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How to Prevent Thieves From Stealing Your Catalytic Converter

Thieves looking to make a quick buck often steal a vehicle’s catalytic converter. Unfortunately, this can leave you with an expensive repair bill if it happens to your car.

We don’t want to see you or anyone else becoming a criminal’s next victim. You can protect your automobile and bank account by following a few tricks.

Today, we’re sharing ways to prevent someone from stealing your vehicle’s catalytic converter. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you become a victim to take action.

Let’s dive in!

A man removing a catalytic converter from under a car
Catalytic converter theft continues to rise

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are just one component of the exhaust system on a vehicle. Its purpose is to reduce harmful emissions created while in operation. 

Beginning in 1975, manufacturers installed them to comply with new environmental regulations. They may come in different shapes and sizes, but automobiles built after the mid-70s have them.

These devices are generally honeycomb-like structures made from ceramic or metal. They can contain materials like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. The mechanism converts toxic gasses into cleaner alternatives such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor.

Typically you’ll find catalytic converters mounted underneath the vehicle between the engine and muffler. Generally, they’re closer to the motor to help them warm up quicker and more effectively. While they can overheat, clog, or experience external damage, theft is often the most critical issue.

Why Do Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters?

Thieves steal catalytic converters because they can be worth a pretty penny due to the precious metals used in their construction. The value of these materials increased greatly over the last couple of decades.

For example, rhodium was approximately $1,600 an ounce in 2001 and over $20,000 for the same amount 20 years later. However, the price currently is around $4,500 per ounce. 

It doesn’t take long to steal one. Generally, all that’s required is a battery-powered saw and two or three minutes of time. 

Thieves usually look for cars parked where no one’ll hear them or think twice about the noise. Doing so can help them go undetected. Sometimes they’ll hit dealerships, causing severe damage to new vehicles. 

Find out more about why they’re so popular: Why Are People Stealing Catalytic Converters?

Which Vehicles Do Thieves Commonly Target?

Some of these devices contain more precious metals than others. As a result, certain ones are more valuable than others. Thieves could earn as much as $150 to $1,500 per unit, depending on the specific catalytic converter stolen. 

Criminals target newer hybrids, especially ones without an all-gas equivalent. They also look for trucks and SUVs because of the increased clearance and ease of access.

The most commonly targeted automobiles include Ford F-series trucks, Honda Accords, Toyota Prius, Honda CR-V, and the Ford Explorer. If you own any of these models, consider enhancing their security. Otherwise, you’re gambling whenever you walk away from your parked vehicle.

Also, these bandits aren’t picky if they see an easy opportunity. Should they stumble across a car or truck parked in a remote or isolated area, they’ll jump at the chance to make a few bucks. If they choose your car, you’ll be in for a surprise when you return.

Anti-theft devices like this Catalytic Converter Shield can help, but make sure you get the right one for your vehicle.

Ways to Prevent Thieves From Stealing Your Catalytic Converter

You can choose a few courses of action to reduce your chances of becoming a victim. For starters, park in well-lit areas and close to public entrances. Criminals don’t want to risk getting seen by bystanders or cameras.

Additionally, if you have a garage, park inside at night. Since you might use this space for storage, it could be time to do some cleaning and organizing to make room for your car. If you don’t have a garage, install motion lighting and cameras outside to deter thieves.

Another action you could take is to paint or etch your vehicle’s VIN onto its catalytic converter. While some shady scrap dealers may overlook these numbers, it can cause a criminal to think twice. In certain locations, police departments offer programs where they’ll do these services for free. It may be worth calling your local precinct to inquire if they do this for residents.

Installing an anti-theft device is a great all-around way to protect your automobile. However, it’s important to remember that a determined thief with enough time and know-how can find a way to steal catalytic converters. But many of these swindlers will look for easier targets if they notice a good alarm system installed on a car.

A person wearing black gloves lifts a car with a jack. Are they preparing to steal the catalytic converter?
Thieves use jacks to quickly lift your car before removing the catalytic converter

How Do You Know if Someone Steals Your Catalytic Converter?

You may not instantly know that someone has stolen your catalytic converter. However, you’ll suspect something isn’t right when you start your vehicle. No matter the car, it’ll likely be louder and run rougher than normal. Additionally, you’re more likely to notice the exhaust odor as it runs.

There’s also a good chance you’ll notice decreased acceleration or sputtering. If that’s not enough to convince you to head to the shop, the check engine light hopefully will. The dreaded icon on your dashboard is a sure sign something is wrong.

What Should You Do if a Thief Steals Your Catalytic Converter?

The first thing you should do is turn the engine off and call your insurance provider. They may require you to contact the police department and file a police report. An officer may need to come to where the crime occurred to take your statement.

The next thing you’ll want to do is get your car to the nearest shop. You can drive without a catalytic converter, but it’ll be loud and send exhaust inside and outside the vehicle. It’s best to have it towed so you don’t cause any further damage.

Before filing a claim with your insurance company, try to figure out how much it’ll cost if you pay out of pocket. If the total repair is less than your deductible, it’s a good idea not to go through insurance. Hire a reputable technician to complete the work so it gets done right.

Once you’re back on the road, take the necessary steps to secure your new catalytic converter from being stolen. It’s not uncommon for thieves to return to an area to see if a vehicle is still an easy target. Whether adding your car’s VIN to the unit or installing a security device is entirely up to you.

Your entire RV might not be safe either: Is It Easy to Break Into An RV? (And, How to Make It Harder).

Protect Yourself From Being the Next Victim

No matter where you live, someone could steal your catalytic converter. It might be in the parking lot of a store, in your driveway, or on a public street. There’ll eventually come a time when your precious automobile is out of your sight. So take the proper steps to prevent thieves from targeting your vehicle.

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