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Old 12-10-2005, 06:53 AM   #1
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What would make a catalytic converter go "bad"?

This past Tuesday morning, I was driving to work and the Check Engine light came on along with the TRAC OFF and VSC TRAC lights on the instrument panel. This happened about three years ago (ironically also on a cold morning in the winter) and it turned out to be a vacuum hose that was slightly loose. I did some research on here and found that another possible problem that would cause this was a stuck VSV valve.

So I go into the dealership this morning and the service manager, Jeff Johnson who by the way is a great, honest guy, was not there. His "backup" was. I've dealt with this guy before and he's a total punk. I tell him what's going on and he informs me that it will be $70 for a diagnostic, but that charge will be waived if they repair the problem. I then proceed to tell him that Jeff has run a diagnosic on my truck and my wife's Lexus before and never charged me. This idiot's response...."Well these guys in the shop need to get paid." I walked back into the shop about 10 minutes after the tech had been looking at it and he said that it appeared to be an emission code, but he would need a little more time to diagnose it. Thirty minutes later, another guy comes and gets me and takes me to see Sydney, the wanna be service manager although I suck at it. He tells me that my catalytic converter is bad. Said the part was $800+, would have to be ordered, and cost me about $100 in labor to install. I said no thanks. When I asked how much I owed him, he said don't worry about it.

I get into the truck and head home and guess what....the lights are cleared. I'm really suspicious of this guy because he is a prick, a PITA to deal with, and I don't trust him. If Jeff would have told me that I would have believed him, but not this guy especially since the lights are now cleared. I'm going to drive it and see what happens, but here are my questions....

1. Do catalyic converters just go bad? When I asked Sydney what would cause it his response was lack off flow, carbon buildup, etc. This sounds like an absolute total scam to me. How can you have lack of flow through an exhaust system? I've only run premium gas in my truck since I bought it so there can't be that much carbon buildup (unless it's by products from SeaFoam treatments but my truck has never billowed smoke after a SeaFoam treatment like others....I suspect this is because I only use Premium fuel).
2. If the cat is "bad", will it hurt to drive it as is? I don't want to drop close to a grand on this right now, and Birmingham does not have any vehicle emissions tests that I would have to worry about.

These guys kill me. I've just got a strong suspicion that he's trying to scam me. Next time the lights come on, if they even do, I'll go to Autozone and get them to pull the codes for free. I didn't think to get the codes from the tech today and I was not going to ask Sydney because I figured he'd lie to me anyway to sell me something I don't need. Sorry to ramble, but these guys piss me off. Thanks.

Matt
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Old 12-10-2005, 06:57 AM   #2
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I've seen cat.s go bad on cars that were running cheap gas, and eventually they either clog and eventually (if not taken care of) can catch on fire. That is also a worst case scenario. I've also seen a fair number that will just blow out the internals. No clue what causes that, not even an idea... From the sounds of it, scam. What place is this, so I know not to go back there?
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Old 12-10-2005, 06:58 AM   #3
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I remember reading that if your O2 sensor goes, it can create a very rich mixture and mess up the Cat. Also, some gas additives can sometimes have things in them that could mess them up.

Really though, it's stuff that coats they platnium fibers in the cat. So if you're running rich, you'll get that extra carbon to coat the fibers and prevent the platnium from catalyizing the reaction.
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Old 12-10-2005, 07:02 AM   #4
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It's Limbaugh Toyota in Birmingham. They have an excellent service department when Jeff is there running it. When this clown Sydney is there, it's a zoo!!!

Matt
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Old 12-10-2005, 07:05 AM   #5
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You don't pay a dime for cats untill the truck is 8 years old...
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Old 12-10-2005, 07:31 AM   #6
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Elaborate a little 4RunnerFreak....I take that to mean they were trying to pull one over on me.....

If it was the cat, how come the lights didn't come back as soon as I drove it home?

I'm calling BS. The truck is only 4 years old.

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Old 12-10-2005, 07:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSUMatt1514
Elaborate a little 4RunnerFreak....I take that to mean they were trying to pull one over on me.....

If it was the cat, how come the lights didn't come back as soon as I drove it home?

I'm calling BS. The truck is only 4 years old.

Matt
While I do agree that what they said is BS, it's still possible for a truck that's 4 years old to have a cat get fowled.
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Old 12-10-2005, 07:44 AM   #8
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How many miles are on the cat? Numerous things can happen to the cats. They can melt, they can get clogged, or the brick can break down. While it may be an emissions code it is throwin I am not sure why your trac lights would come on though.
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Old 12-10-2005, 07:47 AM   #9
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A little over 140,000 miles....

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Old 12-10-2005, 08:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSUMatt1514
Elaborate a little 4RunnerFreak....I take that to mean they were trying to pull one over on me.....

If it was the cat, how come the lights didn't come back as soon as I drove it home?

I'm calling BS. The truck is only 4 years old.

