What is a catalytic converter?
A ‘catalyst’ is a chemical substance that causes a chemical reaction. It is in fact that substance that itself don’t take part in reactions as the same amount which initially gets involved in the reaction i.e., to be precise which was initially gets consumed, gets recovered totally and hence in general, there never gets consumed in the reaction.
A catalytic converter employs this principle and uses catalyst substances to clean up harmful gas substance from the engine before they exit the exhaust pipe to the atmosphere.
A catalytic converter generally looks like an exhaust silencer, only smaller and slimmer.
On modern cars, ‘cats’ are normally placed right up next to the engine so they’ll warm up quicker.
They are much more efficient in higher temperature, which is why it makes sense for them to be located close to the engine where the temperature is very higher.
Since the late 2000’s the use of DPF’s (Diesel Particulate Filters) have been introduced into the diesel world as a form of a new and advanced catalytic converter. With diesel engines generally being known for dirtier burn residue than gas engines, there was a problem. Many of you have been driving and have seen that black smoke billowing out of a old dump truck or tractor trailer on the roadside, many auto and truck makers started to do something to change it with something more ecofriendy.
New laws helping in cut down of greenhouse emissions also had something to do with it. These new Diesel Particulate Filters have been able to reduce and cut down on the black smoke emissions and been able to help diesel trucks, buses, vans, and other cars exhaust burn much cleaner, more efficient and have created a new category of catalytic converters for scrap too.
Why do cars need a catalytic converter?
A car exhaust produces large amount of toxic emissions that are damaging our environment if they’re released directly into the air, causing acid rain and smog.
These pollutants are chiefly:
- Nitrogen oxides
- Carbon monoxide
Since the 1960s, automobile manufacturers have been trying to find new ways to reduce the pollutant exhaust gases released from vehicles.
In 1975, the catalytic converter was born – and it’s now the most important part of a car’s exhaust emission control system.
In 1993, it became law for all petrol cars manufactured to have a catalytic converter fitted to the exhaust to meet European emissions standards.
Nowadays modern diesel cars are fitted with diesel particulate filter (DPF).
This does a similar job to a catalytic converter but removes a greater number of particulates and soot.
All new cars sold nowadays must meet strict Euro emissions standards designed to clamp down on exhaust pollutants.
How Catalytic converter works
Inside the converter, the gases flow through a dense honeycomb structure made from a ceramic and coated with the different grade catalysts. The honeycomb structure helps the gases to touch a bigger area of catalyst at once, so they are converted more quickly and efficiently.
There are generally two different catalysts involved in a catalytic converter:
- One of them tackles mainly nitrogen oxide pollution using a chemical process of removing oxygen (reduction). This breaks up nitrogen oxides into nitrogen and oxygen gases which are harmless gases.
- The other catalyst works by an opposite chemical process of addition of oxygen (oxidation) and turns carbon monoxide into CO2. Another oxidation reaction turns unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust into water and carbon dioxide.
Three different chemical reactions are going on at the same time, that’s why it is also known as three-way catalytic converters. Some, less-effective converters carry out only the second two oxidation addition reactions, so they’re called two-way catalytic converters. After the catalyst has done its job, what emerge from the exhaust is mostly oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water (in vapor form).
Different grades catalytic converters are available according to the catalyst used in it.
There are three important metals that are used inside of converters as well as other materials.
- Platinum – Platinum tends to be the best metal for overall excellent performance in the catalytic converter field. Platinum can be used a metal that helps to invalidate the fumes and pollution coming from the car’s engine and before it comes to exhaust to trap the bad particles, and through different ions, it will negate or invalidate the negative effect caused on the environment.
- Palladium – Palladium is generally more expensive to use then Platinum, so it tends to be come in a higher-end luxury item for catalytic converter field.
- Rhodium – Used a reduction agent to help eliminate the fumes and then paired with palladium to help eliminate more of the toxic gases.
- Ceramic or Metal Foil – This what you see and is actually under the category of precious metals. The honeycomb type of pattern uses throughout the catalytic converters is meant to have small openings all around and surface space in order to have more and more of the exhausts pass through it and capture the harmful toxins passes to it.
- Metal Shield – These are generally steel for the outside covering, but can often be found as a regular 303/304 stainless steel case or a magnetic stainless steel case.
Pricing of Catalytic converter
The everyday scrapper, parts guy, auto wrecker, or scrap yard manager generally add up the percentage of each precious metal used in a particular catalytic converter, and THAT is very hard to do. They have to take every measure into account for finding the actual price of the SCRAP catalytic converter.
DPFs and the catalytic converters that will go along with diesel engines generally have a much higher value anywhere between 2 to 200 times, then the older catalytic converters off of earlier models of the same trucks and vehicles . Thus seeing the scrap prices really start to flourish since many of these vehicles have been on the road since 2010 and so on.
Below are some of the types of catalytic converter with their approximate value in $
Small Foreign Cat -82$-97$ each
Medium Foreign Cat- 105$-130$
Large Foreign Cat-117$-250$
Foreign pre cat-32$-45$
Pre Domestic cat-24$-34$
Small gm cat-83$-97$
How Much Metal Can you actually Recover From A Catalytic Converter?
With thousands of different grades and categories of catalytic converters out there in market you would need to collect, well, thousands of catalytic converters of each and then analyze each of them separately to get a rough idea about the true percentage of metals used in each unit and know what each of that is worth that day. Let’s take the example of copper and apply it to a sample catalytic converter recovery.
Let’s say that platinum is worth $100 per ounce in today’s market, you find a car that has a catalytic converter, and you somehow know the amount of platinum recovered from it. Assuming none of the inside honeycomb was missing or damaged and assuming that the recovery goes perfectly well, maybe you will able get 0.5 ounces of platinum out of it, which multiply by $100 per ounce would equal $50.
How to Know the True Price of Cats
Unless you have 100 catalytic converters off of the same vehicle or same model category, all containing the same amount of material and are able to do the analysis of those cats through a trusted processor it will be very hard to know the number of precious metals inside it. This is why scrap yards and catalytic converter buyers exist, to buy these from you at a fair existing market rate and be able to pair these converters together with other cats that they have and ship them to downstream vendors and processors and make some profit out of it.
The value of catalytic converters per piece comes from many buyers by doing large evaluation of the same type of cats, knowing what the actual amount of recovery of precious metals will be from the inside, and then being able to use a pre derived formula based on the current market pricing on the palladium, platinum and rhodium markets to create a final price out of the formula.
Know Your Information about Catalytic Converters
Knowing what kind of vehicle is your catalytic converter used in? Knowing the model make and year of manufacture of the vehiclecan be easy for you to the yard you are looking to sell it to. You will have most of the information needed to ask for a relative quote and the yards will have a better idea of what kind of catalytic converter you have with you. This will help everyone involved in to get a fair price for the catalytic converter.
Don’t Take the Honeycomb Out
The honeycomb is where you have all your catalytic converter precious metal, many venders and inexperienced scrappers immediately want to remove the honeycomb from the main shell of the catalytic converter. This is a BIG no-no to scrappers and venders.
When you remove the honeycomb from the shell, it will be nearly impossible for the scrap yard to identify the type and model of catalytic converter you have. By keeping the shell on, your scrap yard can easily identify the kind of vehicle it belongs from and pay you the right amount of money for the precious metals that will be recovered when it is processed from the converter
Cut the Exhaust Pipes Off
By cutting off the exhaust pipe yourself, you are giving the yard less work to do and they will be able to give you a better price for your catalytic converter.