What Repair Shops Need To Know About Converters

A catalytic converter is an absolute must-have for your Internal combustion vehicle (ICE). In fact, having a catalytic converter is required by law, and removing or repurposing one could result in a hefty fine. There are penalties for auto repair shops who remove a customer’s catalytic converter without the proper methods. We’ll go over some of the most common modifications that these repair shops request, as well as why they’re illegal. Individuals, service and repair shops, and others who violate the law face fines of up to $2,500 per violation.

What Does A Catalytic Converter Do?
In your vehicle, a catalytic converter plays an important role. Limiting exhaust emissions is the job of the catalytic converter.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the California Air Resources Board are the three agencies that set federal and state vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards (CARB).

The catalytic converter is the last line of defense between the exhaust from your engine and the air we breathe. It accomplishes this by utilizing precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium to catalyze chemical reactions that convert roughly 90% of toxic emissions into less harmful gases. It is critical that we comprehend the function of the catalytic converter in making the air breathable. A well-maintained catalytic converter not only reduces toxic emissions but also improves a vehicle’s efficiency, which has a direct impact on the vehicle’s overall health and performance.

Repair Shops Need To Document Before Removing Converters!
It’s not the same as replacing a muffler or pipe when it comes to replacing a catalytic converter for a customer. Because the catalytic converter is a federally and locally mandated emissions device, proper documentation is vital for adequate installation. The following items must be considered for proper documentation:

If a state or local program does not require the converter to be replaced, both the customer and the installer must sign a statement explaining why the converter was replaced. If the replacement is mandated by a state or local program, the technician must attach a record of the program representative’s statement or order.

Also, the customer’s name and complete address, the vehicle’s make, model year, and mileage, as well as the reason for replacement, must all be included on the replacement invoice. Keep records of the above invoices and statements for six months, and the replaced converters for 15 days (converters must be noted or labelled with the customer’s car number). The most significant distinction between states is the timeframe that documentation must be kept. In California and New York, paperwork must be kept for a minimum of four years.

It is critical to use the same catalytic converter required for that specific vehicle when replacing the catalytic converter. When replacing a converter, the location and type must match the supplier’s instructions, or hefty penalties could arise. Noncompliance with EPA rules is a violation of federal law because it is likely to increase the amount of pollution emitted by the vehicle. Individuals, service and repair shops, and others who break the law are subject to fines of up to $2,500 per offense.  Fines of up to $25,000 per violation can be imposed on new-car dealers as well. Anyone who violates the law could face the same fines. Regarding catalytic converter installation, the State Environmental Conservation Law in New York imposes a minimum penalty of $500 for the first offense and a penalty of $26,000 for each following offense. If documents are not kept up to date or reports are not submitted, a violation may occur.

Commonly Asked For Catalytic Converter Modifications.
Certain modifications tamper with the catalytic converter in some way and break some of the rules listed above, putting your business at risk of fines. These are all illegal modifications that can cost the vehicle owner thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. The following are some of the most frequently requested changes that could jeopardize your business:

Straight Pipes
Installing straight pipes is prohibited. The noise emitted by a vehicle with straight pipes can be obnoxious, and most noise ordinances will not allow it. Furthermore, some states have strict emission control regulations. Annual inspections are used to enforce these strict standards, which must be passed in order for a vehicle to be registered and insured. Straight pipes are not required in some states, such as California, because they lack a proper muffler and exhaust system. For all of these reasons, straight piping a vehicle is outlawed. You could be held liable if you work in an auto repair shop and replace a perfectly good exhaust system with straight pipes.

Catalytic Converter Delete
Some people believe that removing the converter increases horsepower and creates a more pleasant-sounding exhaust system. The catalytic converter, on the other hand, is critical to our environment because it limits the toxic output of the vehicle’s inner workings. In the United States, removing and tampering with a catalytic converter is a crime. If you do, you will face a large fine and possible time in prison.

Both 1 & 2 for “Flame Spitting” Repair
You can make a vehicle emit flames by taming its exhaust and muffler system. Unburned gas drips through the vehicle after deleting the catalytic converter and straight piping it, resulting in the vehicle spitting out flames. This trend may appear to be very cool, but it is extremely illegal. The flames endanger others because heat can burn grass, brush, or anything else that could start a wildfire.

Key Takeaway
Catalytic converter regulations must be followed if you own or work in an automotive repair shop. Failure to do so may result in significant fines. Take the necessary precautions when replacing a catalytic converter or modifying it in any way. Documentation is your best friend in this situation. Also, keep in mind that frequently requested changes to a customer’s catalytic converter can jeopardize your company’s reputation with regulators, so it’s not worth it.

Edmund Schwenk
PGM Recovery Systems, Inc.
(619) 427-8540

Ed has been practicing extractive metallurgy in the precious metals urban mining sector for over 40 years. On October 19, 2019 he was awarded a U.S. Patent for the recycling of PGM’s bound to metallic substrates. This technology is now used in PGM Recovery Systems operations for recovering precious metals that would otherwise have been discarded. Early in the history of the company he created a successful business model that enables small recycling companies to ship their loose autocatalyst direct to North America’s largest smelter allowing them to make the lion’s share of the profits. Recently and after three years of development, he was also responsible for guiding the company to successfully design, build and operate a robotic process line for the recovery of precious metals PT/IR from automotive spark plugs. This line commenced production in December 2020. Ed continues to play an active role in the precious metals industry by providing information and transparency through his company PGM Recovery Systems and their podcast PGM Talks.