Welcome to 2021!  So many of us have said goodbye to 2020 with the one-finger salute, with the oft-repeated phrase, "I can't wait to be done with 2020!"  While 2020 was a rough year for so many reasons, and while we wrestle with the impact that a pandemic has had on our nation and our world, there were some things that were better in 2020 than in 2021; at least in terms of our bank accounts. 

Starting January 1st, the state of Colorado put in place new mandatory requirements for catalytic converters to match those of California.  On one side of the coin this is great for our environment, something we all want to protect.  A more emission-reducing unit means, in the end, cleaner air quality, healthier outside conditions and the reduction of greenhouse gases.  We can all agree these are good things.  The other side of the coin is however, more costly catalytic converters.   Sometimes up to three times the price of the units we were installing in 2020.  Ouch!  So if you thought $1200 was a lot for a new catalytic converter, buckle your seatbelt.

The automotive industry in general is always making strides toward more efficient vehicles and reductions in the poison spewing out the tailpipe.    The catalytic converter, or cat for short, is the most important part of the exhaust inhibiting the disbursement of those hazardous fumes.  So it makes sense that we need to bolster the efficiency of the cat.  But what a bummer to have one fail on you now.  So long rainy day fund!

What would cause the cat to fail?  Well, there are numerous things: oil, coolant or unburnt fuel making it's way through the exhaust system.  Oxygen sensors (which are placed around the cat) that have failed and are causing incorrect mixtures in the engine.  As one example: we have known problems with head gaskets on Subaru vehicles, and a good percentage of the head gasket repairs that we do are back within 6 months after the work is completed for a new cat, because the engine began leaking coolant internally, which then destroyed the cat (and sometimes the engine itself - see blog post on head gaskets).  Insult to injury.  Trust me when I say this, it isn't an easy discussion for us either, as telling someone who just spent $2500 that they now need to spend an additional $1200 is brutal.

We like to be in the business of preventive measures rather than reparative ones. If your vehicle is maintained correctly it is possible to avoid premature catalyst failure, which makes you happier and richer and makes us happier even if a little poorer.  There are steps you can take to assure a long happy life for your cat that aren't as expensive as the replacement and won't leave you broke.  Here are some actions to take:

  • Tune up your vehicle when it is due.  Why are you dragging your feet on replacing your spark plugs and wires or boots?  This is an easy way to correctly burn the fuel in your engine inexpensively. $300-$600 will save you $1200-$2000 and you'll save money on gas and have better performance!
  • Don't ignore the check engine light.  Do you know why that light is on the dash?  To protect the catalytic converter!  Avoid covering it with electrical tape and pretending it's not there Homer Simpson.  Get it diagnosed and fixed right away.
  • Address oil consumption issues right away.  When we tell people their vehicles were low on oil at the oil change service we often hear, "Where's the oil going?  I'm not seeing it on the ground."  Well, if it's on the ground at least it's not being channeled through the cat.  Oil leaks are usually relatively easy to fix but oil burning issues take more time and need to be addressed right away.  There are lots of products that can help to stop oil consumption.  Just don't bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn't happening because that can get costly. 
  • Do the maintenance.  There is a reason car owner's manuals have a schedule of maintenance.  To protect your car and your pocketbook.  Follow these recommendations rigorously and you'll discover that precious parts of your car, like the cat, are less prone to wear.
  • Park your car inside.  Wait, what?  Yep, there are crazy cat thieves out there right now.  They cut the cats off so fast that they're gone in five minutes or less.  We've done thousands of dollars of cat replacements in the past couple of years because some sketchy folks are sawing them off the bottom of cars. Expect it to get worse now that the price of cats has skyrocketed.  Clean out the garage and get your precious baby inside. 

Hopefully that helps get you started in the right direction.  Please feel free to peruse this article from the state if you want more information on the new catalytic converter regulations: