The dealer diagnosed it and says it got tripped by catalytic converter and rear oxygen sensor. The total estimate was around $2000. The blue book value on his car is around that amount. Is there a way to repair this with less cost and pass inspection?
I am assuming that you are in NC based on your profile. You can obtain a wavier if you spend at least $200 I will list the rest of the requirements at the end of this post.
I am leery that the catalytic converter is bad, the ECM (the cars computer) uses the post cat O2 sensor to determine cat efficiency and if it's bad as they said it could cause the computer to falsely fail the cat.
I would replace the O2 sensor first then clear the codes and see if the Cat still fails. Following the rules below the O2 sensor replacement will likely be enough to qualify for the waiver and buy you at least another year
You may be able to obtain a waiver if your car failed the emissions inspection and the part needed to fix the problem is unavailable. This is documentation provided by DMV License and Theft stating that you have tried in good faith to replace a missing component or part on your vehicle.
You must first obtain letters from a dealership, parts store and salvage yard stating the part is no longer manufactured or obtainable. If DMV License and Theft is also unable to locate the part, a waiver allowing your vehicle to pass the emissions test will be issued. On the other hand, if DMV locates the part, the vehicle-owner must comply, and the parts waiver will be denied.
If you purchased the necessary parts and made the recommended repairs, but the car still fails the emissions inspection a waiver may also be issued. However, the owner/operator must spend the required waiver amount in parts and/or labor in order to bring the vehicle within compliance standards. If the owner/operator can provide appropriate documentation of expenditures, the vehicle may be issued a waiver. Waiver expenditure amounts will not apply to the reconnection of tampered or removed exhaust emissions control devices.
A minimum expenditure of $200.00 is required for model year 1996 and newer vehicles. A recognized repair technician is considered to be someone who is professionally engaged in vehicle repairs or employed by a business whose purpose is vehicle repair or possessing nationally recognized certification for emission-related diagnostics and repair.
Criteria needed to get a waiver:
Once the above regulations have been met, the vehicle and all receipts must be brought to the local License and Theft Bureau for visual inspection. Waivers will normally be issued between 8a.m. and 10a.m. Monday through Friday except on state holidays.
These two links give some diagnostic information on catalytic converters and O2 sensors:
If the 02 sensor is working properly and thus properly condemning the catalytic converter, one option is to have an exhaust shop replace just the converter. The factory exhaust pipe with the converter is usually very expensive, but an exhaust shop may be able to cut out the converter and fit in a (much cheaper) aftermarket one.
Yes, this is kind of a duct tape solution, but I think the price point of the car warrants it. However, I have seen some really shoddy exhaust work before. If you do go this route, try to find some reviews or get some recommendations.