Cheapest Way to Fix Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter is a valuable yet essential component to pass emission tests but takes thousands to replace if gets damaged. However, there are some cheapest way to fix catalytic converters that you can apply to avoid breaking the bank.

You can clean the converter, add some “SJ”-type of motor oil, and fix holes or leaks to restore functionality of your catalytic converter. But you can’t keep driving with a bad catalytic converter or take it off as it’s illegal and harmful to the environment.

The Cheapest Way to Fix Catalytic Converter

The cost of fixing a catalytic converter varies depending on the condition of the converter and the solution required fixing it. If your catalytic converter is completely plugged, damaged, or fails, you must replace it with a new one which will cost around $2500. There is no alternative or cheapest way to deal with this problem.

But if your catalytic converter only needs to clean or fix the sensor to restore its function, you won’t cost much. Though some products claim to clean or repair converters, they aren’t reliable solutions. These products can even cost further damage to your catalytic converter or other components of the exhaust system.

Since a catalytic converter is a vital component of a car’s exhaust system and help reduce harmful emission, inspect it by a professional mechanic. If he suggests replacing the converter, go for it even if it cost thousands.

Below are some causes and solutions for fixing catalytic converters that requires less money:

1. Cleaning

The catalytic converter is an expensive yet highly durable component that lasts the life of the vehicle. Most of the car owners who experienced converter issues were only required to clean them.

Converter cleaner is also widely available in most auto part stores and its price is around $8 to $20. The catalytic converter cleaner can effectively clean carbon buildup on the converter and it’s recommended to use this cleaner every 3000 miles.

Another way to clean the catalytic converter is by running the engine with an unplugged coil. This’ll allow the raw unburnt fuel to enter the catalytic converter. Then turn off the engine and wait for around 30 minutes so it can soak. After that, turn on the engine and drive hard for around 10 minutes to clean the catalytic converter out. If this method doesn’t work, you may need to replace the converter.

2. Fixing the Sensor

The oxygen sensor can damage if silicone comes into contact with the converter. The sign of a damaged oxygen sensor is noticing white fumes coming out of the smoking exhaust pipe.

Fixing the Sensor

This catalytic converter problem can also be fixed cheaply by sealing the entry point of the silicone. Car leak sealants are widely available on the market that cost around $20. Simply pour the sealant into the radiator and seal the leak to fix the problem.

3. Fixing the Phosphorus

Your car can fail the emissions test if heavy phosphorus contaminant the catalytic converter. If this happens, you’ll notice blue fumes coming from the exhaust pipe.

You can solve this problem by using “SJ” -a type of motor oil that contains a higher amount of phosphorus. This is another cheapest way to fix a catalytic converter that may cost around $29 to $36.

4. Avoiding Spirited Drive

Another minor problem of catalytic converters is a bit increased fuel consumption and reduced power. It can happen due to breaking the speed limit and can cause endanger other users of the road.

High-speed driving at high RPMs heats the converter and increases the oil flow through the higher level. It’s a bad driving habit that can cause expensive repair or replacement of catalytic converters. So avoid spirited driving.

5. Solving Exhaust Leaks

Fixing a small exhaust leak cost around $30 while solving a major leak can cost $100. So if you experience any catalytic converter issues, check the exhaust leaks before planning for replacing the whole parts. It can save you thousands.

Solving Exhaust Leaks

6. Repairing Hole in the converter

If there is a hole in your catalytic converter, you can fix it easily and quickly without spending thousands. Though some people weld the hole, it won’t last as the converter will become extremely hot.

Repairing Hole in the converter

To fix the hole, you can use some metal clamps and sheet metal. If you are concerned about passing the emission test, consult with reliable auto repair shops like pep boys, Autozone, or Napa. You may also need to visit a muffler shop to weld the hole and pass the test.

7. Cleaning the converter manually

If your car has a catalytic converter issue and activates the check engine light, you can repair it cheaply. Remove the converter and bash out all the innards using a long bar and put the converter back in. Then buy a spacer for the O2 sensor to move the sensor out of the way of the exhaust’s flow. It’ll also turn off the check engine light.

