Car won't pass smog due to P0420, want to get rid of it but lost title.

Discussion in 'Generation 1 Prius Discussion' started by ragnarkar, Dec 1, 2016.

  1. ragnarkar

    ragnarkar Junior Member

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    I'm wondering what my options are now, given my situation.

    I have a 2001 Toyota Prius with a little over 200,000 miles. The Cat on it is shot but only now, California has started requiring smog checks on hybrids. I haven't had it smogged yet, and I can clear the OBD codes, but I'm pretty certain it won't pass smog.

    The registration on my car expires on 1/10/2017.

    I have no desire to keep this car any longer (unless it can pass smog without an expensive bill) and no desire to spend big money to fix the Cat.

    Unfortunately, I've also lost the Title on this car.

    Given what I want, what are my options?
     
  2. lar.smith42

    lar.smith42 Active Member

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    Contact your DMV and have then send you a new title. Aftermarket Cat runs about $200 to $300 about $50 to install.
     
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  3. ragnarkar

    ragnarkar Junior Member

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    What are the consequences of waiting till the last minute to do the smog check then have it fail and you don't have the title to get rid of it?
     
  4. lar.smith42

    lar.smith42 Active Member

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    You don't have a car you can drive or sell
     
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  5. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    These cheap cats are not legal in California. Installing one would require selling it out of state, before the next tab renewal is due.
     
  6. MDNHW11

    MDNHW11 Junior Member

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    Do you have an exhaust leak?
     
  7. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    Is the title in your name? You can get a replacement title from the DMV for not too much money. Do that no matter what, because wrecking yards won't even take it without one.

    How do you know the cat is bad? Have you checked with the likes of Midas or Meineke? A sniffer test would tell what the emissions output is, and a bad downstream O2 sensor (I would replace both) would/could be misread by the ecm as a Cat insufficiency.
     
  8. Sandy Meyers

    Sandy Meyers Member

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    Brian, can he get copy of title in California? Then somehow move the car ownership to a nonsmog state? I know people who reside in California but register vehicles in other states. Maybe a person has a friend or relative with out of state address?
     
  9. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Senior Member

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    Are you saying that there are NO aftermarket CATs available in California ??
    I would find that kind of hard to believe.
     
  10. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    California law does not allow this, you must register the car in the state after 10 days of residence.
     
  11. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    Aftermarket cats are illegal in California, but you can find them pretty easily if you try looking
     
  12. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    No. I only claimed there are no LEGAL ones.
     
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  13. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Senior Member

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    Yes, I understand that.

    But given the potential market, one would think that some company would have done the testing necessary to GET one legally approved.
    Maybe the process is just too expensive.

    Then if the illegal ones are good enough to pass the on-the-road tests, maybe they are available anyway.......if you know somebody.

    Loud pipes are illegal too but there doesn't seem to be a lack of places that will install them for you.......nor much enforcement on the streets either.
     
  14. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    He's pretty much stuck with getting a replacement title. I understand that the criteria for registering in VT (they'll do it all by mail) is 15 years or older. But then it couldn't be registered in Cal. as the DMV does searches for previous CA titles and registrations--based on the VIN.

    I think he's probably gone from this forum, but unless there's something dramatically wrong with his ownership, getting a replacement title shouldn't entail more than doing the forms and paying the fees.
     
  15. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    Basically the potential market for CA spec gen 1 is so small as to be nonexistent. It's kinda interesting that 49 state aftermarket cats are available.

    I live in Arizona, my personal knowledge of Carb rules is limited. I suspect, tho, that if the installation was clean and there were no codes one might get away with an aftermarket cat. It would probably depend on how seriously the Carb inspector was taking his technical inspections that day. Here in Tucson, they give it a quick visual inspection (don't even open the hood,) check the gas cap, plug in their computer to the OBD1 port on the car and take your $12.50 when no codes pop up.
     
  16. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    If he were planning on registering out of state the Vermont registration and plate might work, mostly in states that don't require VIN inspections when the older car comes in for title/registration.
     
  17. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    I know the guy is long gone, but I found this nice writeup about P0420:

    The Misleading Nature of the PO42O Code


    By Ken Schafer Jr.
    © Reproduced with permission from Undercar Digest. For subscription
    information call 800-274-7890 or visit www.mdpublications.com.

