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My 2006 Element has about 220,000 miles on it, still getting between 20-23 mpg and the engine itself is as strong as ever. However just got home from a tour around Texas and my check engine light has come on.

Codes
P0420: Catalyst Efficiency below Threshold (Bank1)
- I believe there is a small leak near the Catalytic Converter.
P009: Variable Valve Timing Control (VTC) Advance Malfunction
- I had the valves looked at and adjusted about a year ago so not sure what to expect here.


I feel no difference in performance but did see a slight increase in gas consumption on the second leg of the trip. It being an east coast car I know there is a good amount of rust under there and am not really surprised to be looking into replacing some parts. I am going to a local shop to have it really looked over on Friday but its always better to go in prepared. So just looking for any advice.

Looking around it seems like I can get a new Catalytic Converter for between $100-300 for a decent replacement and in $600 range for an upgrade not including labor.

Not sure if it needs to be replaced but looking at Cat-back Exhausts it seems like it would be another $300-$600 plus labor.

I am not trying to get a louder sound or anything like that I just want my E to run as long as I can make it. Any advice on brands what to look for or to watch out for would be helpful. I will be posting more information and pictures after I talk to the shop on Friday.
 

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If you can fix the leak near your cat, that may fix your code. Also, O2 sensors going bad nearly always set cat codes too.
 

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Aftermarket cats are denigrated; see relevant thread(s) for more. The cost of replacing a cheap cat again six months or a year later will offset any savings from not paying more up front for an OEM cat.

I haven't seem a lot of P0420 reports here. I had one a month or so ago after I parked with the engine running for 15 or 20 minutes. Eventually it cleared itself. Then this week I was stuck in traffic for about the same duration and the code came up again, and again it cleared itself after a few hours of normal driving. Could be that the cat is not up to snuff, or could be that the Bank 1 sensor is borderline. I have a new sensor in stock and will replace it soon but won't be surprised if after 230,000 miles the cat needs to be replaced.
 

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Codes
P0420: Catalyst Efficiency below Threshold (Bank1)
- I believe there is a small leak near the Catalytic Converter.
P009: Variable Valve Timing Control (VTC) Advance Malfunction
- I had the valves looked at and adjusted about a year ago so not sure what to expect here.
Do not worry about a catalytic converter code until any existing exhaust leak is repaired. A leak in the exhaust can fool the lambda sensor with false air and give a false code. If it turns out you do eventually need a catalytic converter do not waste your money on a aftermarket unit. They are all junk, excepting some of the ones that are certified for use in California.

The fault for the cam timing advance is not related to the valve clearance but refers to the change in the relationship between the crankshaft position and the camshaft position at different engine speeds. Diagnosis required.
 

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Sorry to bring an old thread back from the dead...

My wife's '09 SC is at 104k now and we paid it off a couple months ago. She was having it serviced at the dealership but since it crossed the 100k threshold I told her that I would take over maintenance. As if the car knew it, a few weeks ago the CEL came on. I scanned it and got the P0420 code. My plan is to (1) inspect the exhaust for leaks and if that checks out (2) throw a new O2 sensor (sensors?) in it before looking into (3) putting a new cat in. Sound about right?

Where is the preferred source for OEM parts? I presume the O2 sensors are NGK?

Does this seem like low mileage for this problem to occur? My '00 Tundra went nearly 200k miles (15 years) on the original oxygen sensors and just over 200k before a cat needed to be replaced. I was a little surprised to see this failure with such low mileage.
 
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