How to Legally Remove the Catalytic Converter

by Jen Davis
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Motorcycle exhaust image by Crisps85 from

Removing and replacing the catalytic converter on your car is a legally tricky issue, especially if you live in California or another state with fairly strict laws relating to catalytic converters, car exhaust and emissions. In 1986, the Enviromental Protection Agency issued national guidelines that regulated the legal processes relating to removing, replacing and installing catalytic converters. Removing a catalytic converter legally means following specific processes that you should not attempt on your own.

Due to the laws involved and the possibility for fines, you do not want to attempt this task without your mechanic. Your mechanic should document the entire process, including noting the original converter's flaws and need for replacement.

Step 1

Take your vehicle to a reputable mechanic shop that specializes in mufflers and exhaust. Finding a credible, reliable exhaust mechanic is especially important if you live in a state with strict emissions laws, such as California. Check your local Better Business Bureau to identify shops with good service ratings.

Step 2

Have the mechanic inspect your vehicle's catalytic converter. EPA guidelines state that the catalytic converter must be replaced if it is removed; and before it can be removed, it has to meet certain criteria. The legal criteria for removing a catalytic converter specifies that it must have failed a state or local emissions inspection and have a legitimate need for replacement that can be established and documented.

Step 3

Allow your mechanic to remove your catalytic converter if it is no longer working properly. Federal law makes it illegal to remove a functioning catalytic converter.

Step 4

Purchase a replacement catalytic converter that meets state and federal requirements. By federal law the new converter must be identical to the factory original and must be installed exactly to vehicle manufacturer specifications.

Step 5

Have your mechanic install your replacement converter. Once it is installed, you may have have it inspected depending on where you live. Your mechanic is also legally obligated to fill out and submit the manufacturer warranty card that accompanied the new converter.

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