Cleaning additive can't restore a failed catalytic converter

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: January 11, 2013 - 3:58 PM

Q My '03 Mazda MPV with 125,000 miles has the Check Engine light going on and off the past few weeks. The parts store's scan tool found a code for catalytic converter issues. The manager suggested I try a couple cans of Sea Foam or a product called Cataclean, which I've never heard of. It's about $25 for a 16-ounce can. Do either of those products do anything to revive a tired catalytic converter? Hate to spend foolish money on a long shot. The vehicle runs perfectly and has no unusual sounds or smells.

A No additive can repair a failed catalytic converter, but they can clean deposits from a functioning converter and help restore its efficiency. In a nutshell, the catalytic converter matrix is covered with platinum or palladium that, when heated by the exhaust gases, oxidizes unburned fuel to eliminate raw hydrocarbons from the exhaust. As converters lose efficiency, the percentage of raw fuel in the exhaust increases, which is monitored by the rear oxygen sensor.

The good news is that federally legal aftermarket catalytic converters are available at a significantly lower price than most original equipment converters. A quick online check found replacement "cats" for your Mazda starting at under $100, not including installation.

Try the cleaners first, but if the fault code for a failed converter returns, consider an aftermarket replacement unit.

Q I have a 1999 Chrysler Town & Country with 120,000 miles that is in great shape and a very good road car. A few months ago while on a long trip the cruise control would not work. The control buttons are on the steering wheel. It started off working indifferently. Sometimes I could get it to turn on but not work. Very occasionally it worked fine. Sometimes it partially works after turning the wheel lock to lock. About a month after this started, the air bag warning light would go on for a while and then turn off. The light's "on" period became longer and longer until now it is on most but still not all the time. Could it be bad connections in the steering wheel? Is this repairable without spending a lot of money or should I chalk it up to a 14-year-old car?

A The problem very likely is in the wiring harness in the steering column -- particularly if it's a tilt column -- or instrument cluster harness. Yes, it's probably due to the vehicle's age and mileage, but regardless, the issue needs to be addressed. Why? The air bag warning light. When this light is illuminated, the air bag may not function properly in a crash, and potentially could deploy unintentionally.

Have a shop scan for DTC fault codes for the restraint system as well as the cruise control. This should pinpoint the problem and give you an idea of repair costs. Replacing a harness is far less costly than potential injuries if the air bag fails to properly deploy in a serious crash.

MOTORING NOTE

I just had to print Susan's letter; it made my day. "I just read Saturday's column and you left me wondering what your semi-professional, completely biased opinion on extended warranty and service contracts is! I think I remember a column on it sort of recently, but can't remember what your semi-professional, completely biased opinion was! Help! I'm a 78-year-old widow and life was so much easier when my husband had to deal with me asking all these questions. Even if he didn't know the answers, he asked someone who could help. Darn it, wish he was still alive!"

Susan, my semi-professional, completely biased opinion is this: If you intend to keep the vehicle well beyond the carmaker's warranty and drive an average mileage of roughly 10,000-15,000 miles per year, seriously consider purchasing a reputable bumper-to-bumper extended warranty or service contract that fits the term and mileage of your ownership.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco - LP: S. Romo 9 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 10
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: R. Hernandez 4
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close