Cleaning the converter manually

Cost of replacing a catalytic converter

The average replacement cost of the catalytic converter is around $945 to $2,475 depending on the type, and brand.

Cost of replacing a catalytic converter

 The universal fit catalytic converter can cost $2300 while the direct fit one can cost up to $2500. In terms of the car, if your vehicle was made before 1981, it’ll cost between $180 and $800 to replace the catalytic converter. The price of the catalytic converter for the older model is around $100 to $650 and the labor may cost between $85 and $150.

The replacement cost of the catalytic converter for the newer model is considerably more expensive. If your vehicle is made after 1981, it’ll require a three-way catalytic converter which cost around $620 to $2500 including labor cost.  

The labor will also cost between $70 to $130 per hour to install the converter. While private and independent mechanic charges a lower rate, expert mechanic and le who work or a dealership charge a higher rate.

The exact time required to install the converter varieties considering the model of the car. However, you can save the labor cost by doing the job easily by yourself following a simple process, and buying a direct replacement part.

Below is a list of some popular car brands along with the approximate price:

Car ModelApproximate price of the catalytic converter
Ford F-150$1,280
Honda Civic$1,560
Toyota Corolla$1,685
Honda Accord$1,970
Chevrolet Malibu$999
Nissan Altima$1,380
Chevrolet Silverado$1,394

Note: if you are planning to buy a used catalytic converter for your car, check your state’s law. It’s illegal to buy or sell used converters in some states like Grand Canyon and California.

Is it Better to Replace the Catalytic Converter or Remove it?

Since it’s expensive to replace the catalytic converter, you may be planning to take it off or use a pipe instead. But you can’t do so. It’s illegal to drive a car in the USA without a catalytic converter. Doing so is against the Federal and State Emission Laws and you can fine $1,000.  

Is it Better to Replace the Catalytic Converter or Remove it

If your car came with a catalytic converter from the factory, it’s illegal to take it off as it’ll consider defective on US highways. Your cart won’t also pass the emission test.

Another thing is that today’s cars have lots of sophisticated computer systems on the board that receives information through various types of sensors. If you remove the catalytic converter and add a straight pipe, it can cause a false reading on the computer and some essential devices can turn off.

But if you have an older model car and your local area welcomes poison gas, you can take the converter off instead of replacing it. An off-road vehicle like a race car also doesn’t require a catalyst.


How to fix a catalytic converter without replacing it?

You can fix the catalytic converter problem by using high-octane fuel periodically. Initially changing the fuel will clean the converter and help restore its performance. However, regularly using high-octane fuel can affect the car’s longevity.

How to fix the catalytic converter and check the engine light?

The exhaust leak in the converter allows gas out of the system before reaching the converter. Hence, the converter can get damaged and the car activates the check engine light. So fixing the exhaust leak can help deactivate the check engine light that appeared due to the catalytic converter.

Can you drive with a bad catalytic converter?

A bad catalytic converter will release higher emissions during driving which is not allowed. A car with a bad catalytic converter won’t pass the vehicle inspection resulting in you won’t be able to drive the car legally. Even if you leave the faulty converter unchecked, it’ll degrade and collapse eventually and choke the vehicle’s performance.

Final Words

The cheapest way to fix the catalytic converter is to clean it and add some high-octane fuel. Check for other potential causes and try to fix them. If neither of those tips works, talk to an expert mechanic and replace the converter even if it cost thousands. You can’t keep driving with a faulty catalytic converter as it’s both harmful for your car and the environment and cost you fines.

My name is Tom Vanderbilt. I am an automotive expert and renowned for my profound knowledge of automobiles. I have made significant contributions to the industry through my experience and expertise. I have a natural curiosity and fascination for cars. My journey is to explore the intricate dynamics between people, their vehicles, and the ever-evolving transportation landscape.

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