catalytic converter under car

Catalytic converters are some of the most frequently stolen car parts in America and their theft is on the rise! Here are some ways to know if you’ve been the victim of catalytic converter theft:

What Is A Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a type of filter designed to combat harmful emissions from your vehicle’s exhaust. Its chief function is to cut down on the pollutants that your car produces daily. It has been a legally mandated component thanks to the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1975.

If the car utilizes gas as a fuel source in any capacity, then it has a catalytic converter. It is located on the underside of the vehicle and is a prime target for thieves because of the presence of precious metals (palladium, rhodium, platinum, etc.) present within the converter. Much of a car's value can be tied to the converter — so damage to the converter or having it outright stolen will have an impact on its worth.

There are roughly 4-9 grams of these metals within the converter and the more efficient, low-emission vehicles tend to have more expensive metals within theirs.

It’s no wonder catalytic converters are the most stolen vehicle part in the country. According to NPR and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there has been a tenfold increase in catalytic converter thefts in the last three years. In 2020, there were more than 14,000 cat converters stolen from cars and trucks.

Catalytic converters are not only lucrative to steal, but also quick and easy to remove. Compared to stealing an engine, transmission, or an entire vehicle, the converters take less effort to detach and transport, while yielding a hefty payout.

Unfortunately for theft victims, catalytic converts are expensive to replace.

mechanic working on a catalytic converter

3 Signs Of A Stolen Catalytic Converter

Some quick ways to identify if your catalytic converter has been stolen:

1. Your Car Is Abnormally Loud

Probably the easiest sign to recognize. When your catalytic converter is stolen, your car will suddenly start to sound less like a sedan and more like a 747.

The shift in sound is jarring enough that you’ll likely take notice and inspect your vehicle.

2. Lit Check Engine Light

Vehicles come equipped with an engine control unit aka an ECM. The ECM monitors a host of sensors within your engine bay. Through this, the ECM controls the ratio of the car’s air to fuel mixture and emission control systems.

A full drive cycle allows the ECM to run its tests, identify an issue, and activate the check engine light if your catalytic converter is missing.

3. A Headache When Your Windows Are Down

While we commonly associate carbon monoxide poisoning with operating vehicles inside closed spaces, there are recorded instances of death and illness from carbon monoxide occurring while a vehicle is stranded or because of a compromised exhaust system.

A stolen catalytic converter is absolutely one way to achieve a compromised system.

Catalytic converters reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced by your vehicle by 95%. If your converter is stolen, you are now being exposed to 20 times the levels of carbon monoxide you’d normally be exposed to.

These fumes can reach your vehicle cabin and instigate headaches, delayed reaction time, and confusion. Sometimes, people don’t display any symptoms, but still fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning!

thief breaking into car

How To Protect My Catalytic Converter Against Theft

When it comes down to it, you want to take whatever steps you can to avoid being the victim of catalytic converter theft. Here are three ways you can protect your catalytic converter from being stolen:

Park In Well-Lit Areas - Most thieves are going to operate when they feel they have the least chance of being discovered. Unfortunately, that means when your car is left unattended at night.

Park In Highly Populated Places - Any place with plenty of foot traffic will dissuade most thieves from attempting to steal your catalytic converter.

Look For Security Cameras - Park where there are visible security cameras. Thieves will be deterred by the knowledge that their crime could be captured on tape.

Install An Anti-Theft Device - Instead of dissuasion, straight up prevention might be the best way to go. Anti-theft devices for your catalytic converter are available online for purchase and can be installed by yourself (although, we always recommend leaving things to the professionals).

What Are My Options If My Catalytic Converter Gets Stolen?

If replacing a stolen catalytic converter isn’t an expense you want, then feel free to contact DamagedCars. Like our name says, we specialize in cars that have seen better days (including those prior to a catalytic converter theft).

We can send a quote to you for your vehicle within 90 seconds. Should you like what you see, one of our customer service representatives can connect you with one of our service partners within your area.

They’ll come to retrieve the vehicle for free, so you don’t have to worry about polluting any (more) air without your catalytic converter.

You’ll get the quoted amount in your hand and your vehicle will be on its way to the great, big junkyard in the sky!

Contact DamagedCars now and see what you get for your vehicle!


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What Cars Are Most Likely To Have Their Catalytic Converters Stolen?

The following cars are most at risk for cat-con theft:

  • SUVs
  • Trucks
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Low-emission vehicles

How Much Does A Catalytic Converter Cost?

They vary depending on the quality of the converter and the type of vehicle you own. The range is anywhere between $1000-$2500.