If you own a car, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the catalytic converter, a crucial emission control device that reduces harmful pollutants in exhaust gasses. Unfortunately, catalytic converters are also attractive targets for thieves, who sell them for a quick profit. So which cars are most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen?
The most likely cars to have their catalytic converters stolen are those with high ground clearance. These include SUVs, trucks, and vans. The thieves target these vehicles because the converters are easy to access and remove.
Read on for more information on why thieves steal catalytic converters and what you can do to protect your vehicle.
Why Do Thieves Steal Catalytic Converters?
Thieves steal catalytic converters because they’re made of platinum, palladium, and rhodium — precious metals that can be sold through the black market. These metals are valuable and can fetch as much as $500 for a single converter.
Aside from being highly valuable, catalytic converters are also lightweight and easy to steal. Thieves can quickly remove them without causing any damage to the vehicle. This makes catalytic converters a tempting target for thieves.
How Much Do Thieves Get for a Catalytic Converter?
Thieves get between $50 and $500 for a catalytic converter on average. Generally, catalytic converters made of rhodium are the most valuable. On the other hand, those made of platinum are the least pricey.
To add some context, the following table compares the average price per gram of the mentioned metals:
|Metal||Average Price per Gram (0.04 oz)|
|Rhodium||$600 – $610|
|Palladium||$80 – $83|
|Platinum||$30 – $34|
Comparison of the average price per ounce of the precious metals used to make catalytic converters. Source: Insider
Does Insurance Cover Stolen Catalytic Converters?
Most comprehensive insurance policies cover stolen catalytic converter costs. Comprehensive insurance covers many potential losses, including theft and vandalism. If your catalytic converter is stolen, you should file a claim with your insurance company and get reimbursed.
However, some people don’t take comprehensive coverage because it’s not required by law, and it can be expensive. Instead, they opt for liability-only coverage, which is much cheaper but doesn’t cover theft or vandalism. Others forego insurance altogether, which leaves them vulnerable to losses in the event of a theft or accident.
Caution: It’s illegal to drive without insurance in most states, except for Virginia and New Hampshire, so check your state’s laws before hitting the road.
How Do I Know if My Catalytic Converter Was Stolen?
To know if your catalytic converter was stolen, check if any screws or bolts on the exhaust system are missing. Also, look for clues like broken glass near the car or pieces of metal on the ground nearby. Finally, take your vehicle to a mechanic and have them check for damage to the converter.
In addition, you may notice your catalytic converter is missing when driving. Here’s a rundown of the signs your catalytic converter is gone:
Loud Engine Noise
An excessively loud engine is one of the common telltale signs that a catalytic converter has been stolen. When a catalytic converter is missing, it can no longer properly filter harmful emissions from the exhaust or muffle the engine sound.
Consequently, all those pollutants are released directly into the air, causing the engine to run louder as it struggles to push them out. You may hear a roar, hum, or clatter in that case, especially when accelerating or starting the vehicle.
A Decline in Engine Performance
If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll likely experience a decline in engine performance due to the restricted exhaust flow. When the catalytic converter is working correctly, it helps to increase engine power by facilitating the expulsion of exhaust gasses. But when it’s missing or damaged, that process is hindered, leading to a drop in performance.
You’ll notice the car will take longer to get up to speed or may not be able to reach its top speed. You may also find that your fuel economy has decreased, and your car emits more exhaust fumes than usual.
Excess Heat Under the Vehicle
Suppose you place your hand on the ground under your car’s exhaust pipe and feel an unusually high heat. In that case, there’s a chance your catalytic converter has been stolen.
That’s because the converter helps regulate exhaust gas temperature. When the catalytic converter is missing, those gasses can become much hotter than usual, leading to a build-up of heat under the vehicle.
The Car Emits a Lot of Smoke, Even When Not Accelerating
If your car emits a lot of smoke even when not accelerating, there’s a good chance the catalytic converter has been stolen. Typically, when you step on the gas pedal, more fuel is injected into the engine and ignited, generating more power. But if your catalytic converter is missing or damaged, not as much fuel will burn due to restricted exhaust flow. This will cause the car to smoke more, even when it’s not in motion.
Exhaust Fumes Smell Like Sulfur or Rotten Eggs
An unusually sulfurous or rotten-eggs smell from the exhaust pipe is one of the most telling signs your catalytic converter has been stolen. That smell is indicative of the presence of poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas, which is released when the converter is missing or not working correctly. So if you notice a strong, noxious odor every time you start your car, take it to a mechanic to have it checked out.
The Check Engine Light Is On
Another clear sign something is wrong with your car’s emissions system is when the check engine light turns on. That little light can indicate various problems, including a malfunctioning or missing catalytic converter. So if your car is showing the other symptoms on this list and the light won’t turn off, it’s worth checking if this crucial component is missing.
