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Old 07-01-2014, 02:17 PM   #1
EditEd4TV
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Default Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Hi everyone. First off, just thought I'd say thank you to everyone here for all the help I've received through the years, not only with my 2004 Vue but an SL2 that I used to own... so much great advice saved me time and headache and money as well. Anyway, on to the current problem...

My 2004 Saturn Vue AWD V6 will not pass smog due to a check engine light. I took it to my local repair place (great place, very friendly, and I trust their judgement and prices, etc) and they said it was showing two codes. One was a simple fix with a new gas cap (which they paid for, which was cool) - that's the 4th gas cap I've had in the past 3 years or so. The other code is the bank one catalytic converter. It is not reducing the emissions, so the O2 sensors are sending the data to the computer and the error is then reported. They checked all 4 sensors and they're all fine. The bank one catalytic converter is the unit between the back of the engine and the firewall, serving cylinders 1,3, and 5. Currently the bank two catalytic converter (between the front of the engine and the grill), serving cylinders 2, 4, and 6, is ok, but they said it will possibly fail soon as well, since they both seem to be the originals, all coming off the same engine, so it's only a matter of time.

They quoted me about $1150.00 to do the fix. When bank two goes, it's about $1050.00, so I'm looking at $2200.00 for everything.

Frankly, long story short, I don't have the money to do this, so as always, I'm looking at doing it myself - even if I save a few hundred, it will help. So, what I need is some advice... how difficult of a job is it to replace at least for now the failing bank one catalytic converter? I've looked at other catalytic converter repair jobs on youtube and it doesn't seem horribly difficult, unless you have trouble removing the current catalytic converter, in which case you have to cut out the old one and weld in the new one. So...

1) How difficult is this repair job?

2) Where can I get a replacement catalytic converter?

3) What is the cost of a replacement catalytic converter?

4) Will the Vue computer know that it's possibly not OEM, or does the computer only rely on what the O2 sensors are reporting?

5) Any suggestions on what I should do prior, during, or after the replacement? I love it when I'm working on something and I hit a brick wall and it's often at *that* point that someone comes along and says "oh you didn't know that?" - fun.

Thanks in advance for any and all help; you guys are great.
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Old 07-01-2014, 02:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

You can buy cats on rockauto or Amazon or eBay. They tend to be around $280 to $350 each. You might also replace the O2 sensors on the side of the cat at the same time and you can source them at the same locations.
Job can be super difficult and required special equipment like touches or cutters or welders. It all really depends on how badly the bolts are rusted, some will just not come apart and in real like will be a shop only job. You can ask the shop if you can bring your own parts as they will charge at least $700 per cat plus labor. Some will let you, some will not.
If you can remove the bolts, you will probably need to replace those as well and gaskets as well.
If you live in a salt belt, I'd leave the job to the shop, if in Florida, you can probably try it yourself. If in CA, it is probably illegal to do it yourself.
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Old 07-01-2014, 03:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

It all depends on what state you live in. In California there are probably only one or two legal cats for your car and unlikely to be any legal bolt ons. So you'll need it to be welded. You also need a state EO number approving it. When I bought mine I had to move quick because the list of legal cats seems to change every few weeks. The manufactors were having a hard time keeping up.
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Old 07-01-2014, 03:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Edit,
I have a problem with this BAD CATALYTIC CONVERTER thing. How do they KNOW the cat is bad, did they do a flow test or back pressure test on the exhaust??? Depending on milage I would think more just replacing the O2 Sensors, those go bad/get worn out/dirty, the cat rarely goes bad. The one way I found to check this yourself is to go buy a cheap little infrared thermometer, $45 bucks on ebay with a laser pointer so you know where you are reading from, and with car running at operating temp take the temps of the pipe about an inch IN FRONT of the cat and then about in inch BEHIND the pipe... a properly flowing cat will be hotter BEHIND THE PIPE than in front as it heats up more from burning off the exhaust gases. I learned about this working on an 03 Blazer with 4.3... I was sure the cats were plugged, but did some research and experimenting, drilled a hole in the exhaust pipe infront of the cat to relieve back pressure and it made no difference, and found that it was just old and worn out O2 sensors, NOT a plugged cat. And this saved me ALOT of money... better two reasonably inexpensive sensors than two REAL EXPENSIVE catalytic converters.

