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Catalytic Converter Recycling

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It may come as a surprise to many to know that the $200 catalytic converter on your car cannot be resold or reused legally.

It can, however, be recycled for cash.

 

The catalytic converter on a car typically sits on the exhaust line between the pipe's "Y" (where the exhaust manifolds are brought together into one pipe) and the muffler and tailpipe. Most often, the catalytic converter is about halfway to two-thirds of the way down the length of the car, near the rear wheels.

Note: never remove a catalytic converter or work on a vehicle's exhaust system when it's hot. Severe burns can result!

Most catalytic converters are shaped like turtle shells (rather than the cylindrical shape of a muffler) and are mounted onto the exhaust in-line with universal couplers that require only a wrench to remove.

Inside the catalytic converter are several precious metals that make it worth recycling: palladium, platinum, and rhodium. Also inside many older catalytic converters are less desirable materials like asbestos - making it illegal in most areas to throw them away or even open them without authorization.

Most scrap yards and recycling centers will accept intact catalytic converters for recycling, however. The price paid will depend, usually, on the current price of platinum (typically the most expensive metal in the converter) and the size and type of converter being sold.

The precious metals are contained within the honeycomb mesh that has an aluminum coating impregnated with the metals. This is spread throughout the converter and surrounded by the "tortoise shell" stainless steel exterior.

Extracting the metals is a time-consuming process that most home mechanics probably are not capable of doing. Hence, most catalytic converters are sold intact and the metals extracted by a facility purpose-built for this.

Because most recycling centers pay in cash, a large cottage industry of catalytic converter recycling businesses have sprung up nationally. It's an easy business to get into requiring only basic hand tools.

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