There are millions of cars on the road in the United States, and each one is potentially a source of air pollution. Especially in large cities, the amount of pollution that all the cars produce together can create big problems.

To solve those problems, cities, states and the federal government create clean-air laws, and many laws have been enacted that restrict the amount of pollution that cars can produce. To keep up with these laws, automakers have made many refinements to car engines and fuel systems. To help reduce the emissions further, they have developed an interesting device called a catalytic converter, which treats the exhaust before it leaves the car and removes a lot of the pollution.

Location of catalytic converter in car

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you will learn which pollutants are produced by an engine and why, and how a catalytic converter deals with each of these pollutants. Catalytic converters are amazingly simple devices, so it is incredible to see how big an impact they have!