Like Vasy said, it depends on where you live as to whether or not you can do this yourself... depends on state rules and rust/corrosion where you live. In southern CA, yes, you can replace the sensors yourself, legally and corrosion wise, I did. Replacing the Cats... not so much, legally. I think just about no matter where you live you can legally replace sensors... on the corrosion issue.. get some PB Blaster, spray them heavily, wire brush them, spray again, let sit overnight, first thing in the morning wire brush and respray, wait about an hour and then pull them... Most should come out without TOO much trouble at this point.... but again this is corrosion dependent, and also if you have the proper tools.. I pulled my sensors with a box end wrench after I popped the plug apart. It is kinda space dependent on that as well. Just realize the car is gonna smoke and smell until it burns off the PB Blaster once you get it running again.....

Hope this helps.
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Old 07-01-2014, 04:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Technically the correct test for a poorly performing cat is to place the tri-gas analyzer in the forward o2 sensor hole and compare the drop in emissions. A back pressure test will only check for obstructions not efficiency from poisoning etc.

Although, short of an exhaust leak the cat efficiency code tends to be an excellent indication of a dead cat.

-Robert
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

OOPPSSS... I missed the part where he stated that they had checked the sensors... my bad on that... I hate it when I get reading too fast and miss something... That being said I would still like to know the milage.. In the 150K range I would start thinking a plugged cat, anything less, not so much, but with these cars I am learning anything is possible.

And Gary, wouldn't you need to read from behind the cat to see if it is doing its job correctly??? I would think reading in front wouldn't tell you if the cat is working as it hasn't gotten a chance to do its job yet. If the exhaust is dirty after it goes through the cat, then I could see where you could say that, but saying that before the cat doesn't make sense to me.
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Quote:
Originally Posted by vasy View Post
You can buy cats on rockauto or Amazon or eBay. They tend to be around $280 to $350 each. You might also replace the O2 sensors on the side of the cat at the same time and you can source them at the same locations.
Job can be super difficult and required special equipment like touches or cutters or welders. It all really depends on how badly the bolts are rusted, some will just not come apart and in real like will be a shop only job. You can ask the shop if you can bring your own parts as they will charge at least $700 per cat plus labor. Some will let you, some will not.
If you can remove the bolts, you will probably need to replace those as well and gaskets as well.
If you live in a salt belt, I'd leave the job to the shop, if in Florida, you can probably try it yourself. If in CA, it is probably illegal to do it yourself.
I jacked up my Vue and took pictures... the bolts don't seem unusually rusted or anything, but you never know. I'm hoping I don't have to torch cut and weld for this repair... I don't know. I tried to find info about whether or not treating this as a DIY is legal in California, or if I'm required to take it to a shop and have it "legally" repaired, ha! I found/read plenty about only specific models that are legal for sale and installation in California, but nothing about it being illegal to do it yourself. I live about 60 miles east of San Francisco, right in the central heart of stupid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertGary1 View Post
It all depends on what state you live in. In California there are probably only one or two legal cats for your car and unlikely to be any legal bolt ons. So you'll need it to be welded. You also need a state EO number approving it. When I bought mine I had to move quick because the list of legal cats seems to change every few weeks. The manufactors were having a hard time keeping up.
I found a website that mentions specific cats, and they sell these same ones and provide the "executive order number" and part number as well. Gotta love California... it's as if I'm being authorized for a one-time-use heroin license.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_varon View Post
Edit,
I have a problem with this BAD CATALYTIC CONVERTER thing. How do they KNOW the cat is bad, did they do a flow test or back pressure test on the exhaust??? Depending on milage I would think more just replacing the O2 Sensors, those go bad/get worn out/dirty, the cat rarely goes bad. The one way I found to check this yourself is to go buy a cheap little infrared thermometer, $45 bucks on ebay with a laser pointer so you know where you are reading from, and with car running at operating temp take the temps of the pipe about an inch IN FRONT of the cat and then about in inch BEHIND the pipe... a properly flowing cat will be hotter BEHIND THE PIPE than in front as it heats up more from burning off the exhaust gases. I learned about this working on an 03 Blazer with 4.3... I was sure the cats were plugged, but did some research and experimenting, drilled a hole in the exhaust pipe infront of the cat to relieve back pressure and it made no difference, and found that it was just old and worn out O2 sensors, NOT a plugged cat. And this saved me ALOT of money... better two reasonably inexpensive sensors than two REAL EXPENSIVE catalytic converters.

Like Vasy said, it depends on where you live as to whether or not you can do this yourself... depends on state rules and rust/corrosion where you live. In southern CA, yes, you can replace the sensors yourself, legally and corrosion wise, I did. Replacing the Cats... not so much, legally. I think just about no matter where you live you can legally replace sensors... on the corrosion issue.. get some PB Blaster, spray them heavily, wire brush them, spray again, let sit overnight, first thing in the morning wire brush and respray, wait about an hour and then pull them... Most should come out without TOO much trouble at this point.... but again this is corrosion dependent, and also if you have the proper tools.. I pulled my sensors with a box end wrench after I popped the plug apart. It is kinda space dependent on that as well. Just realize the car is gonna smoke and smell until it burns off the PB Blaster once you get it running again..... Hope this helps.
Well the shop I took it to said they checked all 4 of the O2 sensors and they were all working perfectly fine. At about $65 to $85 each, I can't exactly justify replacing all of them, only to have the problem remain... that would be $260 to $340 wasted. My Vue is at about 180k miles, running fine, just won't pass smog is all.

