Catalytic Converter Cleaners – Do They Really work?

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Car Maintenance

Catalytic Converter Cleaners: Do They Really work?


Has your car recently failed its mandatory emissions test? If so, you are most likely in the market for a catalytic converter cleaner to try and solve the problem. When it comes to emissions, there is probably no single component more crucial than the catalytic converter. It converts the noxious and dangerous gases produced as a normal part of the internal combustion process into less harmful substances that are safer for the air around us — still not great, in reality, but at least they won’t choke us to death!


In today’s article, we’ll explore the realm of catalytic converter cleaners and answer some important questions:

  • What are the signs that your catalytic converter is clogged?
  • Do catalytic converter cleaners really work?
  • Which catalytic converter cleaner is best?
  • How much does a catalytic converter replacement cost?


  1. What are the Signs that Your Catalytic Converter is Clogged?

A buildup of carbon is the chief culprit in catalytic converter clogging. Besides failing your standard emissions test, there are other indicators that point to a blockage in the catalytic converter. First of all, you may see a noticeable drop in engine performance when the converter is blocked. If you feel that your car is taking longer to reach a certain speed or the acceleration, in general, is sluggish, then a blocked converter could be the problem.


Alternatively, other signs include black or otherwise dark exhaust smoke emerging from the tailpipe. If you notice that in your mirror, or when you start your car, then you could have a clog on your hands. Finally, there may be a sulfuric smell or even a rotten egg smell around your exhaust, indicating a potential blockage.


  1. Do Catalytic Converter Cleaners Really Work?

Many products you buy for your car make big claims about what they can do. There is also a rich and varied marketplace for catalytic converter cleaners, so it’s hard to separate the truth from the exaggerations. The chief factor dictating the efficacy of catalytic converter cleaners seems to be the seriousness of the carbon buildup.


If your car is new or less than a year old, then any blockage is unlikely to be too serious. In this case, almost any well-made will do the job the first time without any problem. If, on the other hand, your car’s converter hasn’t been cleaned in well over a year, perhaps two or more years, then the process will be harder. Conventional catalytic converter cleaners may not be enough to get the job done in a single-use/session.


Another important thing to remember is that no catalytic converter cleaner can restore a converter back to functionality if there is a fault with it. Clogging over time can have a detrimental effect, even to the point where key components of the converter can’t perform the essential chemical reaction properly. In these circumstances, you may be facing a catalytic converter replacement. A converter cleaning treatment will always be more cost-effective — even when done multiple times — than having to go through a replacement.


Which Catalytic Converter Cleaner is Best?

With a rich marketplace and many options from which to choose, we have prepared three suggestions for drivers looking for reliable products to clean their catalytic converter:


  1. Cataclean Catalytic Converter Cleaner (Gasoline, Diesel, Hybrid)

This product is especially suitable for those driving on dirt roads or in environments where roads are semi-paved or under construction. The reason for this is that Cataclean not only cleanses and removes the buildup of carbon but actively works to deep clean and restore the oxygen sensor and fuel injector in particular. In fact, it’s a comprehensive cleaning product that can get to work on your entire exhaust system. It is a more costly option, however, so you may want to consider another if you’re on a budget.


  1. Marvel Mystery Oil Ultimate Fuel and Motor Treatment (Gasoline, Diesel, Hybrid)

This one has a rather unique name, but it’s a budget-friendly option that will also work well on all engine types. Its formula is designed specifically to prevent any additional corrosion within the converter. This gentler approach can help extend your converter’s life and keep it working well for longer.


  1. CRC 05063 Catalytic Converter Cleaner (Gasoline Only)

An interesting feature of this cleaner is its full name – “Guaranteed To Pass” Emissions System Cleaner – It’s a bold claim but they back it up with a promise to offer you double your money back if you fail your emissions test. Another strong point of this cleaner is that it works on converters old and new, so it’s a good choice for those with older machines looking to clean up. Finally, it’s not so expensive in itself, but you don’t get a lot of product for your money, unlike the products mentioned above. It is, however, very quick and effective.


How Much Does a Catalytic Converter Replacement Cost?

To conclude today’s article, we ask you to reflect on the real cost of failing to regularly and properly clean your car’s catalytic converter. Let’s say you skip a cleaning or two, thinking you’re saving money. In the short term, you are indeed making a saving. Catalytic converter products tend to cost anywhere from $10 to $40 depending on the brand, size, and power. Cleaning the converter three times a year, therefore, adds up to $30-120.


Compare that, however, with the typical cost of getting a new catalytic converter. According to, it could cost anywhere from $945 to an astonishing $2475 including all parts and labor. That means that even 5 years’ worth of proper catalytic converter cleaning still doesn’t come close to even the low-end estimate on replacement cost. Consider that as you now prepare to refresh and restore your catalytic converter to its appropriate glory. If not for yourself, clean it up for the community and the environment we all share.

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