How to prevent car catalytic converter theft?

Catalytic converters are devices located in the car’s exhaust system (located underneath the car). These devices chemically modify gases before they are released through the exhaust pipe, with the aim of reducing pollution.

Due to a significant increase in the prices of raw materials in recent years, catalytic converters in vehicles have become coveted items for criminals, as they contain significant amounts of precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. As a result, catalytic converter theft has seen a sharp rise since 2022.

The best way to prevent catalytic converter theft from your car is by identifying the catalytic converter with paint or an inscription, installing a small metal plate underneath it, and parking in secure locations.

Naturally, having comprehensive insurance coverage or third-party insurance that includes theft coverage would protect you from repair costs (otherwise, you would have to bear a cost ranging from 1,000 to 500 euros, depending on the catalytic converter model). However, these coverage options increase insurance premiums, and in any case, you would be without a car for a few days, so it is worth taking precautions.

Now, let’s delve deeper into the three points mentioned above:


Best ways to identify your car’s catalytic converter and prevent theft

Criminal bands targeting car catalytic converters aim to steal these parts for resale in the black market. Therefore, a good strategy to prevent theft is by identifying your catalytic converter, as this would make it much more difficult for thieves to sell it. In the event of an attempted theft of an identified catalytic converter, it is highly likely that the thief would give up and target another car among the thousands on the street, avoiding unnecessary complications.

The simplest and most practical ways to identify catalytic converters and prevent theft are:

  • Painting the catalytic converter: Any paint would be suitable, as it would not damage the catalytic converter.
  • Engraving an inscription on the catalytic converter: You can use a punch or a cutter to engrave the chassis number, license plate, or simply the word “stolen.” The goal is to clearly mark the device to make its potential sale more difficult and deter theft.
  • Writing an inscription on the catalytic converter: Similarly to the previous point, you can use a permanent marker to make the same type of inscriptions. However, this method may be less reliable, as it is possible to clean these types of inscriptions with some effort.


Best catalytic converter anti-theft protectors

Another highly effective way to prevent catalytic converter theft is by preventing its removal through the installation of a protective device that covers the catalytic converter. This method is undoubtedly more expensive than the previous one but significantly reduces the risk of theft.

There are essentially two ways to install an anti-theft catalytic converter protector:

  • Purchasing a catalytic converter anti-theft plate: There are custom plates available on the market for different car models. However, unless you have mechanical knowledge, it is advisable to have a professional mechanic install it. Currently, there are various types of protectors for sale, but plates are the most effective protection system. If a thief attempts to steal the catalytic converter and sees the plate, they are likely to move on to another car.
  • Custom-made protector installation: In the absence of protectors for specific models of certain vehicles, many users opt for custom installations. Again, if you lack mechanical knowledge, consult your trusted workshop to explore what solutions they can offer for installing some form of protection on your catalytic converter.


Where to park to prevent auto catalytic converter theft?

Stealing a catalytic converter is a relatively simple task. With a basic plumbing tool for cutting sections of metal pipe, a thief could steal a catalytic converter in as little as three minutes without making any noise. In the case of having a cutting machine, the crime could be committed in just a few seconds (which may produce some noise in this second scenario).

Therefore, the modus operandi of these thieves is to seek quick and easy thefts, going unnoticed without attracting anyone’s attention.

Choosing the right place to park your car can protect you from this type of theft.

The safest places to park include:

  • Private garage at a residential address: Bands dedicated to catalytic converter theft seek easy targets and are unlikely to target homes for break-ins.
  • Private parking lot: Similar to the previous point, a thief looking for a catalytic converter won’t complicate things and will choose one of the thousands of cars parked on the streets.
  • Well-lit areas: The more lighting there is, the less likely a thief will go unnoticed, making the theft less attractive.
  • High-traffic areas: The presence of more people around the potential theft site will make the criminal’s action more difficult.
  • Areas with surveillance cameras: Video surveillance acts as a strong deterrent for criminals.

To prevent theft, never park in:

  • Dark areas: There is a greater chance of remaining unnoticed.
  • Isolated or open areas: These conditions provide complete anonymity and make theft very easy.
  • Public parking lots with many parked vehicles: The more cars there are, the easier it is to hide in a gap between two vehicles for a moment and leave the scene of the theft without drawing attention.


Which vehicles are most targeted for catalytic converter theft?

The vehicles most targeted by specialized bands in catalytic converter theft are those with larger catalytic converters, as they contain a higher quantity of precious metals (platinum, palladium, and rhodium). Additionally, older vehicles without modern filters are sought after.

Therefore, the vehicles at the highest risk of catalytic converter theft are:

  • Vans, SUVs, and off-road vehicles: They have larger catalytic converters and are therefore more valuable.
  • Cars without modern filters in the exhaust system: The catalytic converter’s function is to clean the gases before their release, making them environmentally less polluting. However, in cars with modern filters, these filters already perform much of the work, reducing the need for powerful catalytic converters. As a reference, cars in Europe manufactured before 2014 generally have more valuable catalytic converters.


How to Determine if Your Car’s Catalytic Converter Has Been Stolen?

There are two straightforward ways to check if your car’s catalytic converter has been stolen:

  1. When starting the car, it will produce a deafening noise similar to a modified car with a modified exhaust pipe.
  2. To be absolutely sure, a simple visual inspection can reveal a cut section along the exhaust pipe. The catalytic converter should be located there (a common catalytic converter is marked with a red box in the image of this article).

If you confirm that your catalytic converter has been stolen, you should file a report with the police, and then you can make a claim with your insurance company if you are covered.

If you are not covered by your insurer, you should contact your trusted workshop and prepare for an expense ranging from 500 to 1,000 dollars, in addition to having your car unavailable for a few days.


If this article on how to prevent catalytic converter theft from your car has been helpful to you, you might also be interested in checking out this link, where we provide a list of our recommended anti-theft products for cars.