2013 Dodge Dart: Dart Helps a Brother Out
April 12, 2013
I've been dealing with the arduous task of getting my Jeep Cherokee to pass a California smog test. It's been throwing codes for a while now, specifically blaming the first bank of catalytic converters for inefficiency. The Cherokee has a lame design that uses dual exhaust manifolds with a pre-cat attached to each. These then feed into a third cat. This design also uses four oxygen sensors. Sweet.
The search for California-approved, direct-fit replacement pre-cats led me to the OEM piece, worth a cool $1,700. An aftermarket Magnaflow piece was exceedingly more reasonable, but didn't line up correctly with the Cherokee's manifold design, and required a trip to FedEx for the return. Appropriately enough, it was one Chrysler vehicle helping another.
I was certain I could slide the big pre-cat assembly (canisters and runners) box in through the trunk, but I was stopped by the angle of the rear seatbacks, which don't fold flush enough. But for about an inch of lip extending down from the rear deck — hard, inflexible plastic — I might've been able to force the box through with some shimmy and slide.
Plan B worked better: impressive enough cabin volume to load the box sideways through the passenger door, then turn it 90 degrees and lay it on the passenger seat.
If you own a Cherokee in the other 49 states, you've got no cat-converter worries. You can buy them all day from Eastern, Walker and a dozen other manufacturers. But Magnaflow is one of only a handful that has bothered to get an approval stamp from California's Air Resources Board, not a cheap process. Smog test standards have increased this year, and smog techs looking to stay in business are now scrutinizing engine bays and exhaust plumbing.
I'm normally quick to defend the Golden State's track record on air quality and environmental management, even when it costs me. But I admit, this has been a tiresome search just to keep the Cherokee on the road. The next trial involves some of Magnaflow's universal cats, also California approved, and could involve some tricky welding and flanging.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 5,550 miles