Modern vehicles are built with a number of intricate parts. They all play an important role in keeping your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently. While most car owners are familiar with the basics, more complex components deserve your attention too.
The catalytic converter is a part that’s often overlooked. Since its introduction to the automobile industry in the early 20th century, the catalytic converter has revolutionized the way we drive. Without it, our modern world would look a lot different.
These devices work to keep vehicle emissions under control. Essentially, they transform harmful pollutants from the engine into less harmful gases. All of this is done within the catalytic converter through chemical reactions.
Needless to say, keeping your car’s catalytic converter in good condition is crucial. It’s important to use a catalytic converter cleaner as a part of your regular maintenance routine. Cleaners work to get rid of any built-up grime that tends to accumulate over time. This helps to ensure that your vehicle isn’t emitting potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. Not only that, but a clean converter can help improve engine performance and overall fuel efficiency.
A high-quality catalytic converter cleaner makes the maintenance process a breeze. There are many different cleaner options on the market, so you won’t have a problem finding one that’s right for your car. Here’s a collection of cleaners to get you started on your search.
This cleaning kit is compatible with standard gasoline engines, diesel engines, and even hybrid vehicles. It’s a two-piece kit that utilizes professional cleaning methods. The first product is a fuel additive that circulates through your engine to get rid of unwanted deposits. The second is a unique foam. It’s sprayed into the oxygen sensor port through a flexible tube. When the foam is sprayed from this access point, it’s delivered directly to the catalytic converter. The foam and the fuel additive are safe to use as long as the converter is not cracked or damaged in any way.
- Two-piece kit
- Includes catalytic converter foam and tube
- Safe for most engines
- Foam may be difficult to use based on port placement
- Easy to use
- Safe for most engines
- Small 8-ounce can
- Only effective at the right operating temperature
This cleaner from Mr. Gasket can reduce your vehicle’s emissions by up to 50 percent. It can also improve your engine’s performance and fuel efficiency. The small bottle is designed for single use. It has a long neck to make pouring the cleaner into your fuel tank easy and mess-free. For this particular product, it’s recommended that you use it between two and four times a year. It’s compatible with most vehicles, including hybrids.
- Single-use bottle
- Safe for most engines
- Can cut emissions in half
- May protect catalytic converter from future issues
If you’re looking to perform a deep clean on your catalytic converter, this kit from Sledgehammer may be for you. It’s designed to remove unwanted deposits from fuel injectors, valves, and combustion chambers. The first part of the kit is a fuel additive. Called the Fuel System Ultra Treatment, this cleaner should be added into the fuel tank every 5,000 miles or so. The second part is the Rapid Induction Deposit Cleaner. It’s a slow-release formula that is hooked up to a vacuum line in the engine compartment.
- Two-piece kit
- Dissolves carbon and soot
- Slow-release formula connects directly to engine
- Formulated to prevent damage
- Rapid Induction Cleaner may be more difficult to use
Another great option from Mr. Gasket, this catalytic converter cleaner is compatible with a wide range of vehicles. It can be poured directly into your fuel tank. It doesn’t affect fuel composition. Instead, it moves with the fuel and flows through your engine to get rid of damaging deposits. With regular use, it can significantly improve your vehicle’s emission levels. The formula complies with VOC and OTC regulations for peace of mind.
- Easy to use
- Can reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 50 percent
- Complies with chemical safety regulations
- Not compatible with two-stroke engines
- Sprayed into the catalytic converter
- Includes application hose
- Compatible with a range of engines
- May be difficult without experience
Why Catalytic Converter Cleaners Are Important
Catalytic converters are not foolproof. They can become damaged over time. If they’re not cleaned regularly, these components can break down completely. This will result in costly automobile repairs. Furthermore, the damage caused by a faulty converter isn’t just limited to this particular part.
Converters are connected to the engine and the exhaust system. When the converter isn’t operating as it should be, the carbon from the engine will stick anywhere it can. It can be found on the cylinders of the engine, the various valves, pistons, and even on the exhaust ports.
Typically, these carbon deposits are caused by uneven gasoline ratios in the engine. Your car’s engine needs oxygen and fuel to create combustion. When there’s a slight discrepancy between the air and fuel mixture, unburnt hydrocarbons are formed. Oftentimes, this process is a direct result of a clogged air filter or obstruction that’s affecting how much oxygen is getting into the engine.
No matter how well you take care of your vehicle, it’s virtually impossible to prevent carbon buildup in the engine completely. As time goes on, this layer of carbon will get thicker. Eventually, the carbon will decrease your engine’s efficiency. It will have to work harder because of increased friction in the valves and a smaller exhaust opening. When your engine has to work harder, it uses more fuel. It’s a negative chain reaction that will hurt your wallet and affect your overall vehicle investment.
Luckily, catalytic converter cleaners are available to prevent these types of issues. They can get rid of that layer of grime so that your engine and exhaust system lasts for many years to come.
What a Catalytic Converter Cleaner Does
Catalytic converter cleaners are solvents that are specifically formulated to target carbon and hydrocarbons. When you introduce the cleaner into your car’s fuel system, it circulates through the engine and exhaust. As it does this, it comes into contact with the carbons and breaks them down on a molecular level.
