How to unlock a catalytic converter? With or without removing it (2023)

How to unlock a catalytic converter? With or without removing it (1)

Black smoke, a rotten egg smell, and extreme heat from below are signs of a clogged catalytic converter. It's not exactly hell, but it's close. TOCatalystIt removes a lot of dust and other stuff coming out of the engine. Then it can become clogged and must be cleaned. Catalysts are important to boththe performance of your engineand the health of the environment, so it's good to know how to cap one when the need arises. This is what you should do.

Can a clogged catalytic converter be repaired?

Sometimes you can fix a clogged catalytic converter simply by cleaning it. This can be accomplished by adding a chemical cleaner to the exhaust system and running it through the converter. The cleaner loosens deposits clogging the converter and returns it to its previous condition. In other cases, however, the damage to the converter may be too great and everything must be replaced.

You usually only need to do this if the converter is badly damaged or completely blocked. When your catalytic converter needs to be replaced, it's important to use a quality catalytic converter that meets or exceeds the standards set by your vehicle's manufacturer. Using an inferior converter can affect engine performance and fuel economy, making it more prone to failure.

Symptoms of a clogged catalytic converter

You can't tell for sure if your car's catalytic converter is clogged without removing and opening it. But this method requires some tools and some mechanical knowledge, so no one should try it. Anyway, let's talk about other ways you can check if your catalytic converter is broken:

non motor problem

Your engine won't start, stalls and stalls, or you hear a knocking noise when driving slowly. If the engine misfires or the exhaust valves don't work properly, the catalytic converter is probably clogged. then check yoursplugsand valves to get rid of one of those things that can damage your catalytic converter.

fuel efficiency issues

When your car runs on a rich mixture of fuel and air, not much fuel is burned. This is another sign that your catalytic converter is clogged. When the catalytic converter is clogged, your engine has to work harder and use more fuel. This causes your fuel efficiency to drop.

Failed Vehicle Emissions Test

Perhaps the statement that is clearest. Your car failed an emissions test and is releasing a higher level of potentially hazardous compounds than regulations allow.

Check to see if the engine lights come on.

Your vehicle's diagnostic systems will notify you if there is a problem with one of the vehicle's components. Make sure the catalytic converter is working properly.

Bad smell

The smell of rotten eggs indicates sulfur in the exhaust system. Sulfur is one of the toxic gases that the catalytic converter tries to convert into something less dangerous. Its presence indicates that your converter is clogged.

Diagnosing a Clogged Catalytic Converter

If you can't pinpoint the general symptoms, there are some diagnostic tools available online and commercially that can help you check your car's response. Here are some ways to tell if your catalytic converter is clogged.

vacuum test

You will need a vacuum gauge for this test. Depending on the type of car you have, you will need to put the transmission in park or neutral and then use the parking brake. Then connect the vacuum gauge to a direct vacuum line, e.g. B. a connection on the intake manifold. Start the car and let it run at low speed until it is at the right temperature. At this point, the vacuum gauge should read between 18 and 22 in-Hg.

Keep the RPM between 2,500 and 3,000 RPM and watch the vacuum gauge. Your reading should go down for a while and then be back to where it was in a few seconds. If it takes a long time for the reading to return to the original level, the catalytic converter is probably clogged.

(Video) How I Figured Out Exhaust Restriction (Clogged Catalytic Converter)

back pressure test

For this test you need a dynamic pressure gauge and the test is carried out on the exhaust system. Remove the front lambda probes. Swap it out for the dynamic gauge, start the car and see what the gauge says. 0-3 psi is normal, especially if you rev ​​it up to around 2500rpm. If the reading is 8 psi or higher, it means your car's catalytic converter is clogged.

temperature tests

To test the temperature of your car, you need thermometers. Start the car and wait a few minutes for it to reach operating temperature. Make sure you are on a level surface. Put your car's transmission in "Park" or "Neutral" depending on the type of vehicle. Find and record the temperature of the pipe going to the face of the catalytic converter. You may need to jack up your car to do this. Do the same with the tube that comes out the back of the catalytic converter. If the front temperature is at least equal to the rear temperature, the catalytic converter has a problem.

Things to keep in mind before you start unclogging

Before attempting to clean your catalytic converter, there are a few things to consider. Parts inside the catalytic converter often come off. If this is the case, then you cannot repair your catalytic converter and you will need to buy a new one.

How to unlock a catalytic converter? With or without removing it (2)

very constipated

If your catalytic converter is so clogged that the engine won't start, you must either remove it and use special tools or replace it entirely.