Not sure if I can do the laser thermometer test as this specific catalytic converter sits between the engine and the firewall, tucked up behind the wheel well... could it be any worse?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertGary1 View Post
Technically the correct test for a poorly performing cat is to place the tri-gas analyzer in the forward o2 sensor hole and compare the drop in emissions. A back pressure test will only check for obstructions not efficiency from poisoning etc.

Although, short of an exhaust leak the cat efficiency code tends to be an excellent indication of a dead cat.

-Robert
Yes, and I think this is exactly what they're finding. I'm under the assumption that this is what the O2 sensors do: read the levels of this and that in the exhaust pre cat, and the same post cat, and find the difference. If the readings are significantly cleaner/better/improved, the cat is working properly, but if those readings are nearly identical then one would assume the cat is sitting there, dead, doing nothing.

I was able to confirm with a cat place that the legal issues around all of this for California is absolutely insane. In California it is illegal to install a used cat, so that completely obliterates my option of hitting the local pick-n-pull. Also, the list of sanctioned and approved 3rd party non-OEM cats is very very limited, if it exists at all for my particular vehicle, so I would have to go back to the manufacturer, which in this case... yeah, out of business. So where does one buy a new Saturn VUE cat?

Good Lord it may actually be less of a headache to up and move my family to a neighboring state.
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Edit,
As I posted a minute ago, I missed in your original post where you said that the shop had tested the sensors... And at 189K... yeah... a constipated cat is probably a reality. I know what you mean on the stupid laws in CA... that is why I am glad I got transferred back east and now have mine registerd in BFE in south center/western VA..... no smog laws.... That being said, I would just run a google search for an EO cat... also though, you should be able to go to any GM dealer and still order the part as GM is required by law to cover parts for a car no longer made for something like 10 years if memory serves. I would try and find one that was a Saturn dealer... it normally makes it a little easier.
...
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_varon View Post
Edit,
As I posted a minute ago, I missed in your original post where you said that the shop had tested the sensors... And at 189K... yeah... a constipated cat is probably a reality. I know what you mean on the stupid laws in CA... that is why I am glad I got transferred back east and now have mine registerd in BFE in south center/western VA..... no smog laws.... That being said, I would just run a google search for an EO cat... also though, you should be able to go to any GM dealer and still order the part as GM is required by law to cover parts for a car no longer made for something like 10 years if memory serves. I would try and find one that was a Saturn dealer... it normally makes it a little easier.
yeah i think i was typing my big reply above when you replied - oh well.

I'll see if I can find an OEM cat and get the costs. I'm still trying to find out if it's illegal for me to do the repair myself - any sort of website that makes that clear would be great... I can't find anything.
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Old 07-01-2014, 06:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Is there a regulation against home repair? The issue is more likely replacing the catalytic converter and in California (now including NY) a CARB compliant catcon is necessary. Instead of presuming discontinued Saturn parts, have you tried calling a GM dealer and asking for an OEM catcon? Its presumed they either have them or can order one. Since hardly anyone will pay an exorbitant price for OEM exhaust system parts and having a dealer perform the repairs, costs always skyrocket. "Its business, nothing personal". Since your Vue is California emissions compliant, GM dealers in California are presumed to know which parts are mandatory. If any GM dealer has the catcon, you have the choice to buy or not. To make this clear, visit http://parts.nalleygmc.com/showAssem...driveLine=6263, for online pricing. Whether parts are discounted or not, the list is presumed OEM parts. Your choice. If you decide on nalleygmc, I would call and confirm the OEM catcon is California compliant.

I don't see any law against anyone "removing and replacing" anything. Is California against home repairs? BTW, when you see the price of OEM exhaust system parts, remember that yours lasted well beyond the factory warranty. It can be said that OEM exhaust systems are some things that are well made so replacing with OEM will be pricey - the cost for a quality part no aftermarket can guarantee.
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Old 07-01-2014, 07:49 PM   #11
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_varon View Post

And Gary, wouldn't you need to read from behind the cat to see if it is doing its job correctly??? I would think reading in front wouldn't tell you if the cat is working as it hasn't gotten a chance to do its job yet. If the exhaust is dirty after it goes through the cat, then I could see where you could say that, but saying that before the cat doesn't make sense to me.
You remove the front O2 sensor, insert gas analyzer, then stick an analyzer in the tail and compare. Much like what the O2 sensor does.
There are a number of tests you can do. Legally in CA the shop is supposed to test the cat before replacing it, and legally you are required to have a reason to replace the cat (the state fears some people will think some cats are higher performances; oh yea, the law specifically says that 'high performance' cats are illegal anyway)...


