Catalytic Converter Theft: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

Mechanic holding Catalytic Converter
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By Sarah Young  |   Last updated on November 29th, 2022 at 1:30 pm

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With an uptick in catalytic converter thefts being reported, we want to remind everyone how to stay safe and prevent crime. If you don’t know anything about cars or where your catalytic converter is or what it does, that’s okay because here we will cover all of the bases, shame free.

This article will address everything you need to know about catalytic converters and leave you feeling like an expert. We will answer all of your questions and concerns about catalytic converter theft from: What is the most commonly targeted make and model? to Does my insurance cover catalytic converter theft? We’ve got you covered.

Catalytic Converter: Where is it located?

The shiny oblong cylinder is situated underneath your car between the engine and the muffler. This round canister significantly reduces your cars emissions and is an essential part of your vehicle’s exhaust system.

Catalytic Converter: What does it do?

First, the basics. The catalytic converter is the integral part of every modern car. A vehicle’s exhaust system has a converter installed in order to lower the carbon footprint of drivers by converting harmful pollutants into safer gases, such as steam. It is an invaluable tool that protects the purity of the air we breathe. It is so important to the modern vehicle that is illegal to drive a car that doesn’t have one.

Why are people stealing catalytic converters?

The catalytic converter has become extremely vulnerable to theft over the past few years because of the precious materials it is made of. Inside of every catalytic converter, there are rare metals (palladium, rhodium and platinum) that are used as catalysts to create the chemical reaction that converts harmful gases into safer substances. Thieves sell the metals inside converters to scrap yards for several hundred dollars per unit. Why now? While there was already a limited global supply of these metals, the pandemic and its related supply chain disruptions have made the spiked current value of these metals, resulting in price increases.

What are the authorities and lawmakers doing?

Law enforcement have led the charge by educating citizens and helping them prevent being easy targets of catalytic converter related crime. For example, one police department has been running various programs, like an etching event, that have helped decrease the number of thefts. Etching a vin on your converter is similar to putting a license plate number on your car, or a name tag on your shirt; it claims ownership of your property, making it harder to steal and sell.

Legislators have noticed the increased current rate in catalytic converter thefts and are taking action against the thieves. Several states have proposed bills targeting this particular crime. For example, in Virginia, the state legislature recently presented a bill that makes catalytic converter theft a class 1 misdemeanor. The bill also targets accomplices who aided thieves in the crime.

What make and model are being targeted the most?

Knowing the psychology and strategies of the thieves can help you beat them. That’s why we have provided the top ten most targeted cars for catalytic converter theft.

1. Ford F Series

2. Honda Accord

3. Jeep Patriot

4. Ford Econoline/E-Series

5. Chevrolet Silverado

6. Chevrolet Equinox

7. Honda CR-V

8. Toyota Camry

9. Chrysler 200

10. Toyota Prius

If your vehicle isn’t on this list, you’re not exactly in the clear, as catalytic converter thieves steal from various other makes and models.

Why are these vehicles being targeted?

Well, low emission vehicles and hybrid vehicles are the most common vehicle type among catalytic converter thieves because the converters on these cars contain more precious metals inside than other makes and models. Trucks and SUVs are likely to be targeted because their catalytic converters are easier for a thief to access.

How can I protect my vehicle from catalytic converter theft?

There are a few simple steps you can do to protect your car from a catalytic converter thief:

  • Know if you’re a target: See if you drive one of most common vehicle type listed above.
  • Mark your catalytic converter: Paint your converter a high temperature fluorescent paint or have it etched with a VIN number.
  • Park Securely: Park in a secure a garage if you have the option to or park in  busy, well  lit areas, away from any suspicious activity.
  • Surveillance: Install an anti-theft device, set up an alarm, or set up a security camera.

Following these simple steps will at least prevent your car from being an easy target.

How will I know if my car’s catalytic converter is stolen?

That’s a great question. You will know your catalytic converter is has been stolen if you hear a roaring sound or a loud rumbling while driving your vehicle, your car drives rougher, your check engine light is on, there are smoke fumes in the main cabin of the car or there is a noticeable reduction in low-end torque (or a noticeable difference in the car’s handling when you change speed). If your vehicle isn’t working properly, you can always check to see if your converter is still underneath your car and in place with the rest of your vehicle exhaust systems.

What should I do if my vehicle’s catalytic converter is stolen?

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you should contact your local police department and file an official report. Your next call should be to your insurance agent to figure out if catalytic converter theft is covered by your insurance package. Then you’re going to want to get your car to an auto shop. While the car is still technically drivable, it may not be functioning properly. It is illegal to drive without a catalytic converter, not to mention its detrimental effect on the environment. So, considering these potential problems it is best to avoid driving your car if possible.

Is Catalytic Converter Theft Covered by Insurance?

The answer to this question all depends on your personal auto insurance policy and if it includes comprehensive coverage or not. You can talk to your insurance company and go over the details of your policy to be sure.

In short, make sure to park your car in a safe spot (locked up inside, if you can), consider etching a VIN or painting your catalytic converter, think about installing security cameras or anti-theft devices, and be as vigilant as you can to try and prevent theft. And if you don’t already have comprehensive coverage for your vehicle, reach out to Elephant and get a quote today.

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