Check for loose parts

You can touch your catalyst with a lightRubber hammerand listen for any loose parts inside. If you hear loose parts, you should remove and inspect the catalytic converter. Loose parts can become further loose and completely block the exhaust, which can stall the car while driving. If you find something like this in your exhaust system, you need to replace the catalytic converter.

purification catalyst

Remember that the inside of your catalytic converter may have been cleaned out and internal parts may have exploded out of the tailpipe. This can be hard to see without removing the catalytic converter; So if you think this is the case, take it out and have it checked out.

use of oil

Your catalytic converter may be clogged due to oil getting into the cylinders and burning in the hot catalytic converter. If this is the case, you should always repair the internal oil leak before attempting this repair, as it may only work for a short time before the catalytic converter clogs again.

How do you unlock a catalyst?

You can clean your car's catalytic converter with a catalytic converter cleaner, or you can remove it, pressure wash it, and degrease it before putting it back in place. Also, did you know that you can also unclog a catalytic converter without removing it? Let's look at the two methods.

Unclog the catalytic converter without removing it

Follow these few steps to clean your catalytic converter without removing it.

The easiest way to clean a catalytic converter without removing it is to use a catalytic converter cleaner, e.g. B. OXICAT (Oxygen Sensor and Catalytic Converter). You can find other products of this type online and in stores. It also cleans your O2 sensors and the entire exhaust system.

Remember that this product will not repair any mechanical failure in your catalytic converter if it is cracked, broken or severely clogged. This is a cleaner for a slightly clogged catalytic converter that has lost its performance over time.

Unattach the catalytic converter by dismantling it

You should only follow this method if you tried the first method and it didn't work.

(Video) Catalytic converter cleaning in less than 5 Minutes/Cleaning Catalytic converter with AUTOOL Kit

Tools needed

Some tools you will need are an auto degreaser, a large container, some penetrating oil, a jack, a jack, an impact wrench, and a pressure washer.


Allow the exhaust system to cool to avoid burns. Raise the car and keep it suspended with jack stands. Take that offoxygen sensor. Apply some penetrating oil to loosen the bolts. Check the catalytic converter after removal. If you hear a loud noise, you may want to pull over as the catalytic converter components are likely breaking apart. If you don't hear anything, continue with the process.

Use the pressure washer to wash the catalytic converter with low pressure. Soak the catalytic converter in hot water and degreaser. Rinse the catalytic converter with the pressure washer on low pressure. Reinstall the catalytic converter after draining and drying. Reinstall the oxygen sensors after reinstalling the catalytic converter.

Clean the catalyst with a hammer

If your catalytic converter is clogged, you can use a hammer to clean it out.

tools needed

For this you will need a handyman hammer, a butane torch, a wide cold chisel, small brushes and a pressure washer.


First find the catalytic converter. It is usually located near the engine, which is located under the car. Use the screwdriver to unscrew the screws holding it in place once you locate it. Then remove the catalytic converter from the car. You must use the burner to heat the catalyst. Then take the cold chisel and lightly tap the side of the converter with it. You may have to do this more than once before the converter is clean. Then take the piece of tubing and insert it into the inlet of the catalyst. Then hit the pipe with the hammer. This will remove any debris that may be caught in the converter. Finally, use the hammer to hit the top of the converter to secure everything upside down. Put the catalytic converter back on the car and check that the bolts are tight. With just a few simple steps, you can unlock your catalytic converter and ensure trouble-free operation.

Watch this YouTube video or clean the catalytic converter.

frequent questions

How does a car behave with a clogged catalytic converter?

When your car's catalytic converter is clogged, exhaust gases remain in the car. This causes the engine to stall because the exhaust gas pressure is too high. If your car runs fine at first but then starts sputtering or stalling, it could be due to a problem with the catalytic converter.

Can you hammer a catalyst to release it?

Take a rubber mallet, jack the car up as high as you can and hit the catalytic converter hard in the middle, front and back. This should break up the interior and loosen things up so they can be blown out or have more airflow.

How long does a car last with a clogged catalytic converter?

(Video) How to Clean Your Car's Catalytic Converter using Lacquer Thinner

A catalyst can run as long as you want. If the catalytic converter is completely clogged, you will not be able to start the car. In some cases it may melt immediately or completely over time, in which case it should be replaced immediately.


A blocked catalytic converter does not mean that it is inoperative. You can save money by having it repaired. It is important that you regularly check your car and have it repaired immediately if something goes wrong. Every car with a combustion engine needs a catalytic converter. It is an easy piece to make, but it is expensive because it contains precious metals. If the damage is minor, you can clean a clogged catalytic converter. If you don't fix the problem, the catalytic converter will fail and need to be replaced.


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Last Updated: 09/23/2023

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