The Smog Pump and Smog Checks

I live in California, where then-governor George Deukmejian came up with the idea of Smog Check Stations some 20 years ago. Now, when each car must undergo a smog check every other registration year, my '84 T-Bird (with an engine rebuilt in June 2001) passed only after 3 tries. Besides, there’s a device under the hood, driven by a V-belt, called a “smog pump,” which I had restored to proper operation Sunday by a mechanically-inclined friend who tightened the belt, causing the pump to run properly. (The diagnostic mechanic had traced the failures to the catalytic converter so I had to have it replaced.)
So I’m asking:

  1. What does the smog pump have to do with the exhaust system?
  2. Is there anything special about the catalytic convertor in 80s Fords, as compared with other cars?

Depending on the year and model, the air pump (smog pump) preforms one of a couple of functions.

  1. On some vehicles like my truck there is no converter, and the air pump burns the excess hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by adding extra oxygen to the exhaust.
  2. On some OBD I cars the air pump adds enough oxygen to “light off” the converter and make it work. No extra oxygen (supplied by the pump) no action from the converter.
  3. On other OBD I and some OBD II cars the air pump blows into the exhaust when the car is cold (before the converter gets hot enough to work) to reduce the HC and CO in the exhaust. This also heats the exhaust up so the converter comes on line faster. Some OBD II cars blow the air up by the exhaust valves when the engine is cold and downstream (into the cat) when the engine is warm.

Not sure if I understand your other question. Nothing special about a Bird that I can think of. (When compared to other cars of a similar year)

[Nitpick] In California smog tests have been around for a lot longer than 20 years. Like over twice that. (Change of ownership since the 1960s) Biannual since about 1978 in no-attainment areas. (LA mainly)[/nitpick]

Specifically, the mechanic who installed my new muffler early this month said “catalytic converter” refers to more than one component in the exhaust system, downline from the exhaust manifold.

If he’s talking about a car that has two converters, this could make sense. Otherwise, I don’t know what he’s talking about (and suspect he doesn’t either) - there is a specific part called a catalytic converter, and the term doesn’t refer to anything other than that exact thing.

One catalytic converter, eh? Fine with me. In fact, I had complained about a rattling noise–and the diagnostic mechanic (who replaced the converter) found that the muffler had been installed too low, and* it *is what was rattling! Apparently since that muffler business was sold and renamed it hasn’t been the same.