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How to protect the catalytic converter

How to protect the catalytic converter

Protect your catalytic converter with these expert tips

Did you know that over 10,000 catalytic converters were reported stolen in 2020 alone?[1] With the increasing number of thefts, protecting this valuable part is more important than ever. Fortunately, there are several effective things you can do to make your vehicle less likely to be targeted by thieves. Keep reading to learn how to prevent catalytic converter theft and what you can do if yours is stolen.

[Edit]things you should know

  • Paint your catalytic converter a bright color to help deter thieves from stealing it.
  • Install an anti-theft shield or cage over your catalytic converter to make it difficult to access.
  • Weld your catalytic converter to your car’s frame to make it difficult for thieves to remove.
  • Adjust the sensitivity of your vehicle alarm so that it can better detect any vibrations from thieves.


[Edit]theft prevention measures

  1. Paint your converter a bright color. Painted catalytic converters are more difficult to sell because scrapyards know they’ve been stolen, which means thieves are less likely to pick them up. Use a red or orange high heat spray paint so it can handle when your exhaust system gets hot. Jack up your vehicle and find the catalytic converter, which looks like a large cylindrical piece on the main exhaust line. Clean the catalytic converter with a scrubbing pad and rubbing alcohol. Then, apply 2–3 coats of spray paint for a clean, even look.[2]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 1.jpg
  2. Engrave your VIN on your catalytic converter. It’s harder for thieves to sell catalytic converters with a VIN, so they’ll avoid stealing them. Find your vehicle’s VIN under the dashboard or on your vehicle’s registration, and write it down. Get under your vehicle so you can access the catalytic converter. Use an engraving tool to engrave the number in a few different places on the converter.[3]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 2.jpg
  3. Increase the sensitivity of your vehicle alarm. Check your vehicle’s manual to see if it has adjustable alarm settings. If it does, increase the sensitivity so that the alarm goes off if thieves lift or tilt your vehicle trying to access the catalytic converter.[4]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 3.jpg
    • If your vehicle does not have an alarm system, install an aftermarket car alarm for your catalytic converter.
  4. Weld the catalytic converter to the frame. If your catalytic converter is bolted to your exhaust system, weld the pieces together so thieves can’t unscrew the bolts. Alternatively, weld additional pieces of sheet metal to cover the bolts.[5]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 4.jpg
    • If you don’t feel comfortable doing the welding yourself, take your vehicle to a mechanic.
    • When it comes time to replace your catalytic converter, you’ll need a saw to cut through the welds on your exhaust pipe if you choose to do the repair yourself. Otherwise, a mechanic can do it for you.
  5. Install an anti-theft shield or cage. An anti-theft shield or cage is a piece of metal that fits over your catalytic converter to prevent thieves from accessing it. Simply bolt the shield or cage to the frame of your vehicle to keep it secure.[6]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 5.jpg
    • Ask your mechanic if they have any special anti-theft devices they can install on your vehicle. They may have more options that are not available at the store.
  6. Install security lights or cameras around your parking spot. If you have to park your vehicle out in the open, invest in some motion-sensor lights to help scare off potential thieves. For even better security, place some security cameras where thieves can easily see them so they’ll know they’re being recorded.[7]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 6.jpg
  7. Park in well-lit or closed areas. If you’re parking in a public place, choose a populated area with plenty of light because thieves are less likely to target your vehicle if they think someone is watching. If you have a garage at home, park inside so that no one can access your vehicle.[8]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 7.jpg
  8. Start neighborhood watch. Contact your neighbors and let them know you are concerned about catalytic converter thieves in your area. Tell them to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity, such as people working on vehicles late at night. If you suspect someone is trying to steal your neighbor’s catalytic converter, tell them right away so they can be on their guard.[9]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 8.jpg

[Edit]Which vehicles are the target of theft?

  1. Hybrid vehicles are the most common target. Hybrid cars have larger catalytic converters and may also have several on the exhaust line. Because catalytic converters are large, they contain rare metals such as palladium, platinum, and rhodium that are valuable when sold for scrap. The most common targeted makes and models are:[10]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 9.jpg
    • Toyota Prius
    • honda element
    • Honda Accord[11]
  2. Pickup trucks and SUVs have easy-to-access catalytic converters. Since trucks and SUVs are higher off the ground, thieves don’t need to jack them up to access the catalytic converter. Common trucks and SUVs targeted are:[12]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 10.jpg
    • honda crv
    • Ford Econoline
    • Ford F-250
    • ford excursion
    • Toyota Tundra
    • Toyota Sequoia
    • Toyota Tacoma
  3. Any vehicle made after 1975 is a potential target. Back in 1975, the EPA mandated that catalytic converters be installed in all cars to make emissions less harmful. Therefore, any vehicle made after 1975 could technically be targeted, although the vehicles listed above are the most common targets.[13]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 11.jpg

