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Catalytic converters are a fantastic tool for cleaning up exhaust emissions. But as they slowly become clogged with carbon deposits and soot, their efficiency decreases, and they start to have a negative impact on vehicle performance. You might experience rough running, a lack of acceleration response, stalling when driving or a sulfurous smell from the tailpipe. The engine will start to use more fuel, the check-engine light might come on and the emissions test becomes harder to pass.
If the catalytic converter (and some cars might have two) becomes irreversibly clogged, then the replacement cost runs into many hundreds of dollars, as these delicate, emissions-critical components cannot usually be repaired.
Regular treatment of the engine and exhaust system with Cataclean is a low-cost way to prevent permanent damage to the catalytic converter. Cataclean is a one-stop, pour-in treatment: add the contents of the pre-measured bottle to a quarter-tank of fuel (around 15 liters/4 gallons), drive for at least 15 minutes to build up sufficient heat in the engine and exhaust, and refuel when necessary. Unlike some competitor products, Cataclean works both on the fuel system before combustion, and on the exhaust system afterwards.
What’s in the bottle? The main ingredients of Cataclean are acetone, isopropanol, xylene and kerosene. All are proven to be safe for use in internal-combustion engines, whether powered by gasoline (including hybrids) or diesel. They do not alter the fuel composition but are chosen to clean the fuel system, engine and exhaust system.
As soon as you empty the bottle, Cataclean’s solvents – acetone and isopropanol – immediately begin to dissolve any gum and resin deposits in the fuel system. As Cataclean is drawn into the engine, they work to de-clog fuel injector nozzles that may cause slow response, rough running or fuel wastage. It’s the same for intake valves, where carbon deposits can prevent the correct amount of fuel from entering the engine. Cataclean strips away deposits from valves and from inside the combustion chamber, boosting combustion efficiency and therefore fuel economy.
“Whenever you clean up the deposits from anywhere in your engine or fuel system, you always pick up performance,” says Mark Wells, Director of Cataclean Business Development for Holley, which is the exclusive distributor in North America.
After combustion, Cataclean continues its work in the exhaust system, including catalytic converters, oxygen sensors and (where fitted) diesel particulate filters (DPFs). Here, the by-products of Cataclean’s combustion perform two functions. The first is to produce oxygen to help oxidate the layer of carbon deposits on the catalytic surface. The second is to produce a carboxylic acid vapor that helps remove carbon and soot from the catalytic converter and DPF. The result is a cleaner, more efficient exhaust system and reduced carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
It's important to say that Cataclean cannot repair a part that has failed due to an excessive buildup of carbon. If the check-engine light stays on even after use of Cataclean, for example, then it’s possible that the damage to the catalytic converter is irreversible. Likewise, the use of Cataclean may not be able to revive a very heavily clogged DPF.
But regular use of Cataclean – the manufacturer recommends four times a year – can remove the deposits that will ultimately lead to failure, thereby extending component life. Cataclean’s creators believe that, when weighed against an expensive replacement part, the low cost of a treatment – typically less than $30 a bottle – is easy to justify.
Problems in the exhaust aftertreatment system are exacerbated in vehicles that are used primarily on short journeys, such as in cities. Catalytic converters, internal exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems and DPFs are especially vulnerable to damage from carbon deposits if the vehicle is not regularly run at highway speeds.
In the UK, where Cataclean was developed, several independent tests of the product have been conducted by fleet operators of city-based commercial vans who had reported problems with relatively new aftertreatment systems.
“Modern fuel and exhaust systems are designed to bring down tailpipe emissions, but in real-life duty cycles, the system gets dirty, and this can lead to vehicle downtime and even vehicle failure,” explains Cataclean’s UK-based sales director, William Jones. “As many fleets do short, stop-start journeys in towns, they are at risk of having system problems.”
In one test, treating a fleet of commercial vans with Cataclean reduced CO2, hydrocarbon and NOx emissions by 24% and improved DPF performance by 27%.
Lower emissions aren’t just good for the environment. They are a sign of greater engine efficiency, which also means more power and lower fuel consumption. In that same trial, Cataclean reduced fuel consumption by 9.7%.
“Prevention is always better than cure,” adds Jones. “We recommend a scheduled Cataclean treatment to our users at least every three months to keep the fuel and exhaust system clean and to help prevent failures. Typically, the Cataclean treatment pays for itself with improved fuel economy alone.”
Like the Beatles, Cataclean came to the US from Liverpool, England. And like the Fab Four in the 1960s, it’s cleaning up all over America, where it’s EPA-approved for use in 50 states.
Cataclean is available now from all major automotive retailers, including Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, Carquest, NAPA, O’Reilly and Pep Boys, as well as from Walmart stores.
For more information, go to https://www.holley.com/brands/cataclean/