(Updated on July 28, 2022)
Catalytic converter theft is a real problem. Chances are good that you or someone you know has had their catalytic converter stolen at some point.
Did you know there are some vehicles that are less likely to have their catalytic converter stolen?
See Also: 8 Reasons Your Car Alarm Is Going Off
What is a Catalytic Converter?
Catalytic converters or “cats” are part of the exhaust system. As exhaust flows through the catalytic converter, harmful emissions break down into less toxic compounds.
Why Do People Steal Catalytic Converters?
Catalytic converters contain rare, expensive materials such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which makes them very expensive. Unfortunately, catalytic converters are often easy to steal. In many cases, all a thief needs is a hack saw to cut the exhaust.
Do All Cars Have a Catalytic Converter?
Nearly all cars with an internal combustion engine made after 1975 come with at least one catalytic converter. Some vehicles have multiple catalytic converters. Some catalytic converters are placed on each cylinder bank, and others sit on the mid pipe, after the exhaust manifold.
While you won’t find a catalytic converter on an electric vehicle, you will still find them on hybrids. In fact, hybrid vehicles have some of the most valuable catalytic converters. This is because the catalyst is used less frequently than a pure combustion engine, since the vehicle is powered by electricity alone some of the time.
Read Also: 5 Faulty Engine Immobilizer Symptoms
Which Cars Are Least Likely to Have Catalytic Converter Stolen?
If you live in a rough area and want to pick out a car that is less likely to fall victim to catalytic converter theft, here’s a list to get you started.
1) Mini Cooper
Minis are small cars with some clever packaging under the hood. The catalytic converter on the third generation Mini is attached to the downpipe, right next to the turbocharger.
This location makes it completely inaccessible from underneath the car. A thief would have to somehow pop the hood and unbolt several components to extract the catalytic converter – a process that is neither quick nor subtle.
2) Mazda RX-7 or RX-8
You’re lucky if you can find an RX-7 or RX-8 that still has its original catalytic converter, but not because of theft. Rotary engines are notorious for burning through catalytic converters.
Rotary engines tend to run rich and spit unburnt fuel out of the exhaust. Additionally, rotary fuel is often premixed with oil to lubricate the apex seals. Both of these traits will burn up the catalyst rather quickly, leaving little to nothing for a thief to salvage.
Most luxury vehicles have underbody panels and sound deadening that block direct access to the catalytic converter. Many of these vehicles, especially Audis, require special tools to remove these panels such as Torx bits.
Assuming a thief had access to these tools, it would still take a considerable amount of time to remove these panels to access the catalytic converters. Thieves are more likely to pick an easy target such as a truck, SUV, or crossover.
4) BMW E46 3 Series
Some BMWs such as the E46 323i, 325i, 328i, and 330i models have a catalytic converter that is integrated into the exhaust manifold. This configuration is all but immune to the hacksaw.
A thief would have to unbolt the exhaust manifold from the cylinder head, which is a process you can’t complete without access under the hood.
5) Exotic Sports Cars
Exotic sports cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and McLarens are few and far between. Their rarity makes stolen parts much easier to track, which may deter theft.
Additionally, they tend to sit so low to the ground that there is no way to get a conventional jack underneath them.
How to Prevent Catalytic Converter Theft
If you don’t own a vehicle on this list, don’t worry. There are other ways you can prevent catalytic converter theft.
1) Install a Catalytic Converter Lock
There are several products on the market that work to deter catalytic converter theft. Many of these products, such as the Cat Clamp and custom cages are installed over the top of the catalytic converter.
Catalytic converter locks make it much more difficult or impossible to saw through the protection. If you can slow a thief down enough, it may mean the difference between them stealing your cat or somebody else’s.
Example lock for 2004-2009 Toyota Prius:
- PREMIUM QUALITY: Compatible with the 2004-2009 Gen 2 Toyota Prius. Featured in the associated parts...
- DESIGNED & BUILT IN THE USA: MILLERCAT’s anti-theft catalytic shields are made completely from 304...
- TAMPER-PROOF: Drive and park with peace of mind - all mounting points use unique tamper-proof...
- NOISE/VIBRATION/THERMAL TESTING: Multiple design upgrades were made to ensure 1) reduction in...
2) Park in a Well-Lit Area
Thieves like to work where they can’t be seen. If you park your car in a well-lit, populated area, you are less likely to be a victim of theft. This is true of vehicle break-ins as well. Bonus points if you can find a security camera to park next to.
3) Lower the Car
Low cars are harder to jack up. If a thief can’t fit a jack under the car, it’s next to impossible for them to reach the catalytic converter.
There are many options available on the market that let you lower your vehicle. Lowering springs and coilovers are popular options, especially on sports cars. Consider installing air suspension so you have a taller ride height while driving, but you’re too low for a jack while parked.
4) Park in a Garage
The best way to prevent catalytic converter theft is to hide the car in a locked garage. Not only is your car unseen, it is difficult or impossible to even access in the first place.
While this isn’t an option for everyone, there are some apartments and cities that have locked garages available for rent.
Although catalytic converter theft is rampant, certain vehicle owners can rest easy