Ever wondered why catalytic converters make for good scrap selling or why thieves target them?
Well, it’s because of the precious metals a converter contains.
A catalytic converter uses precious metal catalysts, like platinum, rhodium, and palladium — members of the platinum group metals. Of the metals used in catalytic converters, rhodium is the most expensive today.
So, how much rhodium is in a catalytic converter?
We’ll discuss the amount of rhodium in a converter, its worth, its function, why it’s so expensive, and how to secure your ‘CAT’ from theft.
This Article Contains
- How Much Rhodium Is in a Catalytic Converter?
- How Much Is the Rhodium in a Catalytic Converter Worth?
- What Makes Rhodium So Expensive?
- Why Is Rhodium Used in Catalytic Converters?
- 5 FAQs about Rhodium and Catalytic Converters
How Much Rhodium Is in a Catalytic Converter?
However, the exact amount of valuable metal in individual catalytic converters depends on certain factors, like:
1. Size of Vehicle
The amount of metal catalyst in a converter depends on the vehicle’s size:
- Small vehicle (motorbikes, small cars, and SUVs): 2-6 grams
- Large vehicle (trucks, trailers, pickups): 6-30 grams
Wait, why the huge difference?
That’s because smaller engines produce fewer harmful emissions than larger engines — meaning a small vehicle needs less precious metal content in its catalytic converter. So, vehicles with bigger engines typically have a larger catalytic converter to filter a heavier exhaust gas flow.
2. Age of Vehicle
An older catalytic converter contains more rhodium than a modern converter because rhodium was far cheaper in the past. Over the years, rhodium supplies got limited and more expensive — causing manufacturers to use less rhodium in their catalytic converters.
3. Type of Vehicle
Low-emission vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Ford F250 contain more rhodium in their OEM catalytic converters than other cars. The same goes for luxury cars like the Ferrari F430 and BMW 760 Li, which have about $1300 worth of rhodium in their OEM catalytic converters.
Next, let’s discuss the price of rhodium in catalytic converters.
How Much Is the Rhodium in a Catalytic Converter Worth?
Rhodium is a valuable metal worth around $149.5 per gram and $4,650 per ounce (as of January 2024). This means a standard catalytic converter with 1-2 grams of rhodium would be worth at least $149.5 to $298.
So, a stolen catalytic converter can fetch quite the price.
A scrap catalytic converter is priced between $300 and $1500, depending on its condition and the metal’s quality inside.
However, it’s best to sell a used converter immediately to get maximum value. Although rhodium lasts long, platinum and palladium in a scrap catalytic converter can lose their properties and corrode faster than rhodium — affecting your catalytic converter’s cost.
Why is rhodium so pricey?
Let’s find out.
What Makes Rhodium So Expensive?
The high price of rhodium is due to several reasons:
1. Limited Supply
Rhodium is a rare precious metal found in only 0.0002% of Earth’s crust. It only occurs naturally with other rare platinum metals or by-products of metal ores.
Furthermore, only a few mining sites produce rhodium, with South Africa being the largest producer.
2. Increased Demand
The estimated global demand for rhodium in 2023 was 1.06 million ounces, with the automotive industry using about 90%.
With strict vehicle emission restrictions placed worldwide, the demand for rhodium continues to rise as the need to produce cleaner emissions grows.
3. Unique Physical and Chemical Properties
Being a platinum group metal, rhodium has some unique properties:
- High melting point: Rhodium has a melting point of 1963°C (3565°F), allowing it to withstand high-temperature environments — like in an exhaust system.
- Chemically stable: This rare metal doesn’t react when exposed to high temperatures and corrosive environments — making it suitable for high heat and concentrated acids.
- Catalytic properties: Rhodium is used as an oxidation catalyst in industrial processes and catalytic converters to reduce vehicle emissions (a catalyst increases the rate of a chemical reaction).
Now that we know what makes this rare metal costly, let’s see why we use this expensive catalytic converter material.
Why Is Rhodium Used in Catalytic Converters?
Rhodium is used in a converter because it can withstand the hot temperatures and corrosive gases (like sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide) of the exhaust system.
This helps the metal work as a catalyst (with platinum and palladium) to convert harmful gases and molecules into environmentally safer compounds. For example, it converts nitrogen oxide gases (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) and hydrocarbon chains into nitrogen gas and water — leading to cleaner exhaust gas.
Plus, rhodium is the most effective of the three precious metals at filtering nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide in motor vehicle emission.
Next, it’s time to answer some FAQs.
5 FAQs about Rhodium and Catalytic Converters
Here are answers to questions you may have about rhodium and catalytic converters:
1. What Is Rhodium?
Rhodium is a silver-white metal that’s highly reflective and durable. It’s a platinum group metal member — a group of elements comprising:
Rhodium, like other platinum group metals, is highly resistant to wear and chemical corrosion.
These metals also have excellent high-temperature characteristics and stable electrical properties. That’s why they’re used together for autocatalysts (in catalytic converters) and electrocatalysts (in fuel cells).
2. Can I Recycle Rhodium?
Recycling rhodium from an old converter is possible, but don’t attempt to DIY it. The process involves corrosive substances and should only be done by professionals.
Instead, you can sell your old catalytic converters to a local demolishing store.
To get scrap rhodium, they’ll separate it from platinum, palladium, and any impurities. Once the whole process is complete, scrap rhodium metal can be used to make new catalytic converters.
3. What Are the Other Uses of Rhodium?
Rhodium has other applications, like:
- Mirror coating on dental mirrors: Rhodium metal has a reflective surface that produces clear images.
- Protective coating on jewelry: Rhodium-plated metal jewelry doesn’t tarnish and is hypoallergenic.
- Catalyst in Monsanto process: Rhodium speeds up the chemical reaction between methanol and carbon dioxide to produce acetic acid.
4. How Does a Catalytic Converter Work?
The average catalytic converter has two ceramic honeycomb structures lined with metal catalysts. These structures help to reduce harmful emissions from exhaust fumes into less harmful gases in this way:
- First structure: Has a platinum + rhodium catalyst that reduces nitrogen oxide from exhaust fumes into harmless nitrogen gas.
- Second structure: Contains a platinum + palladium oxidation catalyst that accelerates the oxidation of unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. This combines the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide with oxygen molecules to convert them into water vapor and carbon dioxide.
A diesel oxidation catalyst is a converter used by diesel engines.
The unburned hydrocarbons in diesel exhaust gas carry sulfur dioxide (a harmful gas) since the fuel contains traces of sulfur. The diesel oxidation catalyst converts sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful pollutants, sulfur trioxide and sulfuric acid.
5. How Do I Keep My Car’s Catalytic Converter Safe?
With recent precious metal theft incidents and arrests around the world, it’s understandable why you’d be concerned about your vehicle.
Here are some precautions you can take to prevent catalytic converter theft:
- Park in well-lit and secure places
- Install an anti–theft device on your catalytic converter
- Consider signing up for comprehensive car insurance
It might seem excessive, but prevention is always better than cure!
Resolve CAT Issues with AutoNation Mobile Service
The amount of rhodium in a standard catalytic converter and its cost certainly explain why a converter is super expensive. Hence, you need to take good care of your car’s converter, especially with increasing catalytic converter theft.
Plus, getting a replacement converter is expensive. So, if you need your catalytic converter looked at, it’s best to contact a trusted professional like AutoNation Mobile Service!
We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance solution that offers upfront pricing plus a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on all repairs.
Contact us and we’ll help you resolve any auto repair needs from your driveway!