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Discussion Starter #1
So I took the Alfa to the smog test here in sunny Northern California thinking its running pretty strong and should pass. Well no not so fast, the HC (Hydro Carbons?) were too high at 15 mph, 179 where max is 141. At 25 mph, the Alfa passed with 113 where 116 is max and 22 is the average. The technician recommends installing a new catalytic converter, so I am considering putting in a new exhaust from the manifold to the tailpipe. Was wondering what others have done and where the best prices may be at? I did look at Vicks and they don't offer the catalytic converter, centerline does not have it in stock, neither does rock auto. Alfaholics also do not list the catalytic converter and shipping from the UK might be pricy.

I do need to make sure the CC is C.A.R.B. certified and not Federally certified. It does appear that all the sections/components bolt together so no need to have a muffler shop weld it up. Any pitfalls experienced by anyone here? Gaskets etc needed to complete the job.

Picture of VIR (Vehicle Inspection Report) attached.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Well, you're reeeeeeal close to passing. I'm sure a new cat converter will get you to pass, but it's possible you've got some other problem like a tired O2 sensor or just dirty injectors. Usually when the cat wears out you fail NOX first on the CA test. Hard to diagnose remotely, though.

If you do decide to go with a new cat, cheapest option is just take it to a muffler shop. They can cut out the old cat and will weld in a California three-way converter. Typically $300-$500.
 

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I agree with Tom. A muffler shop should be able to either weld in a new catalytic converter or make a whole new exhaust system. Today's catalytic converters flow much better than the originals so it might even free up a couple of horses.

I would also get a new O2 sensor - when they get old they get lazy and don't work as well (like me...). A failing or failed O2 sensor will quickly ruin the new cat. You can get a generic O2 sensor - just be sure to save the wiring from the old one to attach to the new (generic) O2 sensor.

I'm not sure if your '86 would have a single wire or three wire O2 sensor. The early models had a single wire O2 sensor - heated by the exhaust gases. Later they came out with a heated O2 sensor. The single wire sensor doesn't work well at idle speeds. The heated version goes to work quickly and stays working (unlike me...). There is info in the Spider FAQ thread about both types of O2 sensors.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Eric,
Thanks for the response. I'll take a crawl under and have a look at the wiring, but I believe it is a 3 wire. So if I understand you correctly, even if I ordered all the exact fitment parts from say centerline, it is an older style cat and won't work as well as a new style cat. You believe I'm better off taking it to a local muffler shop and have them weld in a new system from the cat on out...
What is your opinion on a fresh oil change and or tune up? How would that affect a smog test? Not sure what components would entail a tune up? it has newer wires form the last time (8 years ago) that I was working on it and a new set of hoses.
 

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I had the $800 dollar smog check. This included a valve adjustment and a new cat. I was given a certification with the cat. This cat was much larger that what was on there before. If you do decide to replace the cat and the muffle, make sure you asked for the pipe to turn down at the end.


Ken Smith
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Thanks for the response. I'll take a crawl under and have a look at the wiring, but I believe it is a 3 wire. So if I understand you correctly, even if I ordered all the exact fitment parts from say centerline, it is an older style cat and won't work as well as a new style cat. You believe I'm better off taking it to a local muffler shop and have them weld in a new system from the cat on out...
The Centerline front section is $455 for a 49-state version that can't be used in California. The CA version (they say "inquire") will likely be more. For probably less money, a shop can chop saw out your current converter and weld in a new CA one like Ken had done. Unless the rest of your exhaust is shot and you're looking to replace it, this is probably the way to go.

There's a chance you could pass if you replace the oxygen sensor and run a bottle of Techron through the engine, but no guarantees.
 

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All great advice, I'll add just one more. Make sure you've driven up to temp for while before taking the test. I like a 15 minute freeway ride with a bit of an Italian Tune Up just before I arrive hope that I don't have to wait long for the test.
 

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I just got the Magnaflow free flow cat and their muffler. CARB certified. Both installed for 600 bucks. The magnaflow appears to be considerably thinner than Ken's too.
 

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Magnaflow makes a DIY bolt on downpipe CAT unit for the '86-'89 Spiders that I believe can be ordered to meet California requirements. I think I bought my last one from an eBay merchant for about $350. I had to double up the gaskets between the header and the downpipe and bend the Magnaflow flatbar/bracket (that connects the the transmission) to make it fit right but other than that the install was fairly straightforward.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So lots of good advice and options. One quick question off the top of my head is: If taken to a local muffler shop, do I have a center muffler and a rear muffler installed along with the CAT or Just a cat and pipe to the rear muffler?
 

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Just CAT, period, unless the rest of your exhaust is in need of repairs too. They should be able to cut out the old CAT and put a new one back in the exact same position. The earlier advise about an O2 sensor is good advise, just look and see if the current one has the square Bosch connector for the two heater wires. If it does then something for an original replacement should work.
 

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the rest of the exhaust does need replacement. I was just wondering if the central muffler/silencer/resonator is necessary?
I doubt it is necessary for passing your smog test. But is there still a visual test? And would a missing muffler be a reason for failure? Anybody know?

The center muffler is necessary if you want a quiet car. The lore is that the backpressure in a stock Alfa system isn't bad. In other words, removing it won't add any measurable performance and will just make your car noisier (e.g., it may sound faster). So if your goal is a more aggressive sound, then sure, take it out. Me, I'd leave it alone.
 

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From the factory, the S3 Spider had three separate pieces after the header: (a) downpipe/CAT unit; (b) center muffler; and (c) tailpipe (with small silencer). So if only one of them fails, you don't have to replace the entire system.
 

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My vote would be to have a muffler shop replace the cat and the center and just a straight pipe with a nice tip from there back.

When I bought my Spider many years ago it had dented downpipes and a rattly cat. I bought the downpipe/cat unit from Centerline and couldn't get it to quite fit right - rubbed a little no matter what I did. Talked to Centerline and they said there are so many variables that it's hard to guarantee an exact fit. They were willing to take it back (and they're local to me so shipping was no issue) but said there was no guarantee that another unit would improve the situation at all.

I took it to a muffler shop and they cut out a section and welded a new piece in for just $50. Then said that they could have just done the whole thing the first time for way cheaper than the part I bought. Lesson learned.

Meineke or some place like that should be able to handle the job but I used an old-school shop (R.I.P. Bud's Mufflers) that was used to dealing with classics, lowriders, etc.

$.02
 

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How old are your plugs? How long did you drive it before the test? Your O2 sensor is 3-wire, heated. You are almost passing...try again, assuming they don't charge you $$ for a fail. Why does California include 'average'? What good is that info- what average? All the spiders? All of the year 86 cars on the road?
 

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86 Veloce
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Average is all cars. Gotta watch out too, if you fail badly or repeatedly they will label you a gross polluter and will have to take it to a "star" station and pay big every other year for the life of the car. Same guy always does all my vehicles and I get a pretest just to make sure it is blowing clean.....
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Plugs are +/- 8 years old with less than 2500 mikes on them Ill pull one and post a pic here in a minute, but just ordered a new set of NGk's 4055 Iridium IX. Decided to bite the bullet and have the local muffler shop install a magna flow cat, resonator and muffler for $800. The exhaust system could use the refresh.
 

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You will like the Magnaflow. A guy at a stop light the other day said " that sounds like a healthy V8!" I just left it at that.....
 
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