The carbons them travel out through the exhaust system. Cleaners are completely safe to use. While they’re tough on carbon and other messes that may be affecting your engine, they don’t cause damage to other parts. The cleaner will simply flow through the system as if it were fuel.
Benefits of Regular Cleaning
Using a catalytic converter cleaner is a simple and easy maintenance task that can save you a lot of headaches in the future. One of the biggest benefits a cleaner will give you is better engine performance. It gets rid of all the grime that accumulates in your fuel injection system, piston engines, and exhaust tubes. As a result, your engine can generate more power with less fuel.
If you’re concerned about vehicle emissions, regular cleaning can help you minimize your carbon footprint. Cleaners are particularly helpful if you live in a city that regulates pollution by requiring cars to have specific emission levels. Most modern vehicles have converters that are designed to filter out carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbons. When they’re not in good condition, more of these harmful emissions make it out into the environment. Not only does this make your car unsafe for you, but also for those around you. Cleaners ensure that the catalytic converter can do its job, allowing you to drive in confidence.
Finding the Right Catalytic Converter Cleaner
While there are many different cleaners on the market, finding one that’s right for your car is a relatively easy process. Catalytic converter cleaners are formulated to work with most modern vehicles. There are not a lot of fine details to sift through to ensure that a product is compatible with your car. With that being said, there are a couple of things you should consider.
Before you even start looking for a cleaner, it’s important to know what type of engine you have. You can often find this information in the manufacturer’s manual. It may even be found printed directly on the engine cover.
Typically, catalytic converter cleaners can work with a wide range of engines. However, some cleaners are more suited to work with a specific type of build. For example, you may find cleaners that should only be used on diesel engines. The last thing you want to do is use something that’s not rated for your vehicle’s engine. Take a look at the back of the cleaner bottle and make sure that your engine is compatible.
Catalytic converter cleaners are fuel additives that go directly into the tank. Usually, cleaners are sold in small 16 ounce bottles. You can get individual bottles to simplify the process even further. With a one-use bottle, you don’t have to worry about measuring the fluid or storing the cleaner safely.
With that being said, you can save a lot of money by buying in bulk. Larger cleaner bottles tend to have a lower price tag per ounce of fluid. Take this into consideration when you’re purchasing a cleaner. While there may be a bigger upfront cost, it’s important to remember that the cleaner is something that you will be using on a regular basis.
As mentioned earlier, cleaners are strong solvents that can break down grime by simply making contact with it. To achieve this feat, they’re formulated with strong chemicals. Before you open a bottle, scrutinize the instructions. The manufacturer may recommend that you wear protective gloves for added protection.
You may also find some regulatory information. These types of products are heavily tested for their safety and environmental impacts. Check out the information on the bottle to see if it meets regulations about VOC, sulfur content, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if the catalytic converter is in bad shape?
Most vehicles built after the 1980s are equipped with multiple sensors that monitor engine performance. These include the oxygen sensor and the air-fuel ratio sensor. Both of these sensors can detect issues within the catalytic converter. As a result, one of the easiest ways to tell if there’s a problem is the “CHECK ENGINE” light on the instrument panel.
You can also confirm these problems with a full electronic diagnosis. Diagnostic equipment can read information from your car’s computer. They often display that information in the form of codes, which can be deciphered in your vehicle’s manual.
Q: Where do you pour the catalytic converter cleaner?
Most catalytic converter cleaners go directly into the fuel tank. While this may seem unorthodox, the chemicals within the cleaner are formulated to do no harm. The cleaner won’t affect your fuel’s quality or performance. Once it’s mixed with the fuel, it can then flow through the engine and exhaust system freely to get rid of the accumulated carbon.
You may also find other types of cleaners out there. Foam cleaners are just as effective. However, they connect to the oxygen sensor port. Some cleaners can connect to the engine directly through a vacuum hose. While these cleaners can do wonders to keep your catalytic converter in good condition, they do require a bit more automotive knowledge to use.
Q: How much catalytic converter cleaner should be used?
If you purchase a one-use cleaner, you should empty the entire bottle into the fuel tank. Most cleaners are sold in small bottles that contain about 16 ounces of fluid. If you buy in bulk, you’ll need to measure this out. Stick with the information you find on the bottle to ensure that the cleaner can do its job efficiently.
Q: Do I need to do anything after pouring the cleaner into the fuel tank?
Once you pour the cleaner into the fuel tank, you should fill up your tank with gas and go for a ride. You should never operate the vehicle with a tank that only has cleaner in it. By filling up, you can properly dilute the cleaner and get it moving throughout your engine. Furthermore, some cleaners need heat to activate. You can bring your car to the standard operating temperature to let the cleaner do its thing.
It’s recommended that you drive for at least 50 miles. If you can empty your fuel tank completely, that’s even better. This ensures that the cleaner can work its magic and get out of your car’s system efficiently. Many people choose to use catalytic converter cleaners before a big road trip so that the engine and exhaust systems are cleaned out as they drive.
Q: How often should a catalytic converter cleaner be used?
Ideally, you should use a catalytic converter cleaner each time you perform routine maintenance. However, at the very least, you should use a cleaner every 4,000 to 5,000 miles. With regular cleanings, you can avoid significant carbon accumulation. This makes it easier to keep your converter clean and efficient.