Whether you’re coming up on an emissions test or you’re just trying to get the most out of each tank of fuel, there’s no better way to do that than with a catalytic converter cleaner. These cleaners take care of common problems and can even extend the life of some expensive components.
But while the right catalytic converter cleaners can save you some money, the wrong ones can lead to even more damage. That’s why we took the time to track down and review six of the best – and safest – catalytic converter cleaners for your engine!
6 Best Catalytic Converter Cleaners
While no catalytic converter cleaner can fix every problem, these give you the best shot at clearing a pesky check engine light or keeping one from popping up in the first place. So whatever you’re looking to use a catalytic converter cleaner for, these are the best ones out there.
1. CRC Guaranteed to Pass Emissions Test Formula – Best Overall
Sure, the CRC Guaranteed to Pass Emissions Test Formula marketing formula is a bit of a gimmick. But that doesn’t take anything away from the product itself. It does a great job at improving fuel economy, acceleration and reduces your overall emissions.
It utilizes the maximum allowed cleaning chemistry and does a great job doing it. However, you’ll need to add this product every 3,000-miles to keep up the results, and it doesn’t work with diesel engines. But keeping the limitations in mind, you’re not going to find a more effective cleaner on the market.
- Very effective cleaner
- Improves fuel economy, acceleration and reduces emissions
- Maximum allowed cleaning chemistry
- Double money-back guarantee
- You need to add it every 3,000-miles
- It does not work with diesel engines
2. OXICAT Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner – Best Budget
If you’re looking to save a little extra money on your carb cleaner, the OXICAT Oxygen Sensor & Catalytic Converter Cleaner is a great value. It works with both gas and diesel engines and has a multipurpose cleaning design that takes care of everything in your exhaust system.
But while this cleaner does a great job at preventing problems, it doesn’t do anything to fix them or even hide them during an emissions test. Instead, this is a product to use as a preventative measure – if you’re already experiencing problems, this catalytic cleaner won’t help.
- Very affordable option
- Works with both gas and diesel vehicles
- Multipurpose cleaning design
- Does an excellent job at preventing problems
- Will not fix or hide problems
3. Cataclean 120007 Complete Engine, Fuel and Exhaust System Cleaner – Premium Choice
If you’re willing and able to spend a little more on your catalytic converter cleaner, Cataclean can do everything you could want and more. Not only does it clean out your catalytic converter, but it helps with rough idles, hesitation, power reduction, hard starts, and fuel economy.
It’s an extremely effective cleaner that works in gas, diesel, flex-fuel, and even hybrid vehicles! No matter what you’re driving, Cataclean can keep things running smooth. Not only that, but it can help sort out minor problems. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s worth every penny.
- Improves fuel efficiency
- It is a highly effective cleaner
- Improves engine performance
- Works in gas, diesel, flex-fuel, and hybrid engines
- More expensive product
Another product that excels at getting you to pass an emissions test is the Hi-Gear EZ Emissions Pass and Catalytic Converter Cleaner. Not only does it clean the catalytic converter, but it cleans everything else in the fuel system too.
This helps restore lost horsepower and improve fuel efficiency, and it might be precisely what you need to get through an emissions test. Of course, it does this by cleaning carbon deposits off everything, so don’t think it’s going to fix an actual fault in the system, though.
Finally, it is a little more expensive than some of the other catalytic converter cleaners that we reviewed here, but it does a great job at cleaning everything.
- Cleans the entire fuel system
- Reduces emissions and cleans carbon deposits
- It helps with fuel efficiency and helps restore lost horsepower
- Slightly more expensive product
If you think that you’re going to need to keep up with a cleaning regimen for your catalytic converter, the Solder-It (CAT-1) Catalytic Converter Cleaner might be exactly what you need. Not only is each can affordably priced, but you can buy them in a 12-pack for even more savings!
It’s a dedicated catalytic converter cleaner that also does a great job cleaning everything else in the exhaust system. The end result is fewer emissions and a smoother running engine, which is everything you could ask for in a catalytic converter cleaner.
However, while it does a good job, it’s not as great as some higher-end products. If you opt for Solder-It, we recommend using a more expensive product for the first application than using Solder-It for preventive maintenance.
- You can buy in bulk
- Cleans the entire exhaust system
- Dedicated catalytic converter cleaner
- Not as great as the more expensive products
No list of catalytic converter cleaners would be complete without mentioning Sea Foam. But unlike what your backyard mechanic will tell you, Sea Foam won’t fix every problem, and we stick by assertation here that it’s not even the best product on the market.
Now, it is incredibly affordable, and it delivers long-lasting results, even if they’re not as noticeable as dedicated catalytic converter cleaners. Sea Foam has a product for both gas/diesel vehicles and a dedicated product for high-mileage vehicles.
While Sea Foam is exceptionally versatile, it’s a bit of a one size fits all problem solver. And while it does a decent job in a wide array of areas, it doesn’t excel in any one application.
- Cleans the entire fuel system
- Very affordable
- Works for up to two years
- Options for both gas, diesel, and high-mileage vehicles
- Not as effective as other cleaners
- Not a dedicated catalytic converter cleaner
If you’ve never used a catalytic converter cleaner before, you’re bound to have a few questions. What exactly do these cleaners do, and are they safe for your vehicle? Just as importantly, how do you use them, and do they actually work? We’ll break down everything you need to know here.
How To Use a Catalytic Converter Cleaner
We need to mention that you should always read the directions on your particular product before using it. However, after saying that, using almost every catalytic converter is relatively similar.
All you need to do is apply it directly to a full gas tank, then run the engine. The chemical compound in the cleaner will start working immediately, but you won’t see the best results until everything has gotten up to temperature.
That’s why we recommend letting the engine run for 5 to 10 minutes after everything has reached peak temperatures for optimal results. Also, keep in mind to clear many check engine lights, you’ll need to reset the code. You can do this with either an OBD-II scan tool or by disconnecting the battery for 5 to 10 minutes.
What To Expect From a Catalytic Converter Cleaner
There are tons of reviews out there slamming every catalytic converter cleaner on the market since it didn’t clear their check engine light. And despite what CRC Guaranteed to Pass Emissions Test Formula says, there’s no catalytic converter cleaner on the planet that can fix every problem.
That’s because all these products do is CLEAN. That can help with a ton of problems since carbon buildup is the number one problem facing your exhaust system, but it certainly won’t fix every problem.
Think about it, if the filter elements in your catalytic converter have disintegrated and are now rattling around inside your catalytic converter, what’s a fuel additive going to do about it?
But, if you have a check engine light because there’s too much carbon build upon an oxygen sensor or the filter elements have too much soot, a fuel additive might be exactly what you need to get everything running smoothly again.
These aren’t mechanics in a can, but they might be precisely what you need to avoid taking your car to a mechanic in a shop!
Are Catalytic Converter Cleaners Good for Your Engine?
When used correctly, catalytic converters are great for your engine! They improve fuel economy, improve horsepower, and even help with engine hesitancy. Think of it this way, when everything’s all gummed up, nothing’s working as it should.
But by giving the internal components in your vehicle a good scrub down every once in a while, everything starts running a little smoother. It’s like applying oil to a squeaky hinge – all it does is make everything run a bit smoother.
How Often Should You Use Catalytic Converter Cleaners?
Once again, we recommend you defer to the instructions on your particular product. Still, we can confidently say that you shouldn’t apply more catalytic converter than once every fill-up. And if you’re doing that, you need to run your tank close to empty.
Otherwise, you’re messing with the fuel to cleaner ratio, and this can lead to problems. And while this is the most you can add it, a lot of the time, you’re simply throwing extra money into the gas tank.
Even the cleaners that require you to use them the most often only recommend about once every 3,000-miles. While applying it more often likely won’t hurt anything, it won’t help anything either.
What To Do if You Still Have a Check Engine Light After Using a Catalytic Converter Cleaner
Like we already said, a catalytic converter cleaner won’t fix every problem. So, if you’ve applied the cleaner and given it enough time to work its magic, but the check engine light still won’t go away, it means that there’s a deeper problem with your vehicle.
The exact troubleshooting tips will vary depending on the engine code, but it might be time to take it to a mechanic if you don’t know where to start. They’ll be able to give you a better idea of what’s going on and help you decide what’s best for your vehicle.
Who says that you need to take your car to a mechanic to clear a check engine light or pass an emissions test? For around $20 bucks, these are a low-cost alternative that might be able to save you hundreds!
No, they’re not a sure thing, but if you use them regularly, they’re sure to extend the life of some of the most expensive components in your vehicle. So, even if these don’t fix your vehicle this time, it’s a good idea to add them to your maintenance regimen to keep everything running smooth longer.