You can drive without a catalytic converter because your car will work well without it. Its absence does not have much effect on your engine or its parts. In fact, your engine will function at optimal without it. However, it is illegal to drive without a catalytic converter in the United States.
Before I talk about driving cat-less, let’s see what a cat is and why it’s essential.
What Is A Catalytic Converter And What Does It Do
A catalytic converter is a vital car part that helps to reduce harmful fumes from getting to the environment. It’s made of expensive aluminum. It has a cone shape and is located in the exhaust system.
Its work is to convert all harmful gases produced by the combustion system to less toxic ones. If these gases are not converted and get to the environment, it acts as toxins to human and the environment.
In other words, the cat helps to reduce air pollution and toxic chemicals that emit from the exhaust. In addition, it works to reduce car noise as you drive.
Before the government made cats mandatory in 1972, a typical vehicle was a deadly chemical house. How?
Cars made before 1972 were without a catalytic converter. And as these vehicles work, they produce huge oxides of nitrogen, lead, sulfur dioxide, and hydrocarbons. These chemicals further spread out to pollute air and water.
So the cat helps store the heat from the exhaust and, in turn, uses it to convert the chemicals into less toxic ones. This action makes the gas come out clean.
Is It Safe To Drive Without A catalytic converter?
Driving without a catalytic converter may not affect your vehicle physically. But healthwise, it is dangerous.
The cat helps in converting toxic gases into less harmful ones. If it’s not there, your exhaust will emit bad fumes and find its way into your car. Which invariably gets into your home since you will have to park your car in your garage.
These gases are toxic and can cause headaches, nausea, and other diseases.
Will Any Damage Happen To My Car Without A Cat?
Physically, your car won’t have problems. It will work at its highest capacity. Because the presence of a catalytic converter even slows the performance of your car. What do I mean?
As your catalytic converter helps to convert these gases, it reduces the way the engine works. So with it out of the way, your horsepower increases and allows your car to perform at its fullest.
Is It Illegal To Drive Without A Cat?
In many US states, it’s illegal to drive without a cat, especially if they find out you intentionally removed yours. If caught, you will have to pay fines.
Why Is There No Catalytic Converter In Your Car?
Every car comes with a catalytic converter, at least since 1972. So if yours is not there, it might be for several reasons.
It could be that it was damaged, removed, or stolen. Yes! Different car parts do get worn out after being used for some time. And the catalytic converter is no different.
In other cases, people removed theirs for reasons best known to them. Some cited improved engine performance as their reason.
Lastly, some car’s cat gets stolen sometimes. Why?
The catalytic converter is an expensive part of your car. It is made of expensive aluminum like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These precious metals work together to reduce these toxins.
So anyone that steals it steals because he wants to sell. While thieves may sell it for about $700, it will cause you about $2000 to get it replaced.
For a damaged cat, a driver may not have it replaced immediately. This is because getting a new cat is very expensive. However, if yours was stolen, there are few things you could do.
What You Should Do If Your Catalytic Converter Gets Stolen
Reach Out To The Authorities
The minute you notice your cat is missing, report it to the authorities immediately. They may help you check surrounding security cameras to see if they can identify the thief.
Inform Your Insurance Company
Your cat can be replaced by an insurance company, depending on your region. So you can reach out to your insurance company to know your best bet. Or if you are covered in your area.
Visit An Expert Mechanic
Lastly, reach out to an expert mechanic to have your car checked. This is to ensure that no other thing was damaged.
Fines For Driving Without A catalytic converter
As I stated already, driving without a cat is illegal and attracts fines.
The authorities do not take it lightly with anyone caught. This is because driving without it is dangerous to human health and the environment.
However, some cases are extreme. If your cat is damaged, they may give you some time to fix it. For stolen cats, so long you have reported the issue, they may also pardon you. But if you intentionally removed your cat, your punishment will be severe. They will fine you without a second thought.
In some states, you may pay up to $10,000. In contrast, some will suspend your smog certificate till you replace your cat.
This fine, however, differs from state to state.
Why Do People Remove Their Catalytic Converter?
Many still remove theirs despite the usefulness of a cat and the known danger of not having one.
So let’s take a look at why people remove their cat.
Horsepower is Increased
Vehicles without a cat tend to increase in horsepower. Why is it so?
As a cat works, it significantly builds up pressure on the engine. So when it is removed, these toxic elements vacate the engine and goes through the exhaust quickly.
With the cat out, the engine can function at its maximum utilizing all its horsepower.
A better Exhaust Sound
As the cat converts these toxic gases, it works with the muffler to suppress the exhaust sound.
So with the cat out, you tend to hear a low-pitched, loud, and distinct sound from the exhaust.
But for those who hate even a mild noise, this could be at their disadvantage.
More Fuel Options
Vehicles with cats can only use gasoline without lead. Why? Some lead present in regular gasoline can destroy some materials used in the cat. If these materials are destroyed, the cat won’t be able to work efficiently.
With it out, you’re not limited to a particular fuel. That is, you can use any fuel. So for car owners who like using high-performance fuel, this is your best bet.
