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Who’s right: the dealer or the mechanic?

BY RAY MAGLIOZZI
Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2009 Toyota RAV4. The
check engine light came on a year
ago. I took it to the dealer, and
they said it was an oxygen sensor.
I had it repaired, which wasn’t
cheap. Everything was fine for a few
months, and then the check engine
light came on again intermittently
until finally it stayed on all the time.
I went back to the dealer and was told
it’s definitely the “bank one catalytic

converter.” They want $1,200 to fix
it. They said if it’s not fixed, it will
eventually cause the car to stop. I
checked with my local mechanic
who says it won’t make the car stop
even if I never have it replaced. I
can’t afford to get it replaced. Who is
right? — Gary

plugged up and blocked, then it
would prevent the car from running.
That’s what your dealer is saying.
But I think he’s being alarmist.
An inefficient converter is not the
same as a plugged-up converter.
Although it’s possible that if you
wait long enough, someday you’ll
have both, Gary. The more pressing
issue is that most states have vehicle
emissions inspection laws. And your
car won’t pass inspection with a
failing catalytic converter. So, if you
expect to drive this car beyond your
next inspection date, you have to get
it fixed. But you don’t have to get it
fixed at the dealer.

Your local mechanic is closer to being
right than the dealer is, Gary. Your
check engine light came on because
your catalytic converter’s efficiency
has dropped below what it needs to
be. It’s not doing its job of cleaning
up your emissions anymore, and it
needs to be replaced. That could be
because you’ve used up your catalyst,
or because a piece of it broke off and You can ask your local mechanic to
ended up in your muffler. Or on the get you a price on an aftermarket
interstate.
converter. It may be half as expensive.
If your converter ever got completely And it’ll probably last half as long as

the factory converter. But that may
be good enough, given the age of
your car and your repair budget.
The only caution is that, in our
experience,
some
aftermarket
converters don’t work well enough
to turn off the check engine light.
So, ask your mechanic to use an
aftermarket converter brand that
he’s had success with on other
Toyotas. That may give you a way to
keep driving, Gary.
***
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in
care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive,
Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting
the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.
© 2019 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug
Berman Distributed by King Features
Syndicate, Inc.

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