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Catalytic Converter for 2000 Toyota Camry

I had my local garage do their electronic check when my check engine light came on. They said the code they got indicated a failed catalytic converter and quoted me $720.00 for a California compliant replacement, including labor. I live in Connecticut. I’d like to take a few days to get a second opinion and second quote, but the garage manager said that driving it in this condition would risk fouling the oxygen sensor, which I recently replaced for a couple hundred bucks.

Should I be concerned about fouling the oxygen sensor by continuing to drive the car?

Also - I found a non-California compliant catalytic converter online for about $220. Locally a California compliant converter is about $530. Should I try to find a garage that will put in the less expensive part?

I looked under the car and the rear attachment bolts to the converter are rusted beyond recognition. I’m tempted to try replacing it myself but it may be a bit beyond my skills.
Any and all advice is appreciated.


Unless you do it yourself, let the garage choose the parts. Do you need a Cali compliant cat converter in CT? I would in MD, and you might too. A few days isn’t going to destroy the O2 sensor. Get other quotes from garages that your friends and neighbors recommend. As an example, we have two very good garages nearby. One works for a lot less than the other one.

I agree with allowing the shop to choose the parts they are to install. The benefit of that is that you get a warranty, which will be especially helpful if the check engine light continues to come on. Sometimes, the cheaper parts will not keep the check engine light off. If you want to attempt this yourself, I cannot condone it unless you are experienced with dealing with exhaust system repairs. They are not easy. If you are going to be installing a direct fit converter, complete with new flanges, you will need an oxyacetylene torch with a cutting head. This is not optional, it is completely necessary, and nothing less will do. Be careful not to damage the flanges on the resonator assembly or front pipe. If the bolts stay in the pipes you are to reuse, heat the flanges glowing orange and tap them out with a hammer and punch, but be sure not to bend the flanges. If you want to take a chance, save some money, and have a MIG welder, swaging tool, and creativity, you could try a universal converter. If any of this sounds out of your abilities, let a shop do it. Personally, I did exhaust work for years and would absolutely not want to do this in my driveway, even if I had all the necessary tools.

(If you do choose to attempt this yourself, don’t throw the converter away. They are worth big bucks to a recycler)

Thanks for the advice - I appreciate it!


Which oxygen sensor did you replace? There are two, front and rear…It’s the rear one that’s generating the “catalyst operating below threshold” code…If that one has not been replaced, I would replace it before I replaced the converter…

The cheaper converter should satisfy the OBD-2 system on your car and keep the CEL off…Don’t spend money you don’t have to. Shops that specialize in exhaust system repair, they do this all day long, may give you a better price…

I assume you have the V6 in your Camry, which is the same engine in a 99 Toyota Sienna that I recently replaced a downstream-converter Y-pipe in. The Calif and non-Calif converters look the same on the diagrams, but when I spoke to the manufacturer, they stated the parts are definitely not interchangeable - as they differ slightly in their dimensions.

I suspect the upstream converters are different as well.

An error code can’t tell you that your catalytic converter is bad. Its true that there is a code - P0420 - that is, unfortunately, usually accompanied by a piece of text that reads something like “catalyst efficiency below threshold.” Its unfortunate that this chunk of text comes with that code because it really should just say “O2 sensor 2 readings look too much like O2 sensor 1 readings,” or perhaps “O2 sensor 2 readings too active.”

What was the code? P0420? Did they check for exhaust leaks? Did they actually scope the downstream O2 sensor and look at its readings? Did they check for other conditions that might throw off the exhaust content - anything that might have the car running too rich? Did they simply clear the code and tell you to just wait to see if it comes back?

This code is a classic excuse to make some money by saying something really simplistic like “oh, that code says you need a new catalytic converter - cha-ching!”

It should be mentioned that the serviceability of the car is not effected by any of this…After you spend $700, it won’t run any better, just, hopefully, a dashboard nag light will go off…(and you can pass an emissions test if that is a factor…)