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Yes, the leaking flex pipe could cause this code. You need to fix that, clear the code and re test. BUT: This vehicle has had issues with the catalytic converters coming apart and ruining the engine. It can suck catalytic converter pieces into the engine. When the converter is removed, visually inspect for damage.
The oxygen sensors in front and behind the converter are reporting too similar
Check for exhaust leaks at the manifold, pipes, catalytic converter. Repair
Use a scope to diagnose the oxygen sensor operation (Tip: The oxygen sensor
in front of the catalytic converter normally has a fluctuating waveform. The
waveform of the sensor behind the converter should be more steady).
Inspect the downstream heated oxygen sensor (HO2), replace if necessary
You can change the entire section of exhaust pipe that the flex pipe is in. It's usually bolted to the catalytic converter, on the back end, and to the exhaust manifold at the front end. It's just a matter of unbolting it and bolting on the new section of exhaust with new gaskets. You could also go to a muffler shop and have them cut out the old flex pipe and weld in a new piece of flex pipe in it's place. It's for you to decide which option is best for you, and for your wallet.
You are right. The engine flexes differently, but not less. The designers that put the engine sideways also put the flex pipe in the design, and the shop is just saving money. I'm a mechanical engineer, and I can tell you the stresses on the joints will be higher without the flex pipe. I can't say for sure something will crack, but it is certainly more likely.
The broken flex pipe can easily be fixed with a generic flex pipe for less then $100. The catalytic converter is after that, so has nothing at all to do with it. But cracks can also brazed or welded to fix. However, the reason flex pipes break is from excessive engine movement. That almost always means a loose bushing on a motor mount. So do that first. Should be less then $50. Never take a car to a dealer unless you absolutely have to. They charge twice what it should cost, because they want to sell new cars, not fix older ones.
Under the vehicle. The catalytic converter is a big round pipe, bolted directly after the pipe coming from the exhaust manifold. Behind the converter, running towards the rear, you will see a sensor screwed into the pipe, with wires coming from it. The converter will ALWAYS be forward of that last sensor observed on the exhaust piping.
1. Disconnect the negative battery cable.
2. Drain the engine oil from the engine crankcase.
3. Remove the exhaust flex pipe retaining nuts from
the exhaust manifold.
4. Remove the exhaust flex pipe retaining nuts from
the catalytic converter or the connecting pipe.
5. Remove the exhaust flex pipe.
6. Remove the oil pan flange–to–transaxle retaining
7. Remove the oil pan retaining bolts.
8. Remove the oil pan from the engine block.
1. Clean the oil pan sealing surface.
2. Clean the engine block sealing surface.
3. Clean the oil pan retaining bolts.
4. Clean the oil pan attaching bolt holes in the engine
5. Clean the oil pan scraper.
1. Coat the new oil pan gasket with sealant.
Important : Install the oil pan within 5 minutes after applying
the liquid gasket to the oil pan.
2. Install the oil pan to the engine block.
3. Install the oil pan retaining bolts.
Tighten the oil pan retaining bolts to 10 NSm (89 lb–in).
4. Install the oil pan flange–to–transaxle retaining
Tighten the oil pan flange–to–transaxle bolts to 40
NSm (30 lb–ft).
5. Install the exhaust flex pipe.
6. Install the exhaust flex pipe retaining nuts to the
Tighten the exhaust flex pipe–to–exhaust manifold
retaining nuts to 35 NSm (26 lb–ft).
7. Install the exhaust flex pipe retaining nuts to the
catalytic converter or the connecting pipe.
Tighten the exhaust flex pipe–to–catalytic converter
or connecting pipe retaining nuts to 35 NSm (26 lb–ft).
8. Connect the negative battery cable.
9. Install the oil pan drain plug.
Tighten the oil pan drain plug to 35 NSm (26 lb–ft).
10. Refill the engine crankcase with engine oil.