Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Allison asks: I’m a female so this may be an unexpected question but here goes: What do you think about removing a car’s catalytic converters? Will it mean noticeably better gas mileage? I’m thinking it will which is why I am thinking about it.
My reply: I’d think carefully about this!
First, if the car is “modern” – which I’ll define as any car designed with integrated emissions controls (so cars designed since the late 1980s) rather than cars designed before emissions controls but had emissions controls grafted onto them (like my ’76 TA) then removing the cats will probably not result in much difference, either MPG-wise or performance-wise. Chiefly because modern, lattice/honeycomb-style cats are pretty efficient and because the engine was designed to work with cats.
Also, if you “delete” the cats your car will fail emissions (visual and functional). If you live in a state/county that requires passing an emissions test to get/renew registration, you’ll be unable to legally drive the car. There are, of course, ways around this – but you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the time and trouble. For a modern car, it prolly isn’t.
That said, if you own an older car – one made before the early ’80s – then deleting the cats will give you a significant increase in power/performance as well as MPGs – because the early cats (roughly, 1975 – the first year – through circa 1983 or so) were horribly restrictive and the engines were designed years (decades) before emissions controls came online and so don’t work well with them.
Also – compounding the problem – the rest of the exhaust system in the ’70s and into the ’80s was usually horribly restrictive as well. For example, my Trans-Am’s factory exhaust was a single exhaust and just 2.25 inches in diameter… which worked like a chokehold on the 455 cubic inch (7.5 liter) V8 under the car’s hood!
By deleting the whole exhaust system and replacing it with headers and 2.5 inch dual exhaust without cats, I clawed back 20-30 horsepower without any other mods. Plus the car sounded a lot better!
Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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