Testing Catalytic Converters For Resale

Giant Auto Parts, in Akron, Ohio, has paired selling used auto parts with the mechanical side of the industry since 1930. Along the way, its 10-service bay facility has allowed the company to install glass, work with drive shafts, rebuild starters and alternators, and install motors, transmissions and brakes.

"We've always had a niche," admitted third-generation owner Art Krakauer. "There needs to be some value added as we go along, otherwise we're no different from anyone else."

The niche has depended on the natural ebb and flow of the auto industry. Glass went out when the competition got cheaper and drive shafts went by the wayside along with real-wheel drive. The company's main concentration is now catalytic converters. It has sold them since 1990, but two years ago decided to test them itself.

"There were a handful of places around the county that have tested catalytic converters, but most of the ones that started it, aren't in business anymore," explained Krakauer. "We decided we wanted to get into it."

Krakauer said the company did the research and met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which controls the process. It is a federal law that a catalytic converter cannot be installed on another vehicle unless it has been tested and certified to EPA requirements.

The company built a separate building and equipped it with a dynamometer, required by the EPA to test the amount of pollution pulled out by the converter, and a five-gas analyzer to test hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. All information is recorded in an Excel spreadsheet. One employee at Giant Auto Parts, an ASE master tech, tests the majority of converters, but others are capable of doing it.

"If a converter is good, it should be good for a long time," stated Krakauer. "Catalytic converters are designed by the OE manufacturer to last the life of the vehicle. If they do go bad, something caused them to go bad. It's important to know what it was, because if the customer never fixed the underlying problem, the new converter will go bad too."

A metal tag is welded on the converter that contains the date, who tested it and part number. Tested converters are sold to muffler shops, dealers and repair shops and demand is high.

"We believe the OE converters are a much better quality product versus aftermarket," Krakauer said. "The customer gets a good quality product at a competitive price. They get something that's going to last a long period of time.

Krakauer said he tests catalytic converters for other auto recycling facilities. Any auto recycler can ship their converters (except those in California due to state law) and the company will test it for a flat rate of $35 per converter. Krakauer said if the converter is expensive, it is well worth it.

"There is a mentality that you can get a certain amount for the core, so why try to sell it," he added. "I say, why not take the best of both worlds? Why not sell it and get the guys old one back? Now you have the core and you've made a sale."

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