The catalytic converter is utilized in gasoline engines only.
The catalytic converter is a muffler-like container built into the exhaust system to aid in the reduction of exhaust emissions. The catalyst element consists of individual pellets or a honeycomb monolithic substrate coated with a noble metal such as platinum, palladium, rhodium or a combination. When the exhaust gases come into contact with the catalyst, a chemical reaction occurs which will reduce the pollutants into harmless substances like water and carbon dioxide.
There are essentially two types of catalytic converters: an oxidizing type is used on all 1975-79 models built for California, all 1980 200SX models, the 49 state version of the 1980 810, and 1980-81 510s. It requires the addition of oxygen to spur the catalyst into reducing the engine's HC and CO emissions into H 2 O and CO 2 . Because of this need for oxygen, the Air Injection system is used with all these models.
The oxidizing catalytic converter, while effectively reducing HC and CO emissions, does little, if anything in the way of reducing NOx emissions. Thus, the three way catalytic converter.
The three way converter, unlike the oxidizing type, is capable of reducing HC, CO and NOx emissions; all at the same time. In theory, it seems impossible to reduce all three pollutants in one system since the reduction of HC and CO requires the addition of oxygen, while the reduction of NOx calls for the removal of oxygen. In actuality, the three way system really can reduce all three pollutants, but only if the amount of oxygen in the exhaust system is precisely controlled. Due to this precise oxygen control requirement, the three way converter system is used only in cars equipped with an oxygen sensor system: the 1980 810 (Calif.), the 1981-82 810 (all) and the 1981 200SX.
1975-78 models (all California models) have a floor temperature warning system, consisting of a temperature sensor installed onto the floor of the car above the converter, a relay, located under the passenger seat, and a light, installed on the instrument panel. The lamp illuminates when floor temperatures become abnormally high, due to converter or engine malfunction. The light also comes on when the ignition switch is turned to Start, to check its operation. 1979 and later models do not have the warning system.
All models with the three-way converter have an oxygen sensor warning light on the dashboard, which illuminates at the first 30,000 mile interval, signaling the need for oxygen sensor replacement. The oxygen sensor is part of the Mixture Ratio Feedback System, described in this section. The Feedback System uses the three way converter as one of its major components.
No regular maintenance is required for the catalytic converter system, except for periodic replacement of the Air Induction System filter (if so equipped). The Air Induction System is described earlier in this section. Filter replacement procedures are in . The Air Induction System is used to supply the catalytic converter with fresh air. Oxygen present in the air is used in the oxidation process.
- Use only unleaded fuel.
- Avoid prolonged idling. The engine should run on longer than 20 minutes at curb idle and no longer than 10 minutes at fast idle.
- Do not disconnect any of the spark plug leads while the engine is running.
- Make engine compression checks as quickly as possible.
As long as you avoid severe overheating and the use of leaded fuels it is reasonably safe to assume that the converter is working properly. If you are in doubt, take the car to a diagnostic center that has a tester.
If the catalytic converter becomes blocked the engine will not run.