How To Clean Catalytic Converter: A Complete Guide

  • 5 min read
  • Aug 15, 2023
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Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to clean a catalytic converter. If you are a car owner, you might have heard about catalytic converters. These important components play a crucial role in reducing harmful emissions from your vehicle. Over time, however, they can become clogged with carbon deposits and other pollutants, leading to decreased engine performance and increased emissions. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of cleaning your catalytic converter, as well as provide step-by-step instructions on how to do it yourself.


A catalytic converter is a vital part of your car’s exhaust system. It contains catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions to convert harmful gases into less harmful substances. These catalysts are typically made of platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which are expensive metals. Therefore, it is important to maintain and clean your catalytic converter regularly to ensure its optimal performance and longevity.

By cleaning your catalytic converter, you can improve your car’s fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and restore lost engine power. However, it is essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this process before proceeding.

Advantages of Cleaning a Catalytic Converter

1. Improved Fuel Efficiency

A clean catalytic converter allows for better air and fuel flow, leading to improved fuel efficiency. By removing carbon deposits and other pollutants, the converter can operate at its maximum capacity, ensuring optimal combustion and reducing fuel consumption.

2. Reduced Emissions

Cleaning your catalytic converter can significantly reduce harmful emissions from your vehicle. A clogged converter may not be able to efficiently convert pollutants into less harmful substances, leading to increased levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons being released into the environment.

3. Restored Engine Power

If your catalytic converter is clogged, it can restrict the flow of exhaust gases, causing your engine to work harder. Cleaning the converter can remove the blockage and restore your engine’s power and performance.

4. Cost Savings

Regularly cleaning your catalytic converter can help prevent costly repairs or replacement. A clean converter is less likely to suffer from damage or failure, saving you money in the long run.

Disadvantages of Cleaning a Catalytic Converter

1. Potential Damage

Improper cleaning techniques or the use of harsh chemicals can damage the delicate catalysts inside the converter. This can lead to decreased efficiency or complete failure of the converter.

In some regions, tampering with a catalytic converter or removing it for cleaning purposes may be illegal. It is important to check the local regulations and consult with a professional before attempting to clean your catalytic converter.

3. Time and Effort

Cleaning a catalytic converter can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. It requires proper tools, knowledge, and patience. If you are not confident in your abilities, it is recommended to seek professional help.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Clean a Catalytic Converter

Materials Needed Tools Needed
1. Catalytic converter cleaner 1. Jack and jack stands
2. Wire brush 2. Wrench or socket set
3. Safety goggles 3. Screwdriver
4. Gloves 4. Pliers
5. Mask 5. Cleaning brush

Step 1: Safety Precautions

Before starting the cleaning process, ensure your car is parked on a flat surface and the engine is turned off. Put on your safety goggles, gloves, and mask to protect yourself from any chemicals or debris.

Step 2: Raise the Vehicle

Using a jack and jack stands, lift your vehicle to gain access to the catalytic converter. Make sure the car is securely supported before proceeding.

Step 3: Remove the Converter

Locate the catalytic converter under your car. It is usually connected to the exhaust pipe. Use a wrench or socket set to loosen and remove the bolts or clamps holding the converter in place.

Step 4: Clean the Converter

Using a wire brush or cleaning brush, gently scrub the exterior of the converter to remove any loose debris or carbon deposits. Be careful not to damage the delicate catalysts inside.

Step 5: Apply Catalytic Converter Cleaner

Follow the instructions on the catalytic converter cleaner to apply it to the interior of the converter. This cleaner is specifically designed to dissolve and remove stubborn carbon deposits.

Step 6: Allow the Cleaner to Work

Let the cleaner sit inside the converter for the recommended amount of time. This allows it to break down and dissolve the carbon deposits, making them easier to remove.

Step 7: Rinse and Reinstall

After the cleaning process, rinse the converter thoroughly with water to remove any remaining cleaner or debris. Once clean, reinstall the converter back into the exhaust system using the previously removed bolts or clamps.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: Can I clean my catalytic converter without removing it?

A1: It is possible to clean the exterior of the catalytic converter without removing it, but for a thorough cleaning, it is recommended to remove the converter.

Q2: How often should I clean my catalytic converter?

A2: Cleaning frequency depends on various factors such as driving conditions and fuel quality. It is generally recommended to clean the catalytic converter every 50,000 to 80,000 miles.

Q3: Can I use any cleaner to clean my catalytic converter?

A3: No, it is crucial to use a specific catalytic converter cleaner that is designed to dissolve carbon deposits without damaging the catalysts inside.

Q4: Can I clean a completely clogged catalytic converter?

A4: Cleaning a severely clogged catalytic converter can be challenging. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to replace it. Consult with a professional for guidance.

Q5: Will cleaning the catalytic converter improve my car’s performance?

A5: Yes, by removing carbon deposits and improving exhaust flow, cleaning the catalytic converter can restore lost engine power and improve overall performance.

Q6: Are there any alternatives to cleaning a catalytic converter?

A6: If cleaning is not sufficient to restore the converter’s performance, replacement might be necessary. Consult with a professional mechanic for the best course of action.

Q7: How can I prevent my catalytic converter from getting clogged?

A7: Using high-quality fuel, regular maintenance, and avoiding excessive idling can help prevent carbon buildup and prolong the life of your catalytic converter.


Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of how to clean a catalytic converter, you can make an informed decision about whether to tackle the process yourself or seek professional assistance. Remember to always prioritize safety and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any cleaning products. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your catalytic converter can lead to improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and a smoothly running engine. Take action today and enjoy the benefits of a clean catalytic converter!


Q: Is it safe to clean a catalytic converter yourself?

A: Cleaning a catalytic converter yourself can be safe if you follow proper procedures and use the correct cleaning products. However, if you are unsure or uncomfortable, it is best to seek professional help.

Q: Can cleaning a catalytic converter fix the “check engine” light issue?

A: In some cases, a clogged catalytic converter can trigger the “check engine” light. Cleaning the converter may resolve the issue, but it is recommended to have the car diagnosed by a professional if the light persists.

Q: How long does it take to clean a catalytic converter?

A: The time it takes to clean a catalytic converter depends on various factors such as the level of buildup and the cleaning method used. It can range from a few hours to a full day.

Q: Can I clean a catalytic converter with water?

A: While rinsing the converter with water is part of the cleaning process, it is not sufficient to

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