What Is the Purpose of a Catalytic Converter?

by Jason Medina

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emissions device used to lower a vehicle's exhaust emissions output. Similar in size and shape to an exhaust muffler, a catalytic converter is attached directly to a vehicle's exhaust system. What follows is a brief description outlining the main purposes of catalytic converter use.

Burn Unbruned Exhaust Gases

The main function of a catalytic converter is to burn unburned exhaust gases that exit a vehicle's engine. By burning these unburned exhaust gases, a catalytic converter lowers the emissions output of a vehicle's exhaust.

Impede Normal Exhaust Flow

A catalytic converter creates exhaust system impedance, which causes the exhaust exiting a vehicle's engine to slow down, a process that gives the catalytic converter more time to act upon the exhaust gases.

Reduce Hydrocarbon Exhaust Emissions

Hydrocarbon emissions, which are created when air and gas is burned inside of a vehicle engine, are significantly reduced by the burning action of a catalytic converter.

Mandate Unleaded Gasoline Use

All vehicles equipped with catalytic converters require the use of unleaded gasoline, which is a cleaner-burning type of gasoline that results in lower exhaust emissions. Leaded gasolines and/or racing gasolines are highly damaging to a catalytic converter and cannot be used in cars equipped with one.

Reduce Carbon Monoxide Emissions

Carbon monoxide exhaust emissions are significantly reduced by the burning actions of a catalytic converter. Carbon monoxide gases are natural by-products of engine combustion, and catalytic converters help to lower these emissions by re-burning exiting engine exhaust gases.

About the Author

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