Honda Cat vs Meineke/Aftermarket Cat

honda
catalytic-converters
odyssey

#1

I replaced an EGR valve on this van about 12 months ago and had the ports drilled at my regular mechanic’s shop. Now the Honda dealer’s diagnosis of a recent “check engine” light concludes that the cat is bad and that the two oxygen sensors are still good. My regular mechanic says that he doesn’t replace cat’s. The van has 154K mileage, so this is not unexpected. The engine & tranny are still strong, but the van burns a little oil in the AM at startup. I have an 8-yr relationship with the dealer’s service group. The dealer has dropped their price including taxes down to $950 for their Honda genuine bolt-on cat R&R. I can buy the recommended parts (cat, covers, gaskets, bolts, nuts) on-line for about $225 less, but I have a feeling this R&R is not the easiest job without the right pneumatic tools. Meineke has a “heavy metal cat” with 5"+5" long beds that they recommend welding on. The say their is a 96 to 97% chance that it will work to stop the check engine light for $400 plus tax (my overall bottom line about $500). I don’t want to be stuck with an aftermarket converter that keeps making the “check engine” light come back on. Would that “light” or computer code keep me from passing a state inspection in April even if the cat is working for emissions? What do you recommend?


#2

First, I wouldn’t put anything on that’s not fully guaranteed to work (keep the light off).
Second, I’m leery of any chain outfits like Meineke. Look for an independent shop.


#3

I was told by Honda that it will guarantee turning the light off (for the cat issue). Meineke will not guarantee it - they suggested next trying to replace both O2 sensors if I am in the 3-4% of those where it doesn’t work.

Is it worth trying to do-it-yourself with just wrenches or is it difficult to break converters off due to corrosion? The online parts place says I will need the covers (extra $70), because they may not separate from the catalytic unit. Does this sound accurate?


#4

What state are you in and what year is your van?

The way I interpret the two “guarantees” isn’t that Meineke is saying that their converter may or may not work, but just that they’re not 100% sure that the converter is the problem. The Honda dealership is probably no more sure, but are willing to eat the repair if they’re wrong (easier to do when they charge $500 more!).


#5

In my post below I asked year and state because I was wondering about emissions regulation, but this information is also relevant for whether to do-it-yourself.

If this is an older van and/or you live in a salt state, exhaust work is completely miserable and even a lot of mechanics don’t like doing it and will farm it out. On the other hand, if you live in the southwest and the van is newish it may just be a matter of unbolting the old one and bolting the new one on.


#6

I am in central Texas and not often on the Gulf Coast or driving salted roads. The Odyssey van is a 2001 model. The Meineke people were recommended by my independent mechanic and they have not physically diagnosed the vehicle.

I was told by the dealer repr. (after asking him about aftermarket cats) that the smaller aftermarket cats were not working because many people who got them installed were bringing their vehicles to Honda with the engine light problems continuing. The dealer guy says that the aftermarket cats may be working okay, but the Honda system can’t recognize that because the airflow and baffles are not to spec. The Meineke guy probably wouldn’t guarantee it because he knows that Honda’s are a challenge.

A used auto dealer I know says aftermarket cat’s seldom fix his cars’ “check engine” prob’s.

I would just as soon have Honda do the fix ($950) or do it myself ($725 to $655 - no covers), so that I don’t have to deal with false engine light signals.


#7

All you REALLY want to have happen is for that CEL to go out and stay out, right? That can probably be made to happen without buying a $500 converter…All that needs to happen is for the ECM to “see” the proper “spread” between the front and rear o2 sensors…Just a slight change in voltage and vola, CEL goes out…And yes, it must be out to pass an emissions test, which has little to do with emissions… it has to do with MONEY…


#8

Thanks for your replies (Caddyman, GreasyJack, and circuitsmith). I am not sure what you are saying Caddyman. Can I cheat and get around it for much less money? If that is what you mean, then, here is my reply:

I used to have an old Voyager van that smoked bad for a year before we got rid of it. I didn’t like it. So, I don’t want to have an invisible stink bomb coming out of the rear of this van i.e., with straight pipe). Doesn’t the back pressure from a clogged cat potentially ruin your engine over time?

I want to have clean emissions by buying a catalyst. And, I expect to pay for it. But, I want to know that if the CEL comes back on again that I have eliminated the catalyst problem and can pinpoint another cause. If possible, I also don’t want to replace the cat again for the life of the van (maybe 200 to 250K).

As to do-it-yourself, I am concerned that I might cross-thread both O2 sensors ($100 each for Denso) and pay more overall to do it myself than at Honda if I was not really careful.


#9

The Honda representatives are claiming that all catalytic converters, which are not Honda branded parts are unacceptable?! How often do we hear that?! All the time, is how often.
Their other statements are based on assumptions, or worse. A catalytic converter change is NOT a guaranty that that will EVER fix the cause of a check engine light coming on which codes to something like “catalyst below threshold”.
Let’s assume that the Honda mechanics actually checked the outputs of the oxygen sensors. You only have their statements that the two oxygen sensors are still good. They don’t state HOW they arrived at that conclusion.
A look at www.autozone.com will show a catalytic converter which has a limited lifetime warranty and is a direct bolt-on, priced at $394. This is as good as theirs, at half the price. An independent shop can do the replacement, easily.
Lastly, burning oil is a poison for oxygen sensors and catalytic converters. The replacements would have their lives shortened from that effect. So, in a few years, you could be looking at cat and O2 sensor replacements, again.


#10

I decided to hold off on replacing the CC due to OBDII issues. I am not due for inspection until late April 2010. Based on a website (http://www.carsurvey.org/reviews/honda/odyssey/r81172/comments/), it looks as though there is no guarantee in Odyssey vans that the problem won’t reoccur. I spoke with a manufacturer repr. of aftermarket direct fit CC’s who said that their standard CC is about 20% as good as Honda’s genuine unit and their premium “heavy metal” CC is about 60% as good. I may just try buying a new gas cap, running fuel tank cleaner, changing the air filter and maybe also the spark plugs and then resetting the code right before the inspection. Some people say to tap the CC with a hammer, but I will do that as a last resort because I know that it is fragile stuff. Another guy swears that when he climbs a hill four times slowly and then coasts down it each time without accelerating that it helps reset the code and helps him pass the test. If I can’t pass the inspection, then I’ll start to deal with the CC.


#11

Do not attempt to fool the system as someone suggested.

I’m not a fan of Meineke specifically because their business model is to weld on generic components rather than get correct “direct fit” components and bolt them on. That basically leaves you forever at their mercy, because the cost of then putting the system back the way it should be to accept future proper parts is prohibitive. Others often do not want to follow Meineke’s “butcher and weld” path, which once they’ve done it is the only option.

In NH the light would keep you from passing inspection if you live in a county that requires emissions testing. My county does not. States vary.

By the way, if they did the job properly in the diagnosis (see attached link) and read the traces on a scope, then you can feel confident that changing the cat will fix the problem.

http://www.aa1car.com/library/2003/us50326.htm


#12

If Meineke won’t give you a guarantee, don’t let them do the job. I made a similar mistake with my 1998 Civic. Shop around to see if you can find a shop that will guarantee their fix will solve your CEL problem.