What Are Catalytic Converters & How Do They Work?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 05/12/2023

Vehicles emit several pollutants that lead to air pollution and global warming. However, with stringent emission standards worldwide, the automotive industry had to turn to new technology to comply. This is where catalytic converters for the bike’s exhaust play an eminent role. They make new-age vehicles more eco-friendly by significantly reducing harmful emissions.

But have you ever wondered how catalytic converters work? In this article, you will learn about a catalytic converter’s working that makes the air around you a bit cleaner.

What is a Catalytic Converter for Motorbikes?

A catalytic converter or a “Cat-Con” is a part of a vehicle exhaust system. It is in the form of a rectangular chamber in the exhaust pipe.

This crucial device converts toxic pollutants produced during combustion into safer gases before they are expelled into the atmosphere. This happens when the fumes are exposed to the metals and chemicals inside, prompting chemical reactions.

French engineer Eugene Houdry invented the first catalytic converter in 1950. Its implementation in automobiles began in 1973.

Catalytic Converter Working: How Does it Work?

Hydrocarbons release water and carbon dioxide when they react with oxygen under suitable conditions. However, the internal combustion in your bike’s engine is not proper.

This leads to incomplete reactions and the emission of harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO). These greenhouse gases cause ozone depletion and negatively impact human health.

The catalytic converter in a bike has mainly two components- a honeycomb-shaped ceramic structure and rare metals. The gases flow through the ceramic structure which is coated with precious metals such as Platinum, Rhodium or Palladium.

These metals act as a catalyst and react with the engine’s exhaust gases to make them less harmful. They act as both reduction catalysts (Platinum and Rhodium) and oxidation catalysts (Platinum and Palladium).

The reduction catalyst extracts oxygen from nitrogen oxides to emit it as nitrogen. On the other hand, the oxidation catalyst utilises the extracted oxygen to bind it to carbon monoxide and release carbon dioxide. It also converts any unburnt fuel into water molecules and carbon dioxide.

Thus, a catalytic converter converts harmful gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and unburnt hydrocarbons into harmless gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water molecules, respectively.

Types of Catalytic Converters for Bikes

There are two main types of catalytic converters- two-way and three-way.

A two-way catalytic converter has only oxidation catalysts that convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, a three-way catalytic converter has reduction catalysts in addition to a two-way converter to convert nitrogen oxides into nitrogen and oxygen.

Signs of Issues with a Bike’s Catalytic Converter

Since a catalytic converter plays an essential role in your bike’s exhaust system, it is essential to take care of it. You must identify early signs of wear and tear to ensure proper catalytic converter function.

Signs of issues with a bike catalytic converter include

Poor fuel efficiency- A clogged catalytic converter reduces the amount of airflow through your bike’s engine. As a result, the engine may burn more fuel, affecting your bike’s fuel efficiency

Smell of rotten eggs or sulfur- Inefficient conversion of exhaust gases due to a damaged converter may release a sulfuric or rotten egg smell

Issues in engine starting- A clogged catalytic converter traps the gases inside. This causes increased exhaust pressure, due to which your bike may stall or sputter when you start it

Poor acceleration- Again, the trapped exhaust gases inside cause problems in accelerating your bike. You may experience jerks when you try to do so

Failed pollution test- If your bike doesn't pass the pollution test, this could be a sign of an issue with your catalytic converter

Tips to Protect Your Bike’s Catalytic Converter

A defective catalytic converter causes air pollution and can affect your engine’s performance. Here are a few tips to keep your bike’s catalytic converter in good condition:

Always use unleaded gasoline since leaded gasoline can damage the catalytic converter

Ensure your bike’s engine is in good condition. An overheated engine can lead to high temperatures and damage the catalytic converter for bikes

Make sure you get your bike serviced if the engine is not running properly

Wrapping Up

Catalytic converters are essential components in modern-day vehicles. They help reduce air pollution and significantly contribute to making vehicles more eco-friendly. Since catalytic converters for bike exhaust contain precious metals, thieves often keep an eye on them. So, it is essential to take precautions to protect these crucial devices.

Also, make sure you protect your prized possession from various other risks through a suitable bike insurance policy. Insurance for 2-wheelers ensures financial security during unforeseen mishaps.

While third-party insurance protects you against third-party liabilities, a comprehensive bike insurance plan can give your bike an all-around coverage from theft, natural calamities, accidents, etc.

So, compare two-wheeler insurance plans and pick the one that suits your bike’s needs at Tata AIG today.


What’s inside a catalytic converter?

A catalytic converter consists of metals like platinum, rhodium or palladium and a honeycomb-shaped ceramic structure.

Does catalytic converter affect the driving experience?

Yes. A clogged catalytic converter can lead to slow powertrain performance, low acceleration, sulfur from the exhaust, dark smoke and excessive heat from the vehicle.

Where is the catalytic converter located?

You can find catalytic converters in almost every vehicle these days except electric vehicles. This is because EVs do not emit harmful pollutants. The catalytic converter in a motorcycle can be located at the end of the exhaust pipe. However, make sure to consult the instruction manual to find it easily.

What are the signs of a failed catalytic converter?

Here’s a list of signs of a failed catalytic converter:

  • Sluggish engine performance

  • Smell of sulfur or rotten eggs from the exhaust

  • Reduced acceleration

  • Extreme heat from under the bike

  • Dark exhaust smoke

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