Federal law restricts re-attaching a converter to a car.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

The muffler and catalytic converter on my 1984 Oldsmobile fell off, due to a faulty clamp. I took the car to a Midas shop where the muffler was previously installed. The manager told me he couldn't re-attach the converter, even though it appeared to be OK. He said that re-attaching a converter to a car is a violation of federal law, and would subject him to a $2,500 fine. I then found another place that did re-install it. What's the truth here?

RAY: Well, Ed, the first guy was indeed telling the truth. But he needs to listen to Paul Harvey, because he doesn't know... "the REST of the story."

TOM: It is true that it's illegal to install a USED catalytic converter. And it is punishable by a fine of $2,500. But there is an exception.

RAY: If the mechanic can answer yes to these three questions, he can re-install the converter: 1) Does the converter definitely belong to this particular car? 2) Has it just fallen off recently?

TOM: And 3) Is this guy going to slip me twenty bucks if I do this for him?

RAY: Don't listen to my brother, Ed. The third question is whether the catalytic converter is still in good working condition. If it is, and the mechanic can determine that it has recently fallen off your car, then he's allowed to put it back on.

TOM: So the motivations of the guy from Midas are not clear to us. Either he was well intentioned, and even though he didn't know "the rest of the story," he was really trying to obey the law and do his part to protect the environment.

RAY: Or, he knew the whole law, and just told you enough of it to talk you into a new catalytic converter. In either case, I'm sure his supervisors will give him the requisite pat on the back for his efforts.

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