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The average auto was a toxic chemical factory before catalytic converters became government-mandated tools in 1972. Oxides of nitrogen and also lead, unburned fuel, sulfur dioxide and vast amounts that carbon monoxide poured forth in abundance, polluting groundwater and atmosphere alike. Catalytic converters, or cats, work-related like super-high-temperature ovens, storing exhaust heat and also using that to transform many of these dangerous compound to less dangerous forms.

You are watching: Is it illegal to drive without a catalytic converter


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn"t Read)

You can"t touch catalytic converters uneven you"re instead of them like-for-like. Tampering with your cat is a criminal offense, save where your auto is freed from emissions testing.


In short: DON"T. If your auto came with a catalytic converter you"re looking at fines of approximately $10,000 because that removing it. Kind of. Removing the catalytic converter is illegal, yet getting caught without one isn"t. Many states will just suspend your smog certification till you obtain a new one installed.


You can only replace your catalytic converter with one of the specific same make and model as the original, and also it has to be in the stock location. The only exception to this preeminence regards "high-flow" aftermarket cats, which you might use as long as they"re EPA-certified for your vehicle. The federal government says you can"t touch the converter uneven the original is lacking or damaged, the auto is older than 1996 and also has much more than 50,000 miles or it"s a 1996-and-later vehicle with more than 80,000 miles.


You have the right to install a offered converter from another vehicle of the exact same make and also model under 2 conditions. The donor car must have actually the precise same engine and also transmission package together yours, and also you must have actually the converter experiment to certify that it tho works.


You"ll never obtain fined if girlfriend never obtain caught, which is entirely feasible in numerous places; part states like South Dakota and Florida don"t have any kind of emissions testing. Converter remove is fairly common in states like these, yet there"s one caveat; don"t walk increase to any old shop and ask them to eliminate the converter. Many will one of two people tell you that they don"t do exhaust job-related for undercover EPA agents, or the you have to register your auto as "off-road only" prior to they"ll touch it.


Even in smog states, plenty of vehicles are exempt indigenous emissions testing. No emissions testing way no fines for going cat-less. Exception include virtually any auto designated for off-road use only, including race cars, ATVs, and also dirt bikes. Boat-owning California residents beware, though – the California Air sources Board pass a variety of laws in 2009 concerning boat emissions and also cat removal. The brand-new regulations and fines are comparable to those because that cars.

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Don"t think the just because the converter is physically existing that you"re square v the government – gutting the cat is never ever a good idea. This somewhat morbid term describes the practice of remove the converter, bashing out the ceramic internals v a crowbar and also reinstalling it. Common sense would imply that this must both boost exhaust flow and keep girlfriend legal, but it would certainly be dorn on both counts. Editing and enhancing or disabling a converter is just as illegal together removing it, and also oftentimes turbulent circulation through those broken internals will reason horsepower-sapping back-pressure. And it will certainly send her car"s engine control unit right into fits.