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My check engine light is on and I need to pass state inspection (with emissions) in NY. The garage said the computer code says I need a new catalytic converter, and quoted me over $1000. The converter itself is the bulk of this though, running around $850. My car is 03 Element EX 4wd, with 150,000 miles.

I looked online and found all sorts of generic/universal converters for $100 - $400. My mechanic said he'd install one of those if I buy it and bring it in, but told me they are terrible, and tend to fail within 6 months to a year. Whereas the official Honda part will last another 7 years... I consulted an "expert" online and he said my mechanic was correct. But I've read through previous posts in this forum and several people said they used generic replacements, usually from Magnaflow. But no one ever posted to say what happened later down the line. Is it true that these will not last very long?

I'm trying to figure out whether I should just suck it up and pay the $1000, or if it is safe and reliable and smart to go generic and save $500+. Any advice, experience, knowledge about this? What are the best generic brands? Do any of them come with a warranty? How long should this last? I would hate to spend $500 to replace it, and then have to deal with the whole process again a year later. Inspection expires within the week, can't pass without this... please help!
 

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Thanks for the tip - I just sent him an e-mail. Not sure if the 2004 part will work on the 2003 part, but that would be awesome!

Still looking for more information if anyone has any... Thanks so much!
 

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Welcome, Element_apple.

2003 and 2004 catalytic converters will interchange. Honda p/n 18160-PZD-A00 is listed as fitting 2003-06, and the less expensive 18160-PZD-S00 is listed for 2003-06 and 2007-09.

One member reports having success with an aftermarket cat here, but it is not a simple bolt-on solution.

What was the trouble code? Codes P0420–P0424 and P0430–P0434 refer to the catalytic converter, but many other codes will trigger the check engine light. For example, codes P1149, P1157, P1162–P1169, and P1172 indicate a problem with one of the sensors that plug into the front pipe/cat.
 

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We gave up using aftermarket cats in the dealership. You mechanic is correct , they will usually last a year or less. Look into replacing the rear O2 sensor with a simulator.
 

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Thanks for the info about the 2004 cat working in the 2003 model. That would be ideal! I'm not sure what the code was - he plugged it in and just told me the diagnosis. There are places I can go and pay a small fee to plug it myself and see for myself, right? Maybe Autozone, or something similar. I live in Manhattan, so I'd have to drive a bit to get to a place like this, but maybe it'd be worth it. I've used the mechanic a few times before and he seems pretty honest and competent. But its always nice to know for sure...

Is there anything drivers can do (or not do) that will make the cat last longer? Someone mentioned in a previous thread that letting the gas tank get low too often can hurt the cat. Is this true? Any other tips? Wondering if this was my fault, or if it just happens... Also wondering if I get the generic one, if there are things I can do to make it last longer...
 

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I'd take it to a Honda Dealer for a check - worth the $50 bucks or so it will cost. It's possible that it may not be the Cat at all. Generic code readers are notorious for popping up system failure codes that are sort of related/in the ball-park but not exactly on target. (For example, OBDII Code readers are so inaccurate reading any BMW faults, no BMW service center will even use an OBDII code reader as a diagnostics tool) Let a Honda Dealer put it on their system to diagnose and double-check. Could be another emission fault altogether. Would be an (expensive) pain to replace the Cat, and find out that wasn't it at all. Had one mechanic code-diagnose some very expensive repairs needed to the emission system on my Wife's Saab - which a trip to a Saab mechanic and his re-diagnoses took care for $30 by replacing a faulty gas-cap that wasn't sealing and pressurizing the fuel system properly.

Catalytic converters are supposed to last the life of the vehicle (though some sites imply average life span is 7 to 10 years for OEM, and half that for generics - Ive seen cars with 20 year-old cat's still going strong) - they normally don't fail unless the car is running way to lean or way to rich. Lean - and it gets too hot, melting the catalyst. Rich and it clogs the catalyst with carbon. Or smack it good and hard by hitting road debris can sometimes also shorten the life.

(Generics are cheaper, because they are made with cheaper materials, and hence, do not last as long - no way to extend the life of the cheap materials).
 

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I spent some time with an incredibly helpful Honda master mechanic and my old Accord a couple of years ago at his house with all his equipment.

FYI on the cat diagnosis as my old Accord had the same affliction: Two O2 sensors are present, one before and after the cat on your exhaust. TO over simplify, if the rear O2 does not measure enough change vs the first sensor then the cat is considered bad. So, you want to make sure it's not a sensor failure before making the investment (doesn't necessarily sound like this is your situation but I would check).

My research when dealing with same on that Accord repeated what is said already, go with an OEM unit only on Honda's. Eventually, I just got to where I cleared the code before going to an inspection and it would sail through. But many stations will pick up on the recent clearing of the code I believe.

