drive it at a high revolution per minute (RPM).

The catalytic converter may encounter issues over time. Once it is clogged, your car may give off threatening emissions. We will discuss more on how to unclog and other vital things about clogged catalytic converters in this article.

How a Catalytic Converter Unclog Itself With Minimum Help?

A catalytic converter has its natural way of unclogging itself. It occurs when its temperature increases.

The best way to heat a catalytic converter is to elevate the RPM. You can drive your car at around 4000 to 6000 RPM for half an hour every month.

You can’t reach high RPMs if your vehicle is stagnant or not moving. This is why you should take your car to far distances or trips to reach the required revolution.

Take note that heating the catalytic converter is mainly for unclogging purposes. There are still several ways to do it.

Since cars are designed to maintain their machine, you can use them to improve them. You’ll determine if the method is efficient and if the performance is smoother than before. 

If you don’t have enough knowledge in fixing a car, heating the catalytic converter is a recommended option. All you need is consistency so your car’s machinery keeps its quality.

How to Unclog a Catalytic Converter by Removing It?

Removing the catalytic converter in the car requires an in-depth grasp of car fixes. If you are uncertain to do it, we recommend consulting an expert to do it. A small mistake can harm the overall machinery of the car.

man removing catalytic converter

Before you start the process, prepare these tools:

  • WD-40
  • Socket wrench ratchets
  • Oxygen sensor wrench
  • Engine degreaser
  • Pressure washer
  • Torque wrench
  • Container
  • Jackstand

After you complete the needed tools, proceed to observe these methods:

1. Find a flat ground surface

Find a leveled ground to park your car. It will prevent the unintentional motion of the vehicle while doing the process. Check the breaks and make sure to turn off your car.

2. Jack up the car

We recommend you use hydraulic floor jacks. It is compatible with several types of cars. The features also guarantee double locks to prevent the car from moving.

Since you have a jack stand, you can use it to hold up your car’s stability. It’s dangerous if your car accidentally falls while you’re in the process.

3. Take out the oxygen sensors

In removing the oxygen sensors, you should use a specific wrench for it. These are efficient which helps you to access areas you can’t reach. Prevent impairment of this vehicle piece as it can affect the exhaust of the car.

4. Detach the catalytic converter

Use WD-40 before removing the catalytic converter. Some cars are designed with bolts in this area. We advise you to ask the help of a professional or your manufacturer to remove these.

5. Determine if there are damages

Try to shake the catalytic converter. Once you hear some small clang inside, it’s still in good condition. Loud rattling implies that there is damage in it. You need to replace it instead of unclogging it.

6. Clean the catalytic converter

You can use a pressure washer to clean the converter. Adjust the power of the washer to low. A degreaser can help in removing the grease in it.

Use your container to mix the degreaser with hot water. After that, submerge the catalytic converter and leave it for an hour.

Drain the mixture and the converter with a pressure washer. Ensure that the converter is dry before you put it back.

7. Put back the catalytic converter and sensors

Return the parts that you remove from the converter to the oxygen sensors. Make sure to turn back the bolts. Try to turn your car on and drive it to see if the fix is effective.

8. Replace it if it’s not working

Go to an auto repair shop or replace the catalytic converter if it’s still not working. There might be in-depth problems in it and you should consult an expert.

How to Unclog a Catalytic Converter Without Removing It?

Another way of unclogging a catalytic converter is using a special cleaner. In this method, you don’t need to remove any pieces of your vehicle to apply them.

mechanics working on car catalytic converter

Make sure you have a cleaner before following the steps. Read on how to do it in this procedure:

  1. Check your vehicle’s manual to know how to use a cleaner. It states there the amount of substance you need for the unclogging of your catalytic converter.
  2. Ensure you measure the amount before you pour it.
  3. Open your car’s fuel tank and pour the catalytic converter cleaner.
  4. Similar to the natural method of unclogging, operate your car at around 4000 to 6000 RPMs. It helps in the heating of the catalytic converter.
  5. The clog will burn while you drive on a high resolution.