You Can’t Pass an Emissions Test
If you live in a state requiring emissions testing and your car fails the test, that could indicate that the catalytic converter is missing. A catalytic converter is one of the main components inspected during an emissions test, so your car won’t pass if it’s absent.
Your Gas Mileage Has Decreased
Finally, if you’ve noticed that your gas mileage has decreased recently, that could be another sign your catalytic converter is missing. The converter is responsible for helping the engine run most efficiently, so when it’s stolen, you’ll see a decrease in fuel economy.
The following video describes some of the signs your catalytic converter is missing:
Where Are Catalytic Converters Being Stolen?
Generally, catalytic converters are being stolen in areas with little foot traffic and few witnesses, including parking lots, garages, and driveways. These areas are desirable to thieves because they can operate relatively undetected.
Therefore, you should be extra vigilant about where you park your car. If possible, try to park in a well-lit and busy area. As this article by AAA points out, you should also install security cameras or an alarm system to deter thieves.
What Should You Do if Your Catalytic Converter Is Stolen?
Now that you know some of the most common signs your catalytic converter is missing, what should you do if you realize yours has been stolen? Here are the steps to follow if your catalytic converter has been taken by thieves.
Call the Police and File a Report
If you think your catalytic converter has been stolen, you should first call the police and file a report. This step is vital for two reasons. First, you will have a formal record of the incident. Second, it will help the police keep track of catalytic converter thefts in your area.
In some cases, the police may not be able to do much to find your stolen converter, but they may provide you with a copy of the police report, which you’ll need for your insurance claim.
Get a Copy of the Police Report
As I mentioned above, once you’ve filed a police report, get a copy of it. You’ll need it to submit to your insurance company. Otherwise, they may not process your claim. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have a copy of the police report for your own records, as it may come in handy for the future.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Once you’ve filed a police report, the next step is to contact your insurance company. You’ll need to let them know what happened and determine if your policy covers stolen catalytic converters. Most comprehensive insurance policies will cover the theft of a catalytic converter, but it’s always best to check with your insurer to be sure.
Note: The insurance company may ask you for a copy of the police report and any other information related to the theft. Therefore, it’s good to have copies of these documents handy.
Have Your Car Towed to an Authorized Repair Shop
After you’ve reported the theft to the police and your insurance company, you’ll need to have your car towed to an authorized repair shop. This is crucial, so ensure you take your vehicle to a shop with the proper equipment and training. If you try to do it yourself or take your car to an unqualified repair shop, you could do more harm than good to your vehicle.
Install a New Catalytic Converter
Once you’ve taken your car to an authorized repair shop, they’ll install a new catalytic converter. If you have comprehensive insurance, your insurer will likely cover the cost of the new converter. If not, you’ll have to pay for it yourself. Nonetheless, ensure the replacement is compatible with your car and up to the emissions standard.
How To Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft
It’s a no-brainer that going through the process of replacing a stolen catalytic converter is a hassle. Also, it can be expensive if you don’t have comprehensive insurance. Therefore, it’s crucial to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen in the first place.
Here are five ways to prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen.
Park in a Well-Lit Area
One of the best ways to deter thieves is to make it difficult for them to work undetected. For example, you could park your car in a well-lit area. If someone tries to steal your converter, they’ll be more likely to get caught. Better yet, park in areas with people around. Avoid parking in isolated or dark areas since thieves will have an easier time working undetected.
Install an Alarm System
If your car is equipped with an alarm system, it will make a loud noise if someone tries to tamper with your vehicle. This will scare off the thief and alert people in the area that something is going on. If you need an alarm system for your car, I recommend this InstallGear Security System from Amazon. It features two 4-button remote controls, a honk output, and an LED status indicator.
Use a Locking Device
A locking device is designed to fit over your converter and make it more difficult to remove. There are various locking devices available, so choose one compatible with your car. You can also pick something like the Winner International 1103 LX Series Steering Wheel Lock, which works with SUVs, vans, and trucks as well as cars.
Etch Your Converter
Etching your converter involves engraving your VIN or a serial number on it. Doing this will make thieves think twice about stealing it and make it easier for the police to track down your converter if it’s stolen. You can take a photo of the engraving after you make it for your records.
Keep Your Car in a Locked Garage
If you have a garage, park your car inside it whenever possible. This will make it harder for thieves to access your catalytic converter since they’ll have to get through the garage door.
Also, if your car is in a locked garage, it will be less likely to be targeted in the first place.
Catalytic converter theft is rising, so it’s essential to protect your vehicle. By following the tips above, you can deter thieves and prevent your catalytic converter from being stolen. After all, the best way to deal with catalytic converter theft is to keep it from happening in the first place.
However, if you suspect your converter has already been stolen, take action immediately. The sooner you report the theft and install a new converter, the better. Finally, ensure you have comprehensive insurance to cover the replacement cost if necessary.