Matt

I had an issue with this from the s/c and fuel mods...
I took my truck to a friend to clear the codes the first time when they all came on. Same lights you had on. My truck was 2 at the time.
After the codes were read and cleared, it was fine for a while (~2 months if I recall), then the CEL light started to blink.
I took it to the dealer and they said it was the cat.
They replaced it with a LC cat that was cut and welded to fit the TRD exhaust... worked fine for awhile. (This also fixed the stumbling problem I still have for awhile.
I asked about if it happens again, and they said bring it back as much as needed for 8 years, then get an aftermarket cheap one. DO NOT PAY FOR IT. That is part of the emissions that is covered under the 8 year warranty. I am pretty sure mileage does not apply, but you may need to check that.

On the way back from my trip to Florida, the CEL light started to blink again.

I was fine all the way down to FL and most of the way back until I came into NJ. I have yet to take it in... When I do the ball joint and my exhaust leak, I will have them check it, even tho there is no CEL light and they will say it's fine.


Idling the truck can kill the cat according to the dealer. The crap builds up in there and begins to break it down... that is why they tell you in the manual not to let it idle/warm up for more than "X" number of minutes. And it is more common in the winter with the air fuel mixture being adjusted and people letting cars run and run.
"If it snows, start the truck, clean the snow, get in and drive" is how the service tech told me. *He know his stuff, and a real stand up kinda guy, so I trust his info* He knew I peeled out with the XRunner, when I had only did it once 2 weeks prior to going to the dealer just by looking at the tires.


(They said it was porbably due to the S/C messing with the fuel. They did not know about the FTC box and upgrades. I installed the S/C and the CAT was covered, and will be till 8 years is up)
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Last edited by 4-RUNNIN' FREAK; 12-10-2005 at 08:07 AM.
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Old 12-10-2005, 01:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSUMatt1514
A little over 140,000 miles....

Matt
There is a very good chance your cat needs replaced. The typical lifespan of a cat is somewhere around 80,000 miles I believe. Eitherway I would not spend $800 on. Look for an aftermarket cat.
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Old 12-10-2005, 02:04 PM   #12
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There is a very good chance your cat needs replaced. The typical lifespan of a cat is somewhere around 80,000 miles I believe. Eitherway I would not spend $800 on. Look for an aftermarket cat.

Gte it replaced at the dealer free of charge first.

I will be doing that till the 8 years are up, then I will go catless or aftermarket cheapies.
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Old 04-11-2010, 01:44 PM   #13
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Catalytic

I just had the same thing happen... I have a 2004 Dodge viper with 20,000 KMs on it, that I bought new in 2005.

Driving to work the other day I noticed a huge loss of power, couldnt get past 4000 rpm... limped it home popping and sounding like something may be really wrong.

I checked plugs, injectors, fuel rail etc.. couldnt figure it out. There was raw fuel coming out drivers side exhaust, you could actually see it. There were no lights on dash at all... nothing, no check engine.

I did some checks and it was getting fuel, getting spark, lots of pressure coming out for fuel... but when you pulled the plug off the 5 injectors (one at a time) on drivers side, didnt run different. I pulled one at a time on passenger and each shut down the injector and made a noticible difference. Changed a few plugs on drivers side just to take a stab at it... nothing.

The car was running fine, seemed great, I was letting it rip, I mean really rip a couple days before (redline first, second, third etc.. playing around hitting 200km or so ) and was just fine. However, lately I have been doing alot of in town driving and babying it the odd time... trying to save some fuel

I did some searching online and found that it could be converters... this didnt make any sense though. I couldnt figure out how this could come on so fast.. and cats plugged or garbage at 20,000 KM??? wtf???

So, bottom line is, I had Dodge dealer pick it up, they spent a couple days on this thing trying to figure out what was wrong, no codes, a couplel cyclinders got washed etc... but when oil added compression is exactly where it should be. They tried new O2 sensor.. (why???) no difference. They disconected the exhaust, and car runs 100% like a champ apparently.

Heres my conclusion:

car has been running rich for some time... enough to screw the converters, but not enough for me to notice in performance. This could be the o2 sensor. Why it didnt throw a code... who knows. I dont pay attention to mileage in this... (who would???) The drivers side converter was obviously the worst. This probably shut something down, so backpressure wouldnt kill the engine and the drivers side cyclinders where just puking the gas out (witch washed 2 cyclinders).

I never run cheap gas, never added additives (other than fuel stabilizer).

Now, my car still isnt back (which is pissing me off!) as they have only been able to locate one converter in stock across canada...

So, my point to Matt... there may be something that was happening for a while, then caused the converter to go bad. You mentioned that there was some lights on, then dissapeared...

The good thing (at least for me) is that I have 8 year, 130,000 km on emission and 10 year, 120,000 km powertrain and shouldnt cost me anything. Trust me, I was thinking I had to pay and was pissed off bigtime...

If you are in Canada, you should have a similiar warranty, especially if only 4 years old.

I hope this helps anyone in the future, I spent hours and hours online trying to figure out what could have went wrong with no codes...
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