3. INVASIVE TESTING

The CAT efficiency can be determined by sampling the exhaust gas before and after the
CAT. Kits are available from Thexton (No. 389), OTC and others to tap through single
wall exhaust pipes. Other pre-CAT sampling locations may include the EGR port, EGO
port and air injection ports. (EGO is not recommended). Record both the before cat and
tailpipe exhaust gas with the engine well tuned, preconditioned, no exhaust leaks and
no air injection. Fuel mixture may have to be manipulated and/or misfires induced to
create the proper oxygen level for proper evaluation.
(HC in) - (HC out)
----------------------- x 100 =CAT HC efficiency
(HC in)

http://www.lbcc.edu/attc/documents/B...ng-methods.pdf


-Robert
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Old 07-01-2014, 07:54 PM   #12
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Quote:
Originally Posted by EditEd4TV View Post
In California it is illegal to install a used cat, so that completely obliterates my option of hitting the local pick-n-pull. Also, the list of sanctioned and approved 3rd party non-OEM cats is very very limited, if it exists at all for my particular vehicle, so I would have to go back to the manufacturer, which in this case... yeah, out of business. So where does one buy a new Saturn VUE cat?
Used cats have been illegal in CA for a long time. Sadly, the method most recyclers use to meet this requirement is to cut the cat out. As a result it can be difficult to find OEM exhaust pipes that have not been crushed on the ends.

-Robert
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:12 PM   #13
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Here is a good read: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/aftermktcat/amcatpres.pdf

(8) If an installer completes your repair, a warranty card must be filled out by your installer, signed by you (the customer), attached to the repair ticket, and a copy must be returned to the catalytic converter manufacturer.

(9) If an installer completes your repair, they must keep documentation regarding the installation of the new aftermarket California catalytic converters including all of the above information. This documentation shall be made available to the California ARB or its representative as provided for in title 13, section 2222(b)(8). All such records shall be maintained for 4 years from the date of sale or installation of the California catalytic converter.

Wow, it is probably easier to obtain some good quality marihuana then to find a cat converter.
You can probably find a junk yard with CA car outside the state, travel there and do a swap so it still looks like OEM part.
But honestly.... I'd say it would be easier to sell a car and purchase a new one.

I actually can't find legal aftermarket OEM VUE cat for CA, probably some inside job only part.
http://www.californialegalconverters.com
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:00 PM   #14
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

It takes about 10 minutes to get pot in California including the head nod from a doc who probably writes a prescription for the stuff every 5 minutes.

As the holder of an FAA medical certifiable though I'm not eligible.

You really have to check the arb website. The approved list really does change frequently. I'm not joking about that. The online sellers try hard to provide CA legal carbs but they do get behind.

It's legal to change your own although technically you're supposed to have a way to show it was mechanically necessary. However the bolt on cats tend to fit poorly and are often not as approved as they appear. But if you can find one that works well it could save you some money. Otherwise you're looking at going through a shop (who would never risk their license installing a customer provided cat).

-Robert
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:35 AM   #15
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

This Saturn forum once again comes through with flying colors. This is all excellent information everyone. Thanks again for your help.
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:04 AM   #16
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

Does anyone know the type of nut (size and thread) for the 3 studs at the Y-Pipe to Cat joint? I have a major exhaust leak (noisy) and found all three nuts missing. I searched the net and no one lists the nut or stud size.

Thanks,
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Old 08-26-2016, 11:24 PM   #17
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Default Re: Saturn Vue AWD V6 Catalytic Converter

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Does anyone know the type of nut (size and thread) for the 3 studs at the Y-Pipe to Cat joint? I have a major exhaust leak (noisy) and found all three nuts missing. I searched the net and no one lists the nut or stud size.

Thanks,
I hope you are fixed up by now because my assistance is on primitive side.

I buy hardware from farm supply store and found the nut in attached photos (metric and decimal) fits the Y-pipe mounting studs on my 3.5 Vue.

Perhaps you could visit a nut and bolt store and locate something suitable in size and thread pattern.

I can buy a sack of nuts and bolts in my store for a couple of USD and suspect you have something similar.
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I visit forum monthly, if at all. Feel free to send private messages if you think I can help. Don't use visitor message as I never check those.
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