Check Engine LIght in 2001 VW Jetta

The Jetta has 120,000 miles. The check engine light stays on. I checked with the garage where I have work done for all 3 of our cars. They informed me that the catalytic converter needs to be replaced so that the check engine light can be reset.The car performs well, but they insist that the converter needs to be replaced.

The emissions inspection (Pennsylvania) is due at the end of December, so I have to get this taken care of soon. The garage has provided good service to us over the years, so I trust them. However, they quoted a price of $1,000 to install the converter. This seems high to me.

I checked on line and the prices range from $125 to several hundred dollars. However this repair is not something that I am able to do, so I need to pay someone to do it.

First, does this seems like a reasonable explanation for the light to stay on and second, is this a reasonable price?


You need to tell us what the trouble code is that’s causing the light to be on. If it isn’t on your receipt from the dealer go to a car parts store and ask them to read it.

The code that indicates a cat problem can have other causes, like a bad oxygen sensor. Have you ever replaced them?

You may find this an interesting read

Catalytic converters seldom go bad in that way. They clog or designate. (Or get stolen.) Replace your oxygen sensors and reset the code with a cheap reader. It wouldn’t hurt to run a few bottles of injector cleaner through at that mileage, clogged injectors can throw off the sensors.

Keeping track of oil levels and fuel economy is a good way of catching these problems before they happen.

Most modern cars have 2 or 3 converters, and if they’re doing them all they should throw in a whole new exhaust system, at least from the back converter forward, and that will get up to $1000 easily.

It depends on how specific the VW test is for determining the cat is bad. On some cars a cat code will will be shown even though it could be a half dozen things other than the cat. If it happened on my car I’d first have the pre-cat exhaust back pressure measured. If the back pressure is ok, I’d be reluctant to buy a new cat without further testing.

If your car does indeed need a new cat, first thing you need to determine is why? Ask you shop to inspect for lean or rich mixture conditions. If those conditions remain, they will quickly ruin the replacement cat.

$1000 is about the norm here in Calif for a replacement cat, parts and labor. Each state is different, but here in Calif for a shop to install a replacement cat, the new cat has to meet Calif environmental regulations. That precludes most or all of the $150 cats you can find on-line. Those just don’t have enough of the high priced metals like platinum used in OEM cats.

Agree with others that it’s more likely bad O2 sensors than a bad cat. If the shop won’t consider that likelihood, go somewhere else for a second opinion.