2001 Toyota Celica - catalytic converter melted?

Hi all,

A couple weeks ago, my check engine light went on, and I took my car (2001 Toyota Celica GT) into the dealer. The dealer said my catalytic converter had melted but may be covered by warranty (I currently have 58K miles). Otherwise, the cost would be $1,700! However, they couldn’t find any records for my car by its VIN #, so they weren’t sure they could use the warranty. I had bought my car used in 2004 from an independent dealer who has since gone out of business, so I wasn’t sure how to proceed. My car is in really awesome shape, so I don’t think it has been salvaged, but was it stolen? dunno. Therefore, I decided to ignore the problem for a while.

About a week later, after taking a long trip in the car (1000 miles driven), my check engine light mysteriously went back off and has not returned. My question is: could the dealer really tell that my cat had melted? if not, was this a minor problem that resolved itself? I know I could get my cat replaced somewhere else for cheaper, but if this is a real problem, I might want to push for the warranty replacement versus get nailed by the smog inspection in another 1.5 years when my warranty has elapsed. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Since your check engine light is not lit we can almost assume there is currently nothing wrong with your car… almost. It is remotely possible that the light should be lit but that the bulb has burned out – and that your car still has problems!

You want to know. Really you do. Take your car to any of the auto parts stores that offer free diagnosis (AutoZone, Advance Auto, others) and ask them to read the stored trouble code(s). Write them down and report back here for further advice. Even if the scan comes up clean, let us know. We can advise you further on the VIN situation.

What kind of records do they need for the warranty? BTW I agree with SteveF.

The catalytic converter didn’t melt. If it did, the back-pressure from a melted cat wouldn’t have allowed you to take that long trip.

I think they got a code for catalytic converter inefficiency. And right away decided that you needed a new cat. But if the cat substrate gets coated from whatever, it’s efficiency drops off. But when the vehicle is driven long and hard enough, the cat heats up enough to burn off this coating, and it’s efficiency returns, and the Check Engine light goes off.

Drive it until the Check Engine light comes back on. And if the same code appears, I’d check to make sure that engine gets up to full operating temperature, and that nothing is leaking into the combustion process.


Further explanation of the Check Engine Light (CEL) might be useful. The Engine Control Module (ECM) detects and error from a sensor. As long as the error continues to be detected, the CEL will remain lit. If the error signal corrects, the CEL will remain on for a certain number of starts. After that, it will go out until another error of some sort occurs.

Contact Toyota directly about the VIN to establish the status of your car.

I agree that it could be a code about catalyst inefficiency. You might consider how long it’s been since the air filter, spark plugs, etc. have been changed.
Some inefficiency in that area combined with around town driving could have caused the CEL to illuminate. The highway driving cleaned it out.

Agreed that you should contact the Toyota regional office about this and clear any VIN problems up now.
It’s probably a bureaucratic snafu more than anything else.

Some years back I owned a Subaru (2nd owner). This car was sold to me by the Subaru dealer I worked for and who had originally sold it new to the guy who had now traded it in, which led to my purchase.
A few recalls were due on this car and I spent weeks fighting both my employer and the regional office over the same thing; the VIN did not exist.
The VIN dash plate, door plate, under seat and firewall VIN stamps all matched, title clear and clean, and they ran me through the wringer forever on this.

Matter of fact, it never did get resolved. The recalls were never done and it finally led to my procuring some “recall parts” from a total at the salvage yard and doing the “recalls” all on my own. (Yes, I was hot.)
I was a Subaru employee so figure what the poor shmuck who was not would have to go through. :slight_smile:

They had better do it under warranty since emissions things are covered for a long time and distance.