Can a bad catalytic converter ruin your engine?

A catalytic converter is an essential component of your car. The component lasts for years but can be contaminated or damaged.

It helps minimize the airborne pollutants that could harm the environment and people. It turns approximately 90% of the toxic emissions from the engine into less destructive gases.

However, these harmful gases or any other cause can contaminate or damage the catalytic converter resulting in inefficiency. When the catalytic converter is damaged or contaminated, it does not function, meaning the engine will be affected.

Therefore, a bad catalytic converter can ruin the engine since no other engine component can play its role. If the element is not immediately taken care of, the engine will eventually shut down.

car catalyst

What Does a Failing Catalytic Converter Mean for the Engine?

When the catalytic converter is contaminated, clogged, cracked, or damaged, it means a lot to the engine and vehicle. In that case, its performance will be dying, too, leading especially to environmental issues since its primary purpose is to purify emissions from the engine before they are released into the air.

Therefore, the engine’s performance will decline as the catalytic converter fails. This will persist if the problem is not fixed and eventually cause severe to irreversible engine damage.

Though the catalytic converter is situated outside the engine, it plays a critical role in keeping the engine in good shape. The catalytic converter is located at the center of the engine emissions’ way.

If it fails, mainly because of clogging, the emissions’ path will be blocked, increasing the backpressure instead. Therefore, the engine will overheat, and its performance will decline.

This will lead to internal damages. Below is the extensive coverage of the problems a failing catalytic converter can cause.

What Problems Can a Bad Catalytic Converter Cause?

Environment Pollution

The gases emitted by the engine are harmful and pose significant risks to every living thing. However, to prevent these toxic gases from being absorbed into the environment and causing the problems they are capable of, vehicle manufacturers positioned the catalytic converter along the emissions’ way to purify them before reaching the environment.

Therefore, if the catalytic converter is damaged, no gas will be converted into less harmful substances when being released into the environment meaning the unconverted harmful gases will be released into the air, posing risks.

When the catalytic converter is damaged, the gases released into the environment smell like rotten eggs or sulfur. This can also act as a symptom that your catalytic converter is failing.

Damage the Engine

A clogged catalytic converter prevents emissions to the environment, increasing the backpressure. If the gases are not emitted and remember they are extremely hot, they create an unhealthy condition for the engine to function.

Therefore, the engine slows down, and its performance declines significantly. The hot gases lead to overheating, affecting various parts. This reduces the engine’s performance and eventually leads to a complete shutdown if the problem is not fixed in time.

Your Car Might Fail the Annual Emissions Test (MOT)

Vehicles usually are taken for annual emission tests where officials are stringent. If your vehicle’s catalytic converter is damaged and unfit to perform efficiently, the car is considered unworthy to drive. Therefore, you will be driving the car illegally, which might lead to high fines.

Reduced Acceleration

The acceleration system is among the things that can be affected by backpressure due to a clogged catalytic converter. When you press the accelerator pedal and realize the vehicle’s speed is not changing, that might be a problem resulting from a bad catalytic converter. This can be a bad problem if you are on a long journey far from your intended destination.

What Happens if You Don’t Fix Catalytic Converter?

If your catalytic converter is damaged, contaminated, or clogged and you fail to fix it as soon as possible, the above problems will surely surface.

More importantly, your vehicle’s engine will be severely affected after a while. The engine will slug in performance and eventually will shut down.

If a problem is not solved, it generates another problem which leads to another, and so on, and the whole system breaks down eventually.

Is it Worth Fixing a Catalytic Converter?

Fixing a catalytic converter is costly, so you need to consider some facts before considering whether it is worth fixing it. After confirming the catalytic converter has a problem, don’t splash your money before you have a confirmation that you can either repair or change the catalytic converter.

The catalytic converter can be cleaned. If this option is confirmed by an authorized mechanic, then you can clean it. However, if the better option is not to clean the catalytic converter, then replace it, but the costs are high.

It will be draining to fix the catalytic converter and keep fixing other expensive and recurring problems. Therefore, it would be wise of you to incur the loss and sell the vehicle and get a new one.

Additionally, replacing the catalytic converter and failing to fix the cause of its failure will not be helpful. Instead, you will have wasted your money because the same problem will make the new catalytic converter fail.

Therefore, before you replace the catalytic converter, find the cause of its failure and fix it. If repairing the reason and replacing the catalytic converter will be beyond the vehicle’s Worth, I think it would be time to forget about the car.


A catalytic converter is a crucial component in vehicles. It helps in engine performance and keeping the environment off harmful gases emitted by cars. A lot happens in the engine, including burning the fuel, which has its by-products in gases.

The emissions leave the engine via the exhaust system, where the catalytic converter is located to purify the gases before they reach the environment.

However, the harmful gases or any other cause might affect the catalytic converter and make it fail to perform its role. Therefore, if it is damaged for any reason, it leads to the problems mentioned above that can harm the vehicle and the environment.

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