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The Ultimate Guide: A-Z of Car Parts – Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of our car part A-Z, where we will be taking you through the definitions, common problems and quick fixes for the 'C's: catalytic converter and clutch.

Catalytic converter

Definition: We may know that the catalytic converter is responsible for the rotten egg smell we sometimes catch a whiff of when driving, but do you know what it really does? The catalytic converter is responsible for cleaning the fumes produced by your vehicle, stripping out harmful substances such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons.

Common problems: The most common problem with catalytic converters is that, like the engine air filter, they can become clogged. This will result in a lower volume of gases being able to pass through the exhaust which, in turn, will impact the efficiency of your engine, causing your engine to feel sluggish or, in the worst case, breaking down. Modern cars have a warning light that will tell you when your engine is performing below standard. You can usually drive a little while once the warning light is on, but as soon as you notice the light, it is a good idea to book into your local garage, who can read the diagnosis and fix the problem before it becomes more costly or dangerous.

Quick fixes: There are no quick fixes for a clogged or faulty catalytic converter. However, as they tend to last for ten years or longer, and as your exhaust emissions are routinely tested as part of your MOT, you don’t need to be too concerned.

Clutch

Definition: While manual drivers use their clutch often, few of us actually know what it does. The clutch disconnects the vehicle's engine from the gearbox. This allows the driver to change gears and prevents stalling when you are coming to a stop. The clutch is made up of two friction plates which join or separate the rotating shaft that connects the gearbox to the engine. When you push the clutch down, the two plates are separated, disconnecting the engine and gearbox.

Common problems: Common problems include worn clutch discs, stretched clutch cable, hydraulic problems or a burned-out clutch. If you have a problem with your clutch, you may notice temporary loss of acceleration (slipping), difficulty changing gear, or a particularly stiff, loose, high or low clutch.

Quick fixes: Sadly, once again, unless you are a qualified mechanic, there are no quick fixes for a faulty clutch. This is a specialist job that your mechanic will have spent a considerable length of time training to do. If you notice that your car isn’t running quite as smoothly as usual, call your local garage to check it out and, if necessary, give you a quote for clutch replacement.

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