Since my mech hosed my timing belt change, and the resulting damage means that everything else is free labor at this point, I decided to go ahead and throw a new up-pipe on it in the process to eliminate the possibility of the stock up-pipe cat coming apart. I delivered the pipe last week, but since the heads were still out getting the new valves installed, he did not get around to doing it until today. When he called and told me I needed to come down and take a look, I knew there might be issues.....
The cat was already coming apart.
This is what was stuck to the turbo inlet from the up-pipe.. This is the first time I have ever seen catalyst melted and fused like this.
After I got the above pictured piece removed, you could see a ridge of material also in the section towards the waste gate.
This shows the bigger pieces of catalyst that I pulled out. These were all damn near welded to the turbo housing and not rattling around.... I pulled an amazing amount of material out of the housing that came out in pieces and dust.
The vanes suffered a very slight bit of damage, but after spending an hour or so with dental pics and getting every bit of catalyst out of the housing, everything turns free and it appears that I just barely avoided losing the turbo as a result.
My car is a 2003 WRX with 114K miles on it, and was stock mechanically. I only decided to do the pipe as a preventative maintenance measure, and I am damn glad I did! We would never have found this otherwise!
When they recommend to change the up-pipe, there is a very good reason! Just do it!