Using too much catalytic converter cleaner is harmful to your car. Always follow the instructions in your car’s manual. If you aren’t sure, you can consult your manufacturer or an expert to help you with it.

Even if you aim to heat the converter, it can overheat the car. Make sure to monitor the vehicle’s temperature from time to time while reaching high RPMs.

Signs You Catalytic Converter Has Gone Bad?

A catalytic converter converts the harmful gasses released by the car. Once it is damaged, the car’s engine will give toxic air. This is dangerous not only to humans but also to the environment.

bad catalytic converter

You need to unclog your catalytic converter. Here are some signs that your converter has gone bad:

Poor gas mileage

A catalytic converter affects the gas mileage. If it has a problem, your car will require more gas frequently.

The drawback also influences the acceleration of the car. You will know if the vehicle has some underlying issues if it’s difficult to increase its speed. This is why it’s significant to unclog the converter regularly.

Faulty Dashboard

The dashboard can inform you of the issues in some parts of your car. One of these may express the problem with the catalytic converter.

If your car shows a P0420 trouble code, chances are it has issues with the catalytic converter. You can consult an expert to help you comprehend the dashboard signals.

Smells bad

The gas will smell bad if the converter has too much exposure to the car’s chemical emissions. Most likely, it will smell like rotten eggs.

Emission test failure

One of the factors that fail the vehicle’s emission test is the clogged catalytic converter. It will reveal if your car gives off harmful gasses or chemicals.

Dark gas

An inefficient catalytic converter emits dark gasses. It’s a sign that it is clogged with different chemicals. Make sure to apply appropriate solutions if you encounter this.

Signs of a Clogged Catalytic Converter

A clogged catalytic converter is sometimes difficult to determine. There are some warning indications that it’s starting to clog but it’s unnoticed. Here are the signs that your car’s catalytic converter is clogged:

1. Start engine difficulty

Excessive smoke dominating the exhaust of the car can stall the engine. If this occurs, it is hard to start the engine. Your catalytic converter is clogged if this happens as it blocks the engine to operate.

2. Check Engine Light

Another warning of a clogged catalytic converter is the Check Engine Light. You can see it on the dashboard of your car. This indicates that there is a problem with your car.

Engines are affected once the converter is not working properly. Consult an expert mechanic to conduct check-ups and repairs to your car.

3. Bad fuel economy

Fuel economy refers to the mileage of the car based on the amount of fuel. The clogged catalytic converter can make your car require a frequent refill of fuel.

Once you notice the difference in the fuel needed, it’s a sign that you should unclog the converter.

What to Consider Before Unclogging a Catalytic Converter

You must ensure that there are problems with the catalytic converter before you unclog it. It can cause harm to the car if you carelessly unclog it without knowing the issues. Before you apply the solutions, take note of the following:

1. Know if your converter was recalled

The government recalls some catalytic converters. It means that if it’s defective, it should be replaced by the manufacturer. You may need a replacement if this happens.

2. The catalytic converter seal is broken

In this case, consider replacing the catalytic converter of your car. You will know if the seal is broken if you have it checked with an expert or auto repair shop.

3. Determine if the catalytic converter is impaired

If the catalytic converter is faulty, it can’t carry out its role properly. Once it is impaired, you should replace it instead of unclogging it.

4. Fuel leaks

Fuel leakages can affect the catalytic converter and it can damage or clog it. Fuel leaks are hard to monitor without the help of a professional. You should consult with them if you find some questionable spots under the vehicle.


Unclogging the catalytic converter is a crucial process. You can’t immediately apply the methods if you are unsure of the problem. If you think you can’t fix it on your own, you should consider getting an expert mechanic to help you. You can always ask your manufacturer’s advice on when you must unclog the catalytic converter of your car.

Scroll to Top