    Upon the arrival of the Onboard Diagnostics II (OBD-II) system, I remember thinking to myself that this new system was going to be the greatest thing to happen to vehicles since I had started working on them. Now all I needed to do was plug in a scan tool, since all vehicles would have the same data-link connector (DLC) much to my delight again, and the car would tell me what was wrong with it.

    Sadly, it was only a few weeks later that I learned that this new system was still only a guideline and not a complete diagnosis. Throughout the years, after the start of OBD-II, it has become more and more accurate, but it still requires a bit of investigating after retrieval of the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). The P0420 code is no different.

    Here is a scenario: A customer pulls into the shop and says, “My check-engine light is on.” I tell them that I will scan the vehicle and find out what the problem is. Once I hook the scan tool up and navigate through the setup menus and click on display codes, I see P0420. Then I click the display code data and the scan tool says “Converter efficiency below threshold.” I crane my head out of the driver’s seat and yell to the manager that the vehicle needs a converter. This may not be true, as further diagnosis is necessary.

    From here on, I will try to explain some of the more-general steps I would take when diagnosing a converter with a scan tool. I will stay away from any finer points, as there are variances from manufacturer to manufacturer, but using these steps as a guideline should help to properly diagnose a catalytic converter.

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 01 - Melted Catalyst

    Upon displaying the codes, first be sure that the P0420 is the only code present; if not, diagnosis of the other codes is necessary, as they may be causing the P0420 code. The reason for this is that the converter is the end result in the OBD-II diagnostic. Basically, if there is a problem with one of the sensors in the engine or exhaust, it can cause either too much or too little fuel to enter the engine.

    If the engine is getting too little fuel it causes a lean condition, which raises combustion temperatures and, in turn, raises exhaust temperatures. Since converters operate properly only between certain temperatures (900-1,400° F), extreme temperatures lower the efficiency of the catalyst and can trigger the P0420 DTC. At temperatures above 2,100° the catalyst will begin to melt down, permanently destroying the catalyst (see Figure 1).

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 02 - Burned Catalyst

    Too much fuel does two things. First, the excess fuel entering the exhaust can coat the catalyst, cooling it as well as protecting the precious metals (which cause the catalytic reaction). This will last until the second problem happens: A spark enters the converter and ignites the fuel, at which point it turns into a secondary combustion chamber, destroying the catalyst (see Figure 2).

    Once all the other DTCs are fixed, clear the codes and start the engine. Warm the engine until the water temperature is stable. Then, increase engine speed for about three minutes, usually between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm; this will help the catalytic converter light off. After this, look at the wave forms between the front and rear O2 sensors. If the front O2 wave form is switching from high to low (rich to lean) and the rear is close to a straight line, the original converter should be OK. If the rear O2 sensor is mimicking the front one, the converter most likely took damage and may need to be replaced. A drive cycle may need to be completed and the converter monitor ready before you know whether the converter is good or bad. Follow the manufacturer guidelines for the correct drive cycle.

    Once you have completed the drive cycle, or if when you first scan the vehicle the only code present is P0420, you should first look at the freeze-frame data. This will tell you the conditions that were present when the DTC was set (vehicle speed, engine speed, O2 readings and fuel trim, among others, but these four I have found most useful).

    Looking at the fuel trim can tell you a lot without telling you too much. I know it sounds cryptic, but here’s an example: The only code is the P0420 but the fuel trim is high – usually above +8%, but this can vary, and one should consult a repair database for proper percentages. You already know that the engine is getting extra unmetered air into the intake and the ECM is compensating for this by dumping extra fuel into the intake. When this condition is present I look for any type of vacuum leak, intake leak or a dirty mass-air-flow (MAF) sensor that could be the cause of this problem.

    If the fuel trim is low – usually below -8%, but this can vary the same as a high fuel trim – you know that the engine is getting extra unmetered fuel into the intake and the ECM is compensating by leaning out the fuel mixture. This is usually caused by either a stuck fuel injector or a bad fuel-pressure regulator.
    Once the problem has been identified the repairs should be made, and after the warm-up process has been performed the vehicle should be tested to ensure that no other codes arise.

