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Many consumers, regardless of how old their vehicle is, seem to have certain fears or phobias about it. We feel too many people have adopted the “out of sight, out of mind & I don’t have to worry about it until it breaks” attitude, especially since vehicles are getting more hi-tech (read: complicated in the customers eyes) every year. However, don’t get us wrong – many people are aware of the numerous aspects and responsibilities in regards to their car, it’s just that most folks seem to have a fear of what they do not understand. On that note, let’s try to squash another stressful point – this one being an important part of your exhaust system. Remember that knowledge is power!

We feel that almost all of our readers have a grasp of the components that make up an exhaust system. Parts like the muffler and tail pipe have been around for generations. Even the catalytic converter (or “cat” as it’s also known as) is no longer shrouded in mystery like it was back in the late 70’s. It is an important part of your vehicle’s exhaust system and it’s primary purpose is to convert unburned exhaust gases to burned gases, thereby lowering a vehicle’s exhaust emissions (CO2, etc.), while helping to keep the Earth a little cleaner.

One problem, however, is vehicle owners really don’t know when a catalytic converter is on it’s way out, until it needs to replaced. While the converter itself cannot be repaired, periodic exhaust system checks (for example twice a year) can help prevent costly repairs to other converter related parts, like oxygen sensors. What happens is the material inside the catalytic converter starts to break down, crack, and/or fall apart. You may not notice it right away, but over time you’ll start to feel a decrease in your cars performance, it will be harder to start due to improper back-pressure, you’ll get less miles per gallon, and the check engine light will come on, if it hasn’t already. Bottom line – if caught early enough, the repair bill will be less costly than if the problem is ignored for a lengthy period of time.

If you ask anyone who has replaced one of these components lately, the first thing they will tell you is that catalytic converters are not cheapest part on the planet. One of the most common questions we get when it comes to replacing a cat, is “can you just replace it with a cheaper piece of exhaust pipe or another muffler“? Unfortunately, we can’t. In fact no one can – it’s against federal law. Plus, your vehicle won’t pass a Maine state inspection without one.

However, there is also a silver lining in this grey cloud. If your vehicle is less than 8 years old or has less than 80,000 miles on it (whichever comes first), you can receive a free replacement (minimum parts, sometimes labor – check with the repair facility) at any exhaust repair shop – not just at a dealership. That is also per federal law.