If you are told that the catalytic converter in your car needs to be replaced, your first question might be, “What is a catalytic converter?” Learning that, you might ask, “Which one should I buy? OEM or aftermarket catalytic converter?” Having learned the importance of this critical component of the exhaust system, your follow-up question could be: “How much does it cost?” If you have not had this conversation with your service provider, read on our OEM vs. Aftermarket catalytic converter showdown.
OEM Vs Aftermarket Catalytic Converter: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying One
What is a Catalytic Converter?
The catalyst is one of the most important parts of the exhaust system because it converts the dirty exhaust from the engine into a clean gas that does not seriously pollute the environment. Catalytic converters or cats use automotive jargon, do not have moving parts, but convert toxic exhaust gases into carbon dioxide and water through ceramic honeycombs, which include precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The jack is placed together with its exhaust system so that the exhaust of the car passes through the gas emitted by that jack.
Under the mandate of the Environmental Protection Agency, vehicles produced for the model year 1975 and beyond should include catalytic converters as a measure to reduce vehicle exhaust pollutants. Since then, every road vehicle produced in the United States has included as humans become increasingly aware of climate change and other environmental issues; similar laws have been rapidly passed around the world.
One thing to be sure is that cars built after the 1970s need to have catalytic converters replaced at some point. Each converter is designed for the life of the vehicle, although fuel problems can continuously damage the catalytic converter if not fixed in time. The vehicle diagnostic system, or OBD, may indicate the need for inspection or replacement by turning on the test engine LEDs.
On older vehicles, it can be as simple as a failed emission check to determine that your vehicle is not producing enough clean exhaust gas. Once it needs to be replaced, the mechanic faces a decision about where to buy spare parts – direct OEM replacement or aftermarket spare parts.
Depending on the model, it could be very close to the engine or further away. There are some vehicles that require two catalytic converters.
Ultimately, they are an important part of the car’s emission control system. Without a catalytic converter in operation, your vehicle will definitely stop passing our local, national inspection.
Aftermarket Catalytic Converter
There is a range of generic alternative catalytic converters that can be designed to fit any car. For these, all you have to do is specify import and export sizes to match your escape. High-flow jacks also have this style, and catalytic converters often have a different body shape in order to achieve space savings in a variety of vehicles. Universal jacks are usually the lowest cost option because they are mass-produced because they are not limited by the market size of a particular vehicle.
While universal catalytic converters are usually the cheapest purchase option, their cost can be misleading, depending on the skill level of your replacement work. Most of the first cars with catalytic converters need some kind of saw or alternative cutting tool to extract the original converter, as they were most often welded in place. Next, you will need to fasten or weld to replace.
If you do not have cutting tools and do not really want to do the work under the car, it is probably better to take your vehicle to a qualified exhaust workshop and let them do the dirty work. Installing a catalyst usually does not cost as much as the silencer workshop does this task throughout the day.
One more thing to keep in mind is that if you live in a region or state that requires additional requirements (for example, California carbohydrate certification), you must make sure that your replacement catalyst meets those requirements; otherwise, installing a catalyst will make it impossible for you to pass an emissions test.
OEM Catalytic Converter
In many cars produced in the early 1990s and beyond, the catalyst is not welded into the exhaust system. They are designed as a replacement component that requires no cutting or welding and can be removed and replaced with a bolt or flange attachment at each end where a ratchet can be used. Sometimes the exhaust screw gets stuck and is difficult to remove, so the shock wrench and some oxidizing agent can accelerate the extraction.
OEM jacks are easier to replace and generally offer better quality than normal jacks. If you live in a state like California, carbohydrate certification usually exists in OEM converters, so you don’t have to worry about emission testing failures.
The note for ease of replacement and good quality is that they will be more expensive than normal universal catalytic converters. Because they exceed air quality standards and vehicle-specific certifications, they typically produce fewer generic jacks, and, as a result, manufacturers charge more.
The In-depth comparison between OEM and Aftermarket Catalytic Converter
As with most auto parts, when you need to replace a catalytic converter, you can choose an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or aftermarket parts. There are pros and cons to any of the options.
With OEM parts, you can be sure to get high-quality parts from renowned manufacturers. When you test your car’s emissions and have an OEM catalytic converter, you can be sure that your vehicle will pass. Parts from the aftermarket are reliable. The quality of parts from the aftermarket varies widely.
If you decide that you cannot afford a high-quality OEM replacement converter, be sure to study whether the aftermarket parts you are considering are EPA compliant and have a warranty of at least five years/50,000 miles. A renowned repair shop might encourage you to find a way to pay for the high-end OEM section. If that’s not an option, stores should be able to guide you to high-quality spare parts.
Precious metals in converters are so long a job well done. Because of this, OEM parts have more interior.
Typically, you will notice that OGM catalytic converters are physically larger than aftermarket options because of that.
Because there are fewer of these metals in the aftermarket components, emission controls sometimes fail, although they remain in good physical condition. It’s one of the ways they reduce costs so low. Usually, you will find that catalytic converters from the aftermarket quickly oxidize, will have bad welds to clean, or simply cannot fit without serious modifications.
Manufacturers here in the US are required to sell their cars with catalytic converters that can last at least eight years or 80,000 miles from the date of sale.
Aftermarket producers of catalytic converters do not have such laws, so they do not have to meet the same standards.
These modifications and adjustments require time, effort, and sometimes additional parts. After taking into account the cost of making an exhaust fit from the poorly designed aftermarket, most customers will end up paying as much as they want if they just bought an OEM component.
Therefore, we recommend OEM catalytic converters whenever possible. Their initial costs are higher than other aftermarket options, but they do not experience the potential problems often experienced by aftermarket converters.
The cost of OEMs and aftermarket parts depends on the quality and where they are purchased, but as a rule, catalytic converters in the aftermarket usually cost a fraction of the OEM model.
Choosing the cheapest option is usually unwise, as you may have to replace it again. There are many reasons for the difference in after-sales prices compared to OEM.
In general, there are a number of reasons that can cause the catalyst to need to be replaced. Vehicle wear, rust in the converter body, abundant fuel mix, and exhaust gas contamination from the worn engine are the most common.
Your decision to replace your cat with an OEM jack or an aftermarket jack must take into account the quality of the parts, cost, and local (or state) emission standards. You will decide for yourself which one is the best suited to your personal circumstances. Aftermarket and OEM parts are readily available when you are sure. It will be the most suitable vehicle for you, so choose wisely and enjoy many other miles of environmentally-friendly driving.