    If the fuel trim looks within range it is time to look at the O2 values. The front O2 sensor should be switching from rich (over 600mV) to lean (under 300mV) and the rear O2 sensor, or converter monitor, should be a nice, smooth line with minimal variance in mV. When looking at the values of the O2 sensors pay particular attention to the switching rate of the sensors and be sure that neither the front nor rear sensor drops out or spikes for extended amounts of time. If either a slow switching rate or spike/drop-out happens, but the O2 then recovers and appears to be operating normally, the O2 sensor may be starting to deteriorate – or as a lot of people say, “It has become lazy” and may need to be replaced.

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 03 - Contaminated Catalyst

    If you determine that the O2 sensor is lazy, remove it and check it for any type of contamination, usually by oil or antifreeze; if they are present, check the catalyst to ensure that it is not contaminated or poisoned (see Figure 3). If so, converter replacement will be necessary but not until the engine is repaired and the poisoning agent is no longer entering the exhaust, for this will lead to premature converter failure. If none of the above conditions are present and the engine is at operating temperature look at the front and rear O2 sensors. If the rear O2 sensor is mimicking the front one, the converter will most likely need to be replaced; there are only a few other easy things to look at.

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 04 - Damaged Converter Body

    After reviewing all the data and determining that there are no outside conditions causing the P0420 DTC, it is time to raise the vehicle and inspect the converter. I first look for any impact marks on the converter (see Figure 4) that may have resulted from road damage. If there are no marks on the converter I then inspect the body of the converter to see whether it is discolored, indicating that the converter has been overheated. If I see this, I usually consult the customer to find out whether they have had any other repairs to the engine that I am not aware of. This way I can ensure that a new converter will not suffer the same fate as the one that is on the vehicle. In most cases they would tell me that they have had other repairs done in the recent past and I would proceed with replacing the converter. If they tell me that they have not, I inform them that additional diagnosis may be needed. This is when I settle down and look over technical service bulletins (TSBs) and the diagnostic flow chart for the specific application; I will not go into these as they vary so much from application to application.

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 05 - Catalyst plugged with deposits

    The final check I perform is to drop the faulty converter and inspect the insides again, checking for fuel, oil, antifreeze, or excessive carbon deposits (see Figure 5). If they are present, again further engine repairs may be needed before replacement of the converter. If not, I can be relatively certain that replacing the converter will solve the P0420 DTC and my customer will not be back in a week with that nasty P0420 code again.

    The last thing I do, after replacing the converter with an approved quality aftermarket converter like those from Eastern Catalytic, is hook up my scan tool again and clear the codes, warm up the engine again, and watch the O2 sensors to see that the new converter lights off.

    [​IMG]
    Fig. 06 - Waveform Comparison

    Once I see this and the rear O2 sensor has a nice, smooth line (see Figure 6), I can release the vehicle with confidence that the problem has been fixed.

    Ken Schafer Jr. is Emission Certification Manager at Eastern Catalytic.
     
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  18. Brian in Tucson

    Brian in Tucson Active Member

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    I'm going in to Midas this morning for a "courtesy inspection." I've been working on an 02 and after I cleared codes I had to do a drive cycle to get the readiness monitors reset. On the second reset trip, the catalyst monitor finally cleared and set the P0420 code. At le200,000 miles, I'm assuming that the cat is dead, and I'll let Midas put a new one in (aftermarket including labor $249) and just get it over with so I can smog the car.

    Going back to the original question, I guess if I lived in CA, I'd probably take a shot at a 49 state cat, maybe drive to Yuma or Phoenix and have one installed. W/ new O2 sensors, I would be surprised if it wouldn't pass CA emissions. I kinda think it's stupid to require a thousand dollar part to keep a 16 year old car running. And I'd bet that they don't put the car up on a lift to inspect the welds.
     
  19. vaughnstark777

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    Search "O2 sensor spacer" on ebay and truck that.
     
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  20. audiodave

    audiodave Active Member

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    I went ahead and installed a magnaflo cat myself. 225,000 miles on the car.
    Not legal in California but smog test never looked under the car. No codes so it passed. California is rediculous.

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