What Can I Do About Catalytic Converter

Question: What Can I Do About Catalytic Converter,
I have a 1999 Toyota 4-runner with 175,000 miles. I take good care of it with oil changes, maintenance etc. In 2008 I went to a get a required smog check to renew registration (this is in Calif.). It had to be a smog-only center, the guy said he couldn’t pass it because the catalytic converter needed replacement. He told me to go to his friend’s shop next door and gave me their number. I couldn’t reach him, and was in a hurry as the deadline was already past so I called another muffler shop and went there. They removed the converter, put an after-market one for $300 (in the process they torched a lot of wires so for ex. the gages no longer work so I’m bugged about that, have to look at mileage for 2 years to make sure i won’t be out of gas cuz the gas gage doesn’t work since this procedure). I went back to the shop and the guy was surprised i had it changed and was acting weird but it passed the test. (he was a slimy guy, said his wife was out of town and wanted to take me out and I said NO THANKS).

A few months later the check engine light went on. I had other work done to it (can’t remember what) that costed a lot. In Oct 2009 I took it to the dealership again bec the check engine light was on again. THey changed the belt and a whole bunch of stuff, cost over $1,500 but even after all the work the light was still on. They told me to ignore it that there was nothing else wrong with it. Now that I have to get a smog check (needs to be done every 2 years), my deadline is by the end of May so a few days left, I just don’t know what to do. I took it back to do the dealership, they said the light is on because I have an after-market catalytic converter. I said just bec it’s not a Toyota brand I’m going to fail the smog? You fail automatically if the check-engine light is on. They quoted me over $3,000 on a 1999 Toyota to have the cat replaced with a Toyota brand (and yes, I know they are much better, have platinum on them and regret the other guy just taking and keeping the old one I had which was worth more in the metal than the part they replaced it with).

So….what am I to do? I don’t have 3K to shell out, even 300 is a lot on my budget these days. I’ve been pouring money like crazy into this 11 year old car and can’t sell it cuz i’d get little and not enough to buy a reliable car I can’t afford monthly payments on a new car etc.

Should i go back to the shop that messed up my wires and replaced the cat 2 years ago and have them put another after market cat hoping the light will go off for a few months? Does it really need to be changed already? What can I do or should do? Sorry if this was long but thought it’s helpful to know the details.
I called the shop that had removed my cat and asked if they had a warranty since my light’s on again, the guy said he has no record of the work they did even though I recognized his voice/accent and knew he remembered me too – he had me wait in the back so I wouldn’t watch what they were doing, kept asking me to go to lunch with him i was like no he was way older and why would i go to lunch with a stranger when i need to wait for my car. I am so pist. The dealership said they shouldn’t have removed the cat in the first place either. I am in LA and have had lots of bad experiences at shops, have no idea which one i can trust to go to 🙁
Penelope – I do have the paperwork of the work he did. I told him I’d bring the car back even though I feel unsure to go to the same place that took the cat out in the first place. I’m also thinking of going to the same guy who told me to replace the cat at the smog check place to tell him all that has happened. Maybe he can help me and feel sorry for screwing me over last time by telling me to go to his friend’s. I really don’t know who I’d complain to about any of this. And I don’t think the dealership is at fault even though back in the fall they told me when it comes time for the smog check since the light is still on after they did all that work to just bring it back to them and the manager literally winked like they’d take care of it and knew the light shouldn’t be on just cuz it’s a different brand cat than Toyota’s but now it’s like the same people are giving me an invoice to replace it with a toyota part for thousands.I have to get this taken care of ASAP don’t know what to do
alfr – a mechanic had told me to ignore the check engine cuz my wire wasn’t working, this was before the cat was removed but I’ve heard wire/electrical work are very expensive, do i take it to a regular mechanic shop to get that fixed? That’s a good point if it’s just a mis-wire, but i’m willing to change the cat if that’ll make the light go out. I so don’t know where to take it/what to do.
I went back to the Smog “Only” place where the guy had recommended I get the cat changed. A dif guy was there, he said the old owner relocated a few blocks away. I explained what happened, how he recommended i take car to shop next door to replace the cat and dealership said I didn’t have to replace it after the fact. He said that guy who referred me there actually owns the shop he told me to go to!!! He had told me he didn’t know it. He told me he’s a shady guy and gave me the number to the business bureau to report him! He said maybe I can go to him and say listen if you don’t replace my cat and pass my smog I”ll report you, but i’m too shy to do that. So frustrating. I still don’t know what to do.

Best answer for What Can I Do About Catalytic Converter

This sounds like a total nightmare. Catalytic converters normally do not where out or plug up that quickly. I have a 1989 Chevy truck with the original converter. My brother also has a 1991 and his passes the test every time. You need to go to a dealership and find out what it will take to get your vehicle back to where it is supposed to be. You want someone that knows your vehicle and works on your particular brand on a daily basis. I think you got screwed over.

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