Catalytic Converter woes

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Eric, a dealership in Manassas is offering to replace my CC for 1950! Another place, a Meineke I believe, is charging only 399.00. What gives? How there be such a disparity in price?


  1. We had a car come in a shop I used to work at (happen to be the first Midas shop of all time) and it had some CC problem. The car had been in our shop beforehand (before I worked there). Anyhow, it has two cats directly on the exhaust manifolds. They were built into the manifold. The customer complained the vehicle would not switch gears. After talking to our lead tech about the history of the repair, he informed me the owner of the shop (happened to be the son of the guy who founded Midas) told him to just dummy out that section and put in a straight pipe! LOL I was confused why this would not allow the car to shift gears, but knew having one cat on the car with this type of configuration (V-6) and only one side getting the restriction was a serious issue. After calling corporate and telling them the golden child made an extremely stupid decision (straight piping it) I went on to tell them my recommendation was to fix the car correctly and be done with it. To fix it correctly was 2k in cats and pipe. They about shit their pants (corporate) because we’d be eating the cost. I got bitched at, we purchased the correct pipe, installed it, and the customer was happy. He left saying “I should have been a big boy and just paid the 2k to the dealer and avoided this hassle.” I told him, “look dude, if I had been here to begin with it wouldn’t have been a hassle.” Guess that is what happens when you put a history major with zero knowledge/desire to be around cars in charge. I think good ole Rick is still down there fucking cars up. What a dick that guy was!

    • Incredible.

      The Golden Child could have gotten that shop some major federal heat. It is (I am pretty sure) a big-time felony for a shop to deliberately defeat an emissions-control part like that. This is above and beyond fucking up the customer’s car, of course.

      I understand, though, the motive behind all this. $2k for exhaust work is just insane. But this kind of thing is common with late model cars. I’ve had a few lately with four cats. Two snuggled up close to the engine as part of the manifolds (V configuration engine) and then two downstream… Now, these are usually good for many years (and I think federally warranted to 100k miles, on a pro rata basis).But eventually, they’re gonna need to be replaced. Even if you used generic aftermarket units, you’re looking at major coin. And ridiculous coin for the factory parts…

      • This same guy (he has to be maybe 70 by now) used to get pissed when I ate lunch. He would ask me “why do you eat lunch?” I used to just ignore him. Got sent up to corporate a couple times for arguing with him about blowing people out of the water on price estimates on repairs and other business related issues. I was hell!

  2. Besides the difference between OEM and aftermarket there is the question of misdiagnosis. Could just be the aft O2 sensor that’s faulty.

    With just using a mil eliminator the condition of the catalyst should be checked. a clogged catalyst could cause other problems.

    What is the make & model? If it’s a fairly popular car to get a little extra performance out of there may be aftermarket solutions of decent quality out there.

  3. If it’s an OBD-II car, don’t bother replacing the catalyst.

    Instead, buy a “cheater”–a small electronic device that sits in place of the oxygen sensors downstream of the catalysts, and sends the engine computer an “all’s well” signal.

    I know I won’t be replacing my catalysts; they’re at least $1000 a side. I’ll be using the little magic box, saving two grand, and enjoying some extra sound and power.

    Fuck the EPA.

    • On a pre-OBD II car…pre-1996 I believe…some states/locales are doing sniff tests. The “sniff test” tests exhaust emissions directly, and you have no option but to replace the catalyst.

      But in OBD II cars, they connect their Stasi machine to your car’s computer through the OBD port and query it; if the computer claims it’s clean, it passes.

      • Here’s a good technical article on doing it with the Audi; most Kraut cars will be similar:
        Audiworld cat cheater

        Here’s a quite sophisticated one with a 555 op-amp:
        MKIV 555-based simulator

        Here’s a site selling simulators pre-built:

        Keep in mind these are for the post-catalyst sensors only, not the pre-cat sensor. The ECU actually uses the pre-cat to optimize air/fuel ratio; simulating it is not an option. The post-cat sensor is strictly there to measure catalyst efficiency and report the the Stasi when you’re being a bad boy and killing whales with your filthy hydrocarbon exhaust.

  4. One shop may be using a generic/aftermarket replacement – usually a lot less expensive than a factory converter. But, the downside here (to going with the aftermarket unit) could be reduced performance/mileage if the aftermarket unit doesn’t flow as efficiently as the factory converter.

    • I called around after talking to Dom about this deal. He confirmed what others were saying, that the dealership may not want to deal with it. After telling them I found someone to do the repair cheaper, they dropped their price by 600.00. They agreed to put on an after market item. If this doesn’t fix the issue, I’m gonna plotz!

      • Good stuff, Joseph.

        But, you might want to ask some questions about the aftermarket converter. Specifically, is it a generic, one-size-fits-all unit? Or is it designed to work in your specific application?

        Different converters have different physical shapes and (of course) flow rates – just like mufflers. You don’t want one that’s too restrictive, or which in some other way isn’t right (or optimal) for your vehicle. It’s not saving money if you end up with a vehicle that doesn’t run well, or which suffers a significant drop in mileage as a result of some issue with the converter(s).

        I’d ask the shop these questions and ask for something in writing, either from them or from the company that makes the converters, indicating they’re the right converter to use in your vehicle. Also ask how long (time and miles) they’re warranted for. The factory units are (I’m pretty sure) warranted to perform adequately for 100,000 miles.

  5. The one place may not wish to work on CC so they charge a very high price knowing that no one will pay to fix the CC at that price.

    The dealership often has higher markup on parts and labor.

    One dealership charges about $105/hour for labor. They use a book to determine labor time. If the book says 5 hours for a procedure, then you will be billed 5 hours, even if the mechanic can complete the procedure in 3.5 hours.


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