If I were doing this again, I would look for a cat from a wrecked vehicle. Many options via internet can help. However, if within a couple of hundred bucks on cost, I'd just get a new one and be done. Just have to spend the next week licking your financial wounds...

That's my 2 cents...Best of luck with it!
 

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me they are terrible, and tend to fail within 6 months to a year. Whereas the official Honda part will last another 7 years...
True. Catalytic converters require rare and precious metals (platinum, palladium or rhodium) to function properly and the generic ones really skimp on them. That's how they can price them so cheaply. Many will not pass emissions even when brand new.
 

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Just to let some of you guys and gals know were about to get a Random Technologies Cat custom made for our Element SC. We don't live to far from the company and we have a Random Tech Cat on our 2003 K24 Honda Accord 5 speed sedan. Works AMAZING!

Better power and gas mileage. I do believe it was 270 for the Cat, shipped. Were looking at trying to get it going just before or after X-Mas. Not sure... but will keep everyone informed when we go get it made. Not sure how much its going to be for the E if we think enough guys would be interested. If not. I will be the only one with a oem looking high-flow cat :p
 

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You do know that it against Federal law to remove a properly functioning catalytic converter? (The fine is pretty hefty, $25,000 to $50,000 for the shop that does it, plus a $2,500 to $10,000 fine for the owner). :shock:

E.P.A. guidelines state that replacement converters may be installed only in the following situations:

1. The vehicle is missing a converter
2. A state or local inspection program has determined that the existing converter needs replacement
3. Vehicles manufactured prior to 1996 must have more than 50,000 miles, and a legitimate need for replacement must be established and documented
4. In cases of OBD Il-equipped vehicles (1996 and later), the O.E. manufacturer's 8-year/80,000-mile warranty must have expired and a legitimate need for replacement must be established and documented.
Please note that Federal law prohibits removal or replacement of a properly functioning O.E. converter.

When replacement of the converter is appropriate (as outlined above), the E.P.A. further requires that:

1. It be installed in the same location as the original
2. It be the same type as the original (i.e., two-way, three-way, three-way plus air/three-way plus oxidation)
3. It be the proper model for the vehicle application as determined and specified by the manufacturer
4. It be properly connected to any existing air injection components on the vehicle
5. It be installed with any other required converter for a particular application
6. It be accompanied by a warranty information card to be completed by the installer.
 

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"You do know that it against Federal law to remove a properly functioning catalytic converter? (The fine is pretty hefty, $25,000 to $50,000 for the shop that does it, plus a $2,500 to $10,000 fine for the owner). "

I think that part would be easy to take out of context. I'm betting that is for the ones that took off the cat and replaced it with the proverbial "test pipe", like we did back in the old days.

Sam
 

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"You do know that it against Federal law to remove a properly functioning catalytic converter? (The fine is pretty hefty, $25,000 to $50,000 for the shop that does it, plus a $2,500 to $10,000 fine for the owner). "

I think that part would be easy to take out of context. I'm betting that is for the ones that took off the cat and replaced it with the proverbial "test pipe", like we did back in the old days.

Sam
Actually the Feds don't care why - if it is "new" and in working condition, according to their posted criteria, and you remove it, they levy the fines, no matter what you replaced it with - the goal is to keep oem cats in place and not being switched out for unregulated replacements. The base Fed fines are($25k and $2.5k). Different States add fines on top - pushing it to as high as $50k and $10k, depending on the State.
 

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No question on the letter of the law, but, at least here in Commiefornia, that isn't really the real world. With the sheer number of cars out here, and the bad economy forcing people to drive older cars for more miles, plus the dirtbags are now stealing them off your car, there are a whole bunch of cats being replaced every day. If your car passes the sniffer test and the smog tech sees a converter in place, thats all they care about. Not very many people go to the car dealer for the $800 replacement when there is a shop on every third street corner that will do it for a few hundred bucks.

As far as using a high performance part here, many/most of the reputable parts come with an exemption sticker from the CARB which approves it for use as a replacement part. If I wanted a high perf cat and couldn't remove a good working one, a couple of good blows from a hammer and an "oops, I hit a rock on the highway that rendered it in operable" would solve that issue.

Sam
 

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Well, its made of way better matterials and it helps with the gas mileage and its a factory style. Its 50 state EPA so i dont know what else to say. It will fit 08-10 and i bet 2011 E's too :). So one day were going to need them but honda whats that big 600 and up on that OEM Cat. It would be nice to think that in a few years some 08's might be still kickin on the road because i got the first Random Cat for our cars set up.

If all goes well maybe someone with a older E im my area would want one too, and the older E's can have a random cat too. Please remember our 03' Accord has no exhast mods other then the cat.... all other stuff is a intake and stuff too make the car shift better. Its a great investment. At least thats what i think. The price is just really what i think you should have to pay for a cat anyway.
 
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