How Long Can You Drive With a Bad Catalytic Converter?

by Jesse Sears

Overview

It Can Be Driven Indefinitely

Replacing a catalytic converter

A plugged catalytic converter will only in extreme cases prevent you from driving your car. You can usually drive your car indefinitely with a partially plugged converter, though you will see a drop in performance. The converter might become completely fused almost immediately or over time and then would require immediate replacement.

It Can Burn Through Over Time

Refilling a car's oil tank

When your engine is burning oil or running too rich, your catalytic converter's inner fiber may be "burned through." If the converter is burned through you can still drive the car as long as you want, but will notice some smoke and a smell.

Bottom Line

Vehicles with blocked catalytic converter should not be driven

Most catalytic converter problems do not prevent your car from functioning, but if a catalytic converter is completely plugged you should not drive your car at all. If you live in an area with smog checks, you will not be able to legally drive your car without having the damaged converter replaced.

About the Author

Jesse Sears is a Los Angeles-based journalist and photographer. He has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2008. Sears has been published in numerous traditional and online media ventures including "The Daily Sundial," "The Pasadena Courier," RSportsCars.com and others. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge.