Rudy's Honda Civic Hybrid 2003I love my 2003 Civic Hybrid. It’s reliable. It gets me from A to B, safely. It’s fuel efficient. It has an 80 HP engine on gasoline and additional 30 HP on battery electric power. Not much requirement for fossil fuel. When I stop at a traffic light, the engine shuts off automatically. This car emits very little carbon monoxide (CO) pollutant. In California, it is considered a “green” car. The State gave me perks like driving on the car pool lane alone and a one-time tax deduction. When it was a couple of years old, it used to give me 56 miles per gallon, and it was a huge cost saving for my daily 150 mile commute. Even though now it’s giving me a mere 45 MPG, it’s still more efficient than most cars out there.

As standard equipment, this car has an O2 sensor and equipped with a catalytic converter to scrub out CO from the exhaust. Just last week, the “Check Engine” light came on, so I promptly took it to the dealer for servicing. They checked the on-board computer to determine what problem it detected. They told me the code indicated a catalytic converter problem and needed a replacement. They quoted $1300 for it! That’s pretty expensive! I considered the fact this is a hybrid, it doesn’t emit much CO and the State of California already declared I do not need to do smog checks on it until January 2010. Replacing the catalytic converter, at this point, doesn’t seem that important. Maybe I’ll go and shop around for a better price on an OEM part.

While I was reading the Civic Hybrid Yahoo Groups mailing list, someone mentioned a product update 07-036 to update the on-board computer’s software that corrects a false reading on the O2 sensor and Catalytic Converter failure. This looked familiar because the service manager at the same Honda dealer had told me about the update last year. He even wrote it down for me. So, once again I called the dealer and told him about it, but he could not confirm such update. I called another dealer in my area and they said the same thing. I’m at a loss. Maybe the internet is wrong? Maybe Honda lied? That won’t be the first time for either of them.

Driving home from work last Friday, the check engine light mysteriously turned itself off. I think this confirms there’s a software glitch or a bad O2 sensor. I’ll continue to find other dealers who can confirm this. Meanwhile, I’m just going to go on my daily commute – not needing another $1300 catalytic converter.

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34 Responses to “Catalytic Converter – Do I Need It?”

  1. Periapex says:

    That’s 150 miles one way?

    Periapex’s last blog post..Deconstruction of an Apicoectomy.

  2. rudyamid says:

    150 miles both ways. Approx 75 miles from Irvine to San Diego. Good thing I don’t have to do this anymore. Now I’m doing a measly 50 miles (both ways), daily.

  3. fragileheart says:

    Yikes, $1,300 is pretty steep! I hope you don’t have to buy one. 50 miles is nice (and a lot nicer than 150 miles)!

    fragileheart’s last blog post..A few quick things

  4. rudyamid says:

    Hi Reggy. There’s hope that I can still buy an aftermarket OEM version. The Yahoo groups suggested it might be only $300. So if I really need it, I’ll go and shop around.

    And yes, 50 miles is better than 150 miles. It’s funny considering I’ve worked for another company for 5 years and I only lived less than a 1 mile away. I used to walk, bike, or roller blade to work! Oh well, those were the good ol’ days!

  5. jackie n says:

    I have an 03 Honda Civic Hybrid. It has 122,000 on it. My car passed emissions fine in January 08. Had the 120k check in may ( during which they told me everything was find on my HCH, and they only recommended a fuel injection which I said ok to). A month later in June, my check engine light comes on and my catalytic converter needs to be replaced for $1300. 3 years ago, honda updated their software because they said they a software malfunction was making the fuel burn lean and could cause the Catalytic converter to fail. I don’t know if any of this is related.
    Today, I go back to the dealer-my check engine light is on again. Now my oxygen sensor failed, and he says that’s probably why my catalytic convertor failed in the first place. Plus, he said that if somebody had told me to have the throttle cleaned each 30,00 miles, this could have been avoided (how was I supposed to know this?). Why didn’t the Oxygen sensor work properly to alert me to problems before I replaced the cat converter? Okay, I am at the end of my rope with a total of $2000 in repairs to my crappy Honda. What do you all make of this. Am I going to expect more failures down the road? Was I taken by the dealer who replaced my cat converter instead of checking the Ox sensor? Did Honda screw up with a faulty Ox sensor?

  6. rudyamid says:

    Hi Jackie,

    Sorry to hear about your troubles. I think your Honda dealer was not being thorough. It’s pretty typical though because I’ve seen some service advisors don’t even bother checking their computer for possible service recalls. I usually speak with the service manager of each dealership before a visit. In my case, my favorite place is Hardin Honda in Anaheim, and speak with Jim Marsh. He always shows me the options before any service.

    I have my IMA light came on last month, indicating a possible main battery failure. I’m going to call the dealer(s) soon to find out if they know about the warranty extension, as mandated in California.

  7. Hybrid vehicles may be marketed as emeraldine, but they are, according to recent research, very much a pastel green.

    “They add that the misinformed craze for hybrid vehicles especially in the USA, and increasingly in Japan and Europe, and potentially in China, could represent a red light for more innovative technologies, such as viable fuel-cell cars that can use sustainably sourced fuels, such as hydrogen. They concur with earlier studies that suggest that hydrogen fuel cells will not be marketable in high volumes before at least 2025. This could, however, be too late for some models of climate change and emissions reduction. They also point out that even fuel cell technology has its drawbacks and much of the marketing surrounding its potential has emerged only from the hydrogen lobby itself.”


    David Bradley’s last blog post..Vital Signs

  8. rudyamid says:

    Since Hydrogen and Ethanol are not delivering, it’s no wonder Electric Vehicles are coming back.

    I also heard the rumors car/oil companies own the NiMH battery manufacturers. They slowed down the production to prevent increasing production and maintaining a low cost of EV and Hybrid cars.

    I need to research it more.

  9. Unless the primary energy source is 100% renewable, i.e. hydrogen and derivatives generated by splitting water with sunlight, and that being used either to drive a fuel cell or produce electricity, no energy use can be considered carbon neutral. Moreover, in balancing the energy books one has to consider the initial energy required to build the replacement cars in the first place. All those precious metals mined from developing world locations too have to be blasted or dug out and then transported to refineries and factories…

    David Bradley’s last blog post..Alcohol Causes Cancer

  10. rudyamid says:

    Seems like a vicious cycle, isn’t it? There’s always an initial cost in going to another direction. A new product “investment” is necessary. Just another reason for us to get more stuff!

  11. [...] Module) device. This should also fix the issue I had with the Check Engine light reporting a catalytic converter failure.  They summarily reset both indicators and returned the car to me.  This Monday morning, [...]

  12. Jackie in NY says:

    I wish I lived in CA! My 2003 Hybrid supposedly has a catalytic converter failure and the dealer quoted me $3200 to replace it!!! I took my car to a different dealer to have an oil change because my usual dealer wasn’t doing the preventive maintenance I was paying for. Three days later the check engine light came on. The first time I took it there, the windshield washer fluid pump “burned out.” I think there’s something fishy going on with these dealer repairs, especially with the high mileage cars. My hybrid has 160,000 on it. The cost to buy an new hybrid and run it for 5 years would actually COST ME $7200 MORE than a regular Civic. Also, they only offered me $4400 on a trade in. My air conditioner bit the dust so they lowered the trade-in to $3500. If I wanted to trade with the CC failure, I’d only get a $300 trade in value. I’d rather junk it than give the dealer something he can fix for next to nothing and make a huge profit! I’m going back to a regular American-made car where I can get it repaired by nondealer shops at 33% less the cost of an import.

  13. rudyamid says:

    Hi Jackie,

    The costly Hybrids are now somewhat the joke of the town. It still doesn’t make sense to pay MSRP PLUS++ mark-up prices. It’s worse when the car breaks down, it’s expensive to replace, like the O2 sensor, Cat Converter, and IMA battery.

    This is why everyone’s switching to 32+ MPG non-hybrids as the car of choice. Of course, dealers are starting to take advantage of the demand by jacking up the prices of regular compact cars.

    I worry about greedy people. They’re everywhere!

  14. Richard Yao says:

    Hey Rudy,
    Sorry to hear about your catalytic converter. I’ve been working at my auto repair shop now for about 4 months now and I can tell you the check engine light is definitely an annoying problem. Go to pep boys and get a free check engine diagnosis. Email me the code and I may be able to help you with your issue. Cat Converters are expensive because they coated with expensive materials such as palladium and ridium. These coatings are used to remove the toxic Hydro carbons and CO from your exhaust. Most cars have 2 Oxygen sensors. One before the cat and one after to determine if the cat is ‘doing’ its job. My ’98 accord had a cat issue several years ago and Honda replaced the cat (since it was a recall) for free. Cat converters can only break if they are contaminated or too hot.
    Keep in mind that if you do have a check engine light when it comes time to do a smog check, you will fail. Oh, by the way I’m almost finished my license to get my smog license. Another suggestion is you can go to your local smog station and ask them to give you an smog check without sending your info to the DMV. You will get a printout of the state of your engine (ie. whether it is running lean or rich). This test will also help you determine if your cat is bad and if your oxygen sensors are bad. Most smog guys don’t get this request so they may charge you some money for it. Don’t pay more than $15. It should take them 10 minutes to do. Too bad you weren’t in the Bay area…

  15. rudyamid says:

    Hey Richard,

    That’s a good info on the workings of Oxygen Sensors and Cat Converters. Great to hear that you have repair shop now. Looks like you’re expanding your horizons. I would’ve taken my Hybrid into your garage if I was in Bay Area. But it’s moot point now since my Civic Hybrid was wrecked last July. Maybe when my new car requires a new one, I’ll look you up.

  16. Seaward says:

    Good interiors, nice look, efficient mileage, Honda Civic is very smooth to ride.

  17. neil says:

    I have a 2002 Honda Accord and the check engine light has been coming on. I have a tool that resets it but about every two days it will keep coming on with the P0420 trouble code. I believe this is with the CAT converter? What I would like to know is do I need to replace it. Also if any of you know some good places online to buy the part cheap.. If I don’t replace it, how long can I go before it craps out. I have 170,000 miles on my car so I don’t want to spend $1200 or so if not necessary. Thank You so much for your replies…

  18. rudyamid says:


    I always go to my Honda dealer to do major maintenance. I’m paying extra, but at least it’ll be done right.

    If you insists on OEM parts, you may want to contact Richard Yao at – He might be able to help you out.

  19. neil says:

    Thanks for the info. I actually found a california compliant cat converter on ebay for $225. Not bad. My main question is in regards to needing this changed? Is this urgent or can you let it go for some time?

  20. rudyamid says:

    If your State, like California, requires smog checks, then yes, you need to replace the cat converter. Without a working cat converter, you will fail the smog check.

  21. humza says:

    hey, just have a quick question on catalytic converters. WHen do the symptoms first appear that it needs to be changed? Like today, the car has slowed down for the first time. How long do you think the catalytic converter has been a problem for the car before i realized it?

  22. rudyamid says:

    In modern cars, the maintenance light will come on. Otherwise, a smog test will tell you. Other than that, I don’t think you can visually or audibly tell you need to change it.

  23. Joseph says:

    I have a 2003 expedition and hell i sawed my converters off and put a dump on them so that i can get the 45 extra ponies that mufflers and converters rob (its a drag race sleeper don’t get mad cause you think i drive it everywhere). but yeah just scrap the foreign stuff and just get an American car, you’ll feel better about yourself trust me

  24. Honda vehicle are really great, they have the best engine..

  25. sal says:

    I have oxygen sensor failed on Honda 2003 accord LX. It has 100k miles on it. In place where I live, there is no emission test required. Should I go ahead and pay $200 for the sensor? If Catalytic converter go bad, the car breaks down? Or it will emit more gases?

  26. rudyamid says:

    Hey sal,

    With a car that old, I wouldn’t install a new sensor. People in developing/third world countries don’t even use cat converters, so without it won’t break your car. You are polluting more, but that’s a matter of opinion.

  27. Joshua says:

    I don’t know where everyone is getting this info. You can do a simple google search for Honda Civic Hybrid Catalytic Converter and come up with an aftermarket one for $160, I did. If you’re desperate to replace it that is.

    It’s great to know though that you don’t need one to keep driving.

  28. Mary says:

    Under federal law, manufactures are required to replace Catalytic Converters under 8 years old

  29. f23vtec says:

    sad. my 92 DX with a f23a swap gets 58mpg and its a 2.3L only 96k miles and i only payed $700 for the car…

    o and i dont have a cat. i cut mine off and sold it for $200.

  30. Johndipisa says:

    You can just go to your local scrap yard and find a catalatic converter from a scrap Honda civic. Or just screw it an take it out haha.

  31. darryld668 says:

    Everyone in today’s modern world understands that CO2 is the greenhouse gas creating significant climate change. Each and every one of us contributes to CO2 emissions. The changes taking place in the world around us are undermining the earth’s natural systems, and it’s ability to sustain a decent human existence. Studies by the International Energy Agency show that each EU citizen contributes 8,090 kg of CO2 per year.

  32. tie says:

    I have a 98 Honda Accord v6 2dr and I have to replace my pressure steering hose along with my converter (for both items cost 300 at advanc). I took it to a repair place and I had several error codes come up, one was a converter error code, electrical system error, guarge engage error, and a few others on the car. I replaced my cluster board twice and the temp. guage still dsnt work. It runs at a normal temp and the guage works. It might be in the wiring which will be a pain in the ass cause I will need to take the engine apart to rplace it. Anyway, onece the converter went I noticed a big difference in my millage. I’d also would like to know why when I put it in drive it jurks forward(happens often).

    Side note: In SC all you need to run a car is lights and seatbelts. They don’t car if its falling apart and ur riding on rims.

  33. kaci says:

    I have this same exact problem now. So this helped tremendously. My only question is have u had any issues since u decided not to replace it. Form me the dealer gave me a price of 1206.00

  34. kaci says:

    Also could i just get the converter taken out. I mean if i dont need it? And i was told by the guys at an advanced auto that it was me needing an 02 sensor. Do i need to just get the sensor and disregard actually replacing the converter. How exactly is the best way to avoid thus 1200 dollar issue if i can even avoid it.

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