Tips for avoiding catalytic converter theft
Mechanics and law enforcement agencies offer these tips to avoid a wrenching experience and costly repair.
1. Know if you're a target for catalytic converter theft
Vehicles with ultra low-emissions are bigger targets, because they have catalytic converters that contain more rhodium, palladium and platinum that render pollutants harmless while increasing the value for thieves
Trucks and SUVs are often targeted because it’s easy to slide under the vehicle rather than jack it up. Sometimes thieves unbolt the catalytic converter, but more often they just cut the connecting pipes using a battery-operated saw.
CARFAX, a leading source of vehicle data, has identified the following vehicles as most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen nationwide:
Sandman also recommends calling a local muffler store and asking what cars are the most-targeted in your area.
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2. Install an anti-theft device on your catalytic converter
Investing in a cable locking device is much cheaper than replacing a catalytic converter. The internet is filled with such devices to protect the catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system that runs along the bottom of your car. The anti-theft devices Sandman’s shop installs range from $300 to $800.
Here are a few of the popular devices:
A steel shield that fits over the catalytic converter, requiring time and extra tools to remove.
Cages made of high-strength steel that's difficult to cut.
Stainless steel cables welded from the catalytic converter to the car’s frame.
Some muffler shops will custom-weld such a device to your car. But Sandman cautions that attaching the catalytic converter directly to the car’s frame can be noisy since the exhaust system otherwise is suspended from the car by sound-buffering hangers.
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3. Paint your catalytic converter
Some sources recommend using a high-temperature fluorescent orange paint, such as those sprayed on barbecue grills, on your catalytic converter and then inscribing your vehicle identification number in the painted surface. This makes it traceable, and in theory at least, a reputable scrap metal dealer might decline to buy it.
4. Set an alarm or camera to catch thieves
You can turn up the sensitivity of your car alarm so that it goes off when thieves jostle your car. That’s fine, but as Sandman points out, then the alarm blares when your cat jumps on the car in the middle of the night. Other alarms are designed to be activated when the car is tilted, such as when it's jacked up. Installing a motion-sensitive dash cam can notify you of a theft in progress or possibly record the license plate of the getaway car.
In addition to alarms, get motion-sensitive lights and parking in your driveway or a closed garage whenever possible. Also get to know your neighbors and join neighborhood networks such as NextDoor to be aware of strangers in the area or reports of theft.
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5. Check your car insurance
Comprehensive insurance covers stolen auto parts.
If you have full coverage insurance — liability insurance, plus collision and comprehensive policies that repair or replace your own car — you're covered, minus your deductible amount. It's typically required if you have a loan or lease. If you have a vehicle at high risk for a catalytic converter theft, you might consider lowering your deductible amount.
If you carry liability coverage only, you're not covered for theft.