Will the Volkswagen Diesel Crisis Dump Millions of Catalytic Converters on the Market?

If you’re one of our regular customers who likes to buy catalytic converters and send them to us for recycling, chances are you have been having a dream like this . . .

You’re driving past your local VW dealership in a month or two, after VW has started to repair all the VW Beetles, GTIs, Passats and other diesel-equipped cars to correct their pollutant-spewing exhaust systems. You look over your shoulder and see a big pile of used catalytic converters sitting on the dealer’s lot. You go in, make an offer to buy them and come away with an agreement to buy all the dealers’ decommissioned convertors for pennies on the dollar. Then after you get 500 or more of the catalytic converters, you send them to Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners for recycling and make a huge windfall profit. You then take all your money and buy a Greek island and start to live like Donald Trump.

Okay, that’s your fantasy. But the big question is, is anything like that about to happen? It’s unlikely. But it’s also not impossible. It all depends on how VW handles its recall and how it will correct the emissions problems (or malfeasance – you decide) that the automaker has apparently brought upon itself.

Here’s some information that can help you decide whether your fantasy of instant wealth could come true:

Credit: clundmu/iStock.

Credit: clundmu/iStock.

First, of all, what emissions-reducing components are installed on VW’s diesel cars?

According to “How VW’s Diesel Emissions System Works,” an article that Richard Truett wrote for Automotive News on September 25th, here are the devices that are installed on the VW vehicles that will be affected by the service recall:

A lean NOx trap (LNT) – This device sits in the exhaust manifold.  It collects the pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx), converts it to nitrogen and then releases that less-noxious gas back into the exhaust system.

A diesel particulate filter (DPF) This filter, located downstream of the exhaust manifold, traps soot and particles that result when diesel fuel (which is fairly dirty, as you recall) is burned in the engine.

A catalytic converter – The VW’s diesel catalytic converter is located near the exhaust manifold. Just as the cat converters do on gasoline-powered cars, it reduces carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Diesel catalytic converters typically contain 5-10x the amount of platinum that gasoline catalytic converters do.

A tank that contains urea – This is a tank, located in the trunk (or toward the rear of the car) that holds urea, a chemical that is periodically sprayed into the exhaust system, where it breaks down nitrogen oxide into less noxious nitrogen, water and CO2.

An engine control module (ECM) – This is the now-familiar computer module that is found on all modern cars and trucks – not only diesels. It controls the ignition, fuel injection – and even the throttle and transmission shifting points.  The ECMs on diesel vehicles have a lot of monitoring to do, since the exhaust gases that flow out of a diesel engine are dirtier than those that flow out of gasoline engines.

What components are likely to be replaced in VW’s recall?

As we publish this post, VW has yet to announce how it plans to fix its diesel cars to meet legally mandated U.S. emissions standards. Although it seems unlikely that VW will remove all the components we list above – including catalytic converters – it could happen. Chances are, however, that the retrofit will be accomplished by rejiggering the software in the engine control modules, or possibly by replacing the engine control modules completely.

It is also possible that in four or five years when owners start to try to sell their now-devalued VW diesels, thousands of these cars will be junked and their catalytic converters and platinum catalyst will be up for grabs. It’s also possible that companies that manufacture aftermarket car accessories will be selling systems that can then be installed in VW diesel vehicles to help them conform to emissions standards. If that happens, replaced older cat converters could also start to pile up.

If you get your hands on cat converters, what should you do?

Call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 and we will be pleased to tell you how to convert your holdings into cash. Please mention this post when you call and ask about reduced-cost or free shipping costs to our facilities.

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How to Eliminate the Middleman and Make More Money from Your Used Catalytic Converters 
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Non-Automotive Catalytic Converters Contain Precious Metals Too 
Cash in Today on Huge Stocks of Scrapped Catalytic Converters