Low Engine Operating Temperature
Without the cat, the engine’s workload reduces since gases will leave the exhaust faster. This invariable lowers the operating temperature of the engine.
So long the engine’s work lessens, the friction it generates decreases. This action also prevents your car from engine wears or tears.
Better Gas Mileage
Without the cat, the pressure on the engine reduces. So the engine won’t have to work to create the level of energy it generates with a cat in place.
Since the engine’s work is reduced, the engine works effortlessly. Thus, leading to low fuel consumption and better gas mileage. However, this doesn’t work for every car.
High Replacement Cost
This may sound funny. But some people remove their cat because it is expensive to replace if it gets damaged or stolen.
The catalytic converter is the most expensive single vehicle part. This is because it is made with costly metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum.
In the event it gets damaged, the majority of people replace it with less effective ones. This, in most cases, does not work as an original cat will work.
Why You Should Not Remove Your Cat
While you may experience excellent engine performance without a cat, there are effects.
So you can ask yourself after reading this article. Is it worth all the stress that I will go through after removing it?
Let’s walk through it, so you can answer the question you’ve asked.
Driving Without A Cat Is Illegal
In the Us, it is illegal to remove it. If you wish to have it removed, there are many legal processes you would need to go through.
The environmental protection agency put these guidelines in place to protect human lives. So their rules are strict when it comes to emission.
Removing an active catalytic converter is a huge offense leading to paying huge fines.
It Releases Toxic Gases Into The Atmosphere
As I explained above. The cat helps to reduce the number of harmful gases that leave your exhaust. It can convert up to 90% of toxic gases into less toxic ones. So removing it will be hazardous.
It doesn’t just affect the environment, but it affects you as well. Because as you drive, harmful gases will be released into the atmosphere.
These gases are poisonous. And inhaling them can cause headaches, nausea, and other diseases.
Increases Vehicle Noise
A catalytic converter helps prevent vehicle noise. If it’s not there, the car will make so much noise while driving, especially when revving the engine.
You might not be able to have a smooth conversation in such a car. Worse, your neighbors might report you when they feel disturbed by this noise. You do not want this, do you?
Uneven Acceleration And Rough Driving
Again, your car may not accelerate well as you drive. The engine typically brings out gases from the exhaust through the catalytic converter.
So since it’s not there, the force hits the exhaust directly. This force causes the car to jerk and accelerate roughly.
Some Cars May Experience Increased Fuel Consumption.
With the cat out, some vehicles burn more fuel. The reason could be that the car’s oxygen sensor reading is wrong, causing it to use more fuel.
This wrong reading could also make your car consume more oil. This is an additional cost, by the way.
Fail Emission Test
Emission test is carried out in some U.S states from time to time. If you don’t have a cat, you will fail this test. Test failure means you won’t be able to renew your registration when it expires.
Aside from evaluating the performance of your car, a physical test is also carried out. If the testers do not see your cat, they will report it as a failed test. Because of this failure, your car could be impounded.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Cat From Theft?
Cat replacement is expensive, so you might need to take certain actions to protect it.
Install A protective Device
There are tons of these devices that help protect your cat. With these installations, it will be difficult for thieves to saw out your cat.
However, getting and installing them is pretty expensive. But if you think of the cost of buying a new cat, then getting it will be a better option.
There are security alarm settings in some new vehicles. They vibrate when you even touch the cat. So sawing it is enough to trigger your alarm.
You might park your car in your garage while at home. What about when you are out? Check out these tips:
- Park your car in areas with bright light. For fear of been seen and caught, thieves tend to stay away.
- Park your car in areas with a high population. It will be difficult to steal without getting caught in such sites.
- Ensure you park your car in areas visible to cameras. It will be easy to fetch the thieves from the camera’s footage if the cat gets stolen.
Cat Removal In States where Emission Test Is Not Done
So long you’re not caught, no one will know if you have a cat or not. This is possible in some states.
In Florida and South Dakota, for example, emission testing does not take place there. So it is widespread for people to remove theirs and not get caught.
But there is one catch here. Please do not go to a shop asking them to remove your cat.
If you do, they will perceive you as a secret EPA agent and won’t do it. In some cases, they will request that you register your car as an off-road vehicle before they can touch it.
By the way, off-road vehicles need to run fast. So they do not need a cat that will slow them. This is why they’re manufactured without a cat. Some even have theirs removed.
Are There Exempted Vehicles?
In some states, vehicles are exempted from emission tests. No test, no proof. So you can drive cat-less
Vehicles exempted may consist of vehicles made for off-road use. This may include race cars, ATVs, dirt bikes, etc.
For residents in California who own a boat, you’re not left out. In 2009, a law was passed by the California Air Resource Board against cat removal and emission.
If you are caught, you may pay fines just like car owners do.
While you can drive your car without your catalytic converter and not damage it, remember the effects.
Yes! There are good reasons why people remove theirs. But ask yourself. Is it Worth the troubles I may cause myself and others?
A car without a cat emits dangerous gases that are harmful to the environment and you too.
Again, the environmental protection agency does not condone removing it. So if you’re caught, you may pay fines up to $10,000, depending on your state.
The ball is in your court; you can choose what to do with it.
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Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!