Why are Catalytic Converters Necessary and Why You Can’t Drive Without One

Catalytic converters are required these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Vehicles weren’t required to have catalytic converters for nearly a century after the invention of the automobile. It wasn’t until The Clean Air Act of 1970, which required emissions from vehicles to be reduced by 90 percent, that vehicles began being manufactured with catalytic converters. Though the law passed in 1970, manufacturers were given five years to implement the changes, meaning it wasn’t until 1975 that all vehicles began emitting cleaner emissions. 

It was a remarkable piece of climate legislation that continues to impact the environment and automotive industry. It could be said the wide implementation of catalytic converters has helped to slow down that spiral by some margin. 

The proliferation of the catalytic converter also brought about change to the fuel industry, with leaded fuel being phased out because lead was found to clog catalytic converters. Lead was also terrible for the well-being of humans, especially children, which is another reason why we now have unleaded fuel. Yet, with all the positive changes, catalytic converters are expensive, and because they’re easy to steal, they have become a target for those looking for a quick payday. 

Necessary But Expensive 

Due to the precious metals found inside, a new catalytic converter can go for thousands of dollars. While all vehicles made after 1975 have to leave the factory with a catalytic converter installed, they can become clogged, damaged, or stolen. Repair is rarely an option, forcing vehicle owners to shell out for a new one. In some states, it’s mandated by law for vehicle owners to purchase new catalytic converters from the manufacturer or an aftermarket company. 

It may seem like catalytic converters are too much of a hassle, and that is true to an extent. Driving without one can improve fuel economy and deliver more power to the engine, but before you get the idea to remove your catalytic converter, you should know the downsides. Aside from the fact that it’s illegal throughout the country to drive a vehicle manufactured after 1975 without a catalytic converter, doing so can be costly and extremely harmful to the environment. 

Environmental Impact

Without a catalytic converter, emissions could pour out unfiltered into the atmosphere, poisoning the air with hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. While your car would function without a catalytic converter, you would increase your carbon footprint and cause direct damage to the environment. 

Hefty Fines

If environmental impact isn’t enough of a concern, drivers operating a vehicle without a catalytic converter are subject to hefty monetary fines. Fines can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars depending on where in the country you reside. Many bogus websites claim Colorado drivers can get fined $47,000 for driving without a catalytic converter, but those are baseless claims. Fines vary by state and county, and they rarely surpass $1,000.

That can be tough if your catalytic converter was just stolen, but it gets worse. For residents in Colorado, it’s illegal to install a used catalytic converter. Drivers must install new catalytic converters made by the manufacturer or aftermarket companies. Failure to do so can result in a jaw-dropping, bank account-destroying $47,357 fine for each day in violation

Loud Operation

Vehicles have a complex exhaust system, of which the catalytic converter is just one piece. Without the emission-reducing part, the exhaust system is disrupted, preventing emissions from passing through and exiting through the exhaust pipe. This also prevents emissions from passing through the muffler, which muffles the sound of the emissions coming from the engine. This results in a roaring, ear-splitting engine noise. Unless you enjoy the sound of a roaring engine and have a pair of earplugs around, it’s best to keep the catalytic converter in place. 

Emissions Tests

If you want to pass an emissions test, you need a catalytic converter to do it. Not all states require emissions tests, but several counties in Colorado, including Denver County, do require it of vehicle owners. The law is only applicable to cars older than seven years, after which vehicle emissions must be inspected every two years. 

Hybrid vehicles eight years and older must also be tested, as well as alternative-fuel vehicles that run on ethanol, natural gas, and other alternative fuels. There are exceptions to this law in Colorado, however. For example, vehicles manufactured before 1975 may be exempt from emissions tests if they are registered as “collector’s items. 

The bottom line is that if you want to keep driving your vehicle legally, you need to keep your catalytic converter intact and in position. 

Core Masters Will Buy Your Used Catalytic Converter 

Catalytic converters help contain harmful emissions from reaching and further polluting the atmosphere. Additionally, catalytic converters contain many precious metals, making them big targets for thieves. The good news is that there is a development there. 

A new study published in the Chemistry of Materials presents a more efficient catalytic converter design that would result in less rhodium used per unit. It’s a small improvement that could have major consequences, though the next iteration of catalytic converters is yet to be unveiled. Until then, however, the platinum, palladium, and rhodium-based parts will continue to be a valuable target for thieves and, consequently, a pain for vehicle owners. 

Core Masters, the leading catalytic converter buyer in Denver, offers the best prices around and pays in cash. With in-house recycling facilities that allow Core Masters to operate independently, sellers are able to get a bigger piece of the pie. If you want to sell your catalytic converter, pay us a visit and don’t forget your ID — we need proof sellers are 18 or older. We’ll recycle it for you and put cash in your hand.