[Edit]signs of a stolen catalytic converter

  1. Loud engine roar {endbold} Since the catalytic converter is missing on your exhaust line your engine will make a loud roar when you turn it on. The roar will get louder if you try to increase the speed.[14]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 12.jpg
  2. Rough Driving and Acceleration {endbold} If you press down on the gas pedal, check if your engine is sputtering or having difficulty keeping up. If so, it is a sign that your exhaust is not working properly, which could mean that your catalytic converter is missing.[15]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 13.jpg
  3. Rotten egg smell {endbold} Since the exhaust in the catalytic converter is not passing through the filter, it still has a strong and unpleasant odor. If anything smells weird or if you feel dizzy while driving, check to see if your catalytic converter is still there.[16]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 14.jpg
  4. Large Gap in Your Exhaust Line {endbold} Jack up your vehicle and look at the main exhaust line running from your engine to your tailpipe. Your exhaust line should be one continuous length without any gaps, so a missing section means your catalytic converter was taken.[17]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 15.jpg
    • You may also see rough edges or sharp cuts on the exhaust pipe if someone used a saw to cut it.

[Edit]If Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen

  1. Report the theft to the police department. Contact your local authorities as soon as you discover that your catalytic converter is missing. Give information about yourself and your vehicle to the police and tell them what happened. They may be able to trace the culprit who took your catalytic converter, and you’ll need a police report for any insurance claims you file.[18]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 16.jpg
  2. Check whether your insurance covers catalytic converter theft. Most full-coverage insurance covers catalytic converter theft, so double-check your policy. File a claim as soon as possible so that you only have to cover your deductible instead of paying full price for any expensive repairs or replacement parts.[19]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 17.jpg
  3. Take your vehicle to a mechanic for replacement. Have your vehicle towed for repairs because you should not drive without a catalytic converter. Since you usually only need a catalytic converter on your vehicle, have a mechanic install the new part on your exhaust line so you can start driving again.[20]
    Protect the Catalytic Converter Step 18.jpg
    • Catalytic converter replacement can cost anywhere between $1,000–3,000 USD.[21]


  • If you see someone suspicious working under a vehicle, especially late at night, contact the authorities as they may be trying to steal the converter.[22]
  • Call local mechanics to see what types of vehicles are commonly targeted for theft in your area.


  • Avoid driving your vehicle without a catalytic converter unless you have taken it directly to a mechanic, as you could be fined for having a faulty exhaust system.[23]


  1. https://www.nicb.org/news/blog/catalytic-converter-thefts-skyrocket-across-nation-0
  2. https://youtu.be/_ddeKDFnN2c?t=257
  3. https://www.sjgov.org/docs/default-source/district-attorney-documents/press-releases/2021/catalytic-converter-brochure-(english).pdf?sfvrsn=da7637d8_2
  4. https://bellevuewa.gov/sites/default/files/media/pdf_document/2022/BPD-22-6669-Catalytic%20Converter%20Theft%20flyer_0.pdf
  5. https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/DocumentCenter/View/82894/Four-Catalytic-Converter-Theft-Suspects-Arrested-in-24-Hour-Period-12012020
  6. https://www.themechanicdoctor.com/what-is-a-catalytic-converter-and-how-do-you-look-after-one/
  7. https://cms9files.revize.com/richfieldmn/Catalytic%20Converter_Theft%20Prevention.pdf
  8. https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/DocumentCenter/View/82894/Four-Catalytic-Converter-Theft-Suspects-Arrested-in-24-Hour-Period-12012020
  9. https://www.roseville.ca.us/news/what_s_happening_in_roseville/catalytic_converter_thefts
  10. https://www.roseville.ca.us/news/what_s_happening_in_roseville/catalytic_converter_thefts
  11. https://www.nicb.org/news/regional-news/catalytic-converter-theft-californiawhat-vehicles-are-risk
  12. https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/DocumentCenter/View/82894/Four-Catalytic-Converter-Theft-Suspects-Arrested-in-24-Hour-Period-12012020
  13. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/clean-machine
  14. https://www.cityofirvine.org/department-administration/prevent-catalytic-converter-theft
  15. https://ggcity.org/sites/default/files/Crime%20Warning%20-%20Catalytic%20Converters.pdf
  16. https://www.themechanicdoctor.com/catalytic-converters-101/
  17. https://bellevuewa.gov/sites/default/files/media/pdf_document/2022/BPD-22-6669-Catalytic%20Converter%20Theft%20flyer_0.pdf
  18. https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/catalytic-converter-theft-skyrocketing-nationalwide
  19. https://www.consumerreports.org/theft/how-to-prevent-catalytic-converter-theft-a6785016673/
  20. https://www.sjgov.org/docs/default-source/district-attorney-documents/press-releases/2021/catalytic-converter-brochure-(english).pdf?sfvrsn=da7637d8_2
  21. https://www.nicb.org/news/blog/catalytic-converter-thefts-skyrocket-across-nation-0
  22. https://www.roseville.ca.us/news/what_s_happening_in_roseville/catalytic_converter_thefts
  23. https://www.sjgov.org/docs/default-source/district-attorney-documents/press-releases/2021/catalytic-converter-brochure-(english).pdf?sfvrsn=da7637d8_2


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