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Old 04-16-2015, 11:49 PM   #1
mark.hinds
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Default 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

I have been told by a mechanic that I need to replace the catalytic converter in my 1997 Saturn SL2. It still works, but is beat-up-looking and making rattling sounds. I am trying to decide on what is a reasonable cost for this repair - Chicago area. So far, I have:

1) An estimate from a supposedly good quality local shop for $1000 including tax, etc... This includes the converter, the front exhaust pipe, gaskets/clamp all by Walker per their website; and a Denso O2 sensor, which if not needed will reduce the price by about $150. The quote breakdown shows that the shop is only charging 1 hour of labor, but has almost doubled the on-line cost of the parts. They will not install parts I supply.

2) An estimate from a Chevy/Saturn dealer service department for $1,200, including tax, etc.. This includes the same parts as in #1 above, but using GM parts instead of Walker, except possibly the O2 sensor. I assume that if the old O2 sensor can be reused, this will reduce the price as in (1) above. The estimate has about $450. in labor (3 hours?) and the rest in parts and tax.

3) If I buy the parts myself (exact same ones as in estimate #1 above) from Auto Discount Warehouse, they will cost me about $450. shipped, including the Denso O2 sensor. I am not yet experienced enough to replace the CC myself, however. (I am particularly worried about removing rusted bolts/sensor under the car).

Anyone have thoughts on these prices, given that I do not plan to do the work myself, and want a good quality job?

Thanks in advance,
Mark H.

Last edited by mark.hinds; 04-17-2015 at 12:00 AM..

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Old 04-17-2015, 12:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

A) See if you can do better on parts at rockauto.com.
B) Find a mechanic who will let you buy the parts.

I just priced a good quality downstream 02 sensor the other day at $70 the other day.

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Old 04-17-2015, 01:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Bring it to an exhaust shop and have them put on a universal Cat that complies with your state emissions shouldn't cost more then a few hundred.

Do you know for a fact you need the front pipe ? It is a know issue leaking around the strap.

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Old 04-17-2015, 08:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Unless you have a buddy who will do the labor for you, you're just going to have to bite the bullet. Auto shops have to make a living too.

Just make sure the shop doing the work has a good reputation.

...
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As of 09/30/17: 223,751 Miles - SOLD
New owner report of 08/08/19: 234,408 Miles

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As of 07/25/18: 51,495 Miles

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Old 04-17-2015, 08:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?




Buy a Cat online, and go to a exhaust shop that will install for you. Not using your own parts is bologna, with labor it shouldn't cost you more than 300-400, and if they need to add some pipe, it most definitely should not bring the cost to 1000+

Maybeee 500 or so.

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Old 04-18-2015, 09:30 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Hello Mark H.
It would help to know how many miles the car(exhaust system) has logged, and whether the distance driven was in the Chicago vicinity , or Arizona.

Given the info you list in your initial post --
1.) the aftermarket price is high unless they remove the exhaust manifold and replace the head-manifold gasket too. There's a good chance the rear resonator/pipe/muffler is degraded too.

2.) The estimate you got from the GM/Satty Dealer is a much better bargain , because the OEM GM/Saturn parts are significantly superior to the Walker replacements.
If you lived in , like , Mississippi , 40-miles from the gulf coast [no chance of roadsalt, or coastal saltspray], Then the Walker kit would be OK. But in Chicago, the roadsalt will kill your Walker parts in 50kMi ; in contrast , the OEM downpipe/catcon (a one-piece assembly) will probably endure on the order of 125-150kMiles.

I say this because i just today installed new Walker parts you describe , replacing other Walker parts i installed new only 60kMi ago (on L.I., NewYork).
OldNuc has estimated the range of the Walker kit for him (in SW Idaho snow belt) at about 50kMi.
Today it occurred to me that i was a complete fool for not using the OEM parts initially. However , i implemented some anti-corrosion measures ... .
- T m

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Old 04-18-2015, 09:43 PM   #7
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Just out of curiosity, how do you know the GM catcon isn't made by Walker?

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Old 04-19-2015, 12:02 AM   #8
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

LilBuddy-
I dunno who mfgs it. GM might buy some from Walker.
In the event Walker manufactured them for GM , the item would need to meet/pass GM specifications and quality controls.

I do know that the OEM downpipe-catcon (one-piece assy) on my car when i bought it (used with 150kMi) was yet functional , but dying ... after 10 years in Wisconsin slush.
I am intimately with the Walker edition having installed two downpipes and two tailpipe/resonators. I like the Walker stuff ...

The issue is that in an environment of roadsalt , the materials employed in the construction are subject to rather rapid corrosive dissolution.

The OEM materials appear to be slightly more resistant , allowing 2X--3X more mileage between replacement.

If the downpipe were made of SS alloy 316, they would probably last the life of the vehicle. I use SS316 for the fastenings between the CatCon and rear tailpipe , and they show No indications of susceptibility to corrosive influence.
The catcon flange , and the tailpipe immediately adjacent the flange , both dissolved.

If you repair your vehicle , it is useful that these repairs last for more than 50kMi....

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Old 04-19-2015, 12:44 AM   #9
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

The thing is is that catcon was manufactured for Saturn about 20 years ago.
The question is, are they (GM) still making parts that are of that OEM quality? I am skeptical.

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Old 04-19-2015, 09:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

It can be cheaper to take it to an exhaust shop than to do it yourself because they can use a universal fit and weld it verse and exact fit. And most exact fits don't really fit anyway. It makes a huge difference what state you are in. Can you use a 49 state unit or do you require a California unit.

-Robert

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Old 04-19-2015, 05:57 PM   #11
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Attention Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

I have thought a lot about this issue and have conducted some research.

For one, if your cat works as you said, I do not think you should have it replaced. You probably just need new hangers to stop that rattling. If you are passing emissions tests, keep that cat. My research has concluded that OEM cats are precious (as in $$$) commodities.

Google "how much is my catalytic converter worth" and you will see what I mean. They contain precious metals for which scrappers will pay substantial amounts of money.

Here is a scrapyard that gives a pretty thorough description of pricing.
http://sparrowmetals.com/Current_Pricing.html
"GM LARGE AC, 4-dot, Roundloaf: $44 to $140 by numbers. Appx. 1992- 2000 GM cars, Saturn, GM Daewoo, some 4 cyl S-10. Roundloaf Cavalier, Grand Am, Olds Alero, some Saturn 1999-2005."

Aftermarket cats are worthless - they don't fetch nearly the same prices as OEMs. This is pretty conclusive evidence that the OEMs are vastly superior.

This is the cheapest OEM saturn cat I could find online, $982.10 with a $100 core...
http://www.gmpartsclub.com/saturn/sc...erter-and-pipe

Last edited by lil_buddy; 04-19-2015 at 06:04 PM..

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Old 04-19-2015, 07:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Other option is pick up a magnaflow cat and have the old one just cut out and replaced, maybe 30 min in labour. Or magnaflow also makes the complete pipe from manifold to flange, including the flex pipe for around $400, part# 46450

Last edited by 54packman; 04-19-2015 at 07:37 PM..

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Old 04-19-2015, 07:44 PM   #13
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Magnaflow has other complete cats as well from manifold back to flange for even less and are 49 state legal, and also have cal legal too.

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Old 04-19-2015, 09:06 PM   #14
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Thanks for all the replies so far. SL2 is Chicago area (winter salt since 1997) and has about 98,000 miles on it. The muffler is said to be fine, and was replaced only a couple of years ago, so it should be.

Current plan is to take it to Dealer for oil change next week, and have them give an opinion on the state of the exhaust system. They wanted to look at it before further researching parts availability anyway. I didn't mention that Dealer was willing to use my parts instead of their GM ones, apparently as their pricing appears to cover their overhead under their labor charge ($450. which is at least 3 hours ...). In contrast, the independent mechanic appears to cover their overhead by doubling the price of the parts, with labor at only $110. (1 hour).

I am also thinking of doing my annual emissions inspection with the current exhaust system to see if the catalytic converter still works. Then, I need to decide on which option to use. There is definitely a change in the sound of the car, for the worse, since I ran over the boulder of frozen slush last month. It hit the bottom of the car somewhere. I had the independent mechanic put it up on the rack, and he claims it is the catalytic converter. Again, will see what the Dealer says.

Some have suggested that GM parts are worth paying an extra $200. for. Food for thought.

Mark H.

Last edited by mark.hinds; 04-19-2015 at 09:17 PM..

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Old 04-19-2015, 09:18 PM   #15
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Here is a video of someone putting on a bolt-on catcon. It is trivial for a well equipped shop. The dealership is full of it with that 4 hour estimate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjT_-nXVjoU

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Old 04-19-2015, 09:57 PM   #16
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

4 hours labor? That's nuts, take a rubber hammer and try hitting the cat and see it rattles,if they just cut the cat out and install a new one can be done in 20 min or less,

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Old 04-27-2015, 03:10 PM   #17
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

Well, I finally took the car to the Dealer as mentioned above. Recall that they wanted to check it themselves before trying to order parts. Results after conferring with the Dealer mechanic under the car.

1) No error codes in the computer.
2) Loose exhaust system heat shield, and loose bracket holding muffler. Shown this by mechanic.
3) Catalytic converter made very slight rattling noise when tapped, but not loud enough for me to hear in driver's compartment. Mechanic said replacement not warranted.

So in conclusion, I let them fix the above, which cost me a total of about $100. including the oil/filter change. I stopped at the emissions testing facility on the way home and passed. So far the rattling / buzzing sounds have disappeared, and the car seems "tight" again.

I am now trying to decide why the outside mechanic I first consulted wanted to replace the cat. He is a perfectionist? Other?

Mark H.

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Old 04-27-2015, 10:51 PM   #18
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Default Re: 2015 cost for replacing 1997 SL2 catalytic converter?

> I am now trying to decide why the outside mechanic I first consulted wanted to replace the cat. He is a perfectionist? Other?

He may have guessed without inspecting ... or figured he could charge inflated bill while just fix heat shield ... or get the job and 'fix' both cat and heat shield.
Sometimes for mechanics , customers/jobs are like little fishies awaiting ensnarement. And everybody occasionally messes up an assessment.
Also, regarding undercar/exhaust work , it is somewhat prudent to give customers a negative initial perspective/estimate -- since upon dismantling exhaust components , one often needs replace everything downstream of the Ex manifold.


My car's heatshield was totally trashed when i bought it. I replaced/repaired it
and try to avoid driving in snow more than a few inches deep (or ice!) ... since it is quite vulnerable.

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