If you have recently failed an emissions test, or if you have a check engine code that involves the catalytic converter of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to use a high grade catalytic converter cleaner. If you’ve never heard of “cat cleaner” until you discovered you have a problem with your vehicle, it’s a chemical concoction specifically designed to clean your vehicle’s catalytic converter by mixing with gasoline and being used in your fuel system until the tank is empty.
This dose should help clean things up, but won’t necessary fix your cat converter if you have a serious problem with it. Even after using the cleaner, it may still need to be replaced. Cat cleaner is meant to help reduce emissions and get your engine running better, including increasing the MPG. High emissions could be from your fuel air mixture being too rich or a variety of other issues, so if that’s the case, a cleaning solution will not likely make a major difference.
However, since the solution is an inexpensive way to see if you can keep your check engine light clear and reduce emissions, it’s a good first step toward figuring out the problem. Even if your check engine light is off and your emissions are normal, it’s good to run some cleaning solution through your gas tank every once in a while to ensure your cat converter stays clean and remains in good working order. Although it’s not entirely necessary, it’s good maintenance.
What Does a Catalytic Converter Do?
Most people don’t think about their catalytic converter until the check engine light comes on. The problem often lies somewhere else in the fuel system, but sometimes it’s a result of a converter that isn’t functioning up to par for some reason. But how exactly does it function?
A catalytic converter is kind of like a filter for the exhaust produced from the combustion chambers in your engine, only it doesn’t actually filter anything. It uses chemical reactions to alter the chemical composition of the exhaust, making it much easier on the environment. The carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides in the exhaust pass through a precious metals coated substrate where the special type of metal (catalyst) causes a reaction. It converts the harmful chemicals into water vapor and carbon dioxide with no moving parts.
How to Use Catalytic Converter Cleaner
Using the cleaner is very simple, and it certainly beats paying to replace the part entirely. All you do is pour it into your gas tank when you have roughly four gallons of gas left (amounts may fluctuate depending on the brand). The solution will blend with the remaining fuel in your tank. Drive for at least 10 miles or until the tank is empty. Once your tank hits ‘E’, refill and drive as normal. You should see a reduction in detectable emissions and possibly a smoother running engine.
Alternatives to Catalytic Converter Cleaning Solution
The best way to clean a cat converter or any part for that matter is by removing it first and then cleaning it by hand with soap and water or some other kind of cleaner that will be safe for your fuel system. Removing it is the hard part though, because you will have to deal with old rusty exhaust fasteners, which would be challenging.
You may have heard rumors or read online that lacquer thinner can be used the same way that as an auto brand option. However, you will find little support for this technique as the majority of sources say it’s largely ineffective. There are reports of successful attempts using a one to ten ratio of lacquer thinner to gasoline in your tank, but there are also reports of the mixture having no results at all, or even causing the check engine light to come on.
It’s a significant risk to put anything that isn’t designed for a vehicle into your fuel tank to be run through your fuel system. Don’t be surprised if your check engine light comes on after trying this method. It’s best to avoid it altogether and buy a product that is actually formulated for use with a vehicle.
Best Catalytic Converter Cleaners
There are many different products out there to choose from, but some are more effective than others. Here are the best of the bunch to look out for. You can pick up any of these from online marketplaces now.
Cataclean 450ml Engine and Catalytic Converter Cleaning Treatment
Cataclean doesn’t work only with gasoline, it can also be used with diesel and hybrid systems, as well as with flex fuel, but it isn’t designed for use with 2 stroke engines. However, results may vary depending on what the problem with your vehicle actually is. For all-terrain vehicles, you should use Cataclean somewhat regularly (about 4 times a year) to keep it clean and performing well off-road. For maintenance and thorough cleaning without parts removal, Cataclean is an excellent product.
Solder-It (CAT-1) Catalytic Converter Cleaner – 16 oz.
Solder-It cat cleaner can help you pass emissions tests and reduce the level of toxins coming from the rear of your car, truck, van, SUV, or jeep. It can help your vehicle run better from one simple use. This is one of the most effective solutions on the market.
Hi-Gear HG3270e EZ Emissions Pass & Catalytic Converter Cleaner, 15 fl. oz.
Since it improves the performance of both the cat converter and the fuel system on somewhat older vehicles, this product is widely considered to be one of the best of its type. If you have failed an emissions test, you have a great opportunity to clean up your fuel system while treating your vehicle to reduce emissions simultaneously. This is easily one of the best options there is.
CRC 05063 Guaranteed To Pass Emissions Test Formula – 12 Fl Oz.
Not only is CRC cat cleaner is one of the most affordable options, it’s also one of the fastest acting and most effective. Estimates show that carbon monoxide in your exhaust can be reduced by 13% and nitrogen dioxide can be reduced by up to 27%. All you have to do is drain the container into your gas tank and drive normally. You should see results very quickly. Especially for the low price, CRC 05063 is a great choice.
OXICAT – Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner
Used several times a year, Oxicat can help to prevent the buildup of noxious residue in your cat converter and other parts of your exhaust system. This highly effective chemical mixture is among the best in the industry. It should do an excellent job to clear build-up from your vehicle’s exhaust system, making your vehicle run more smoothly, and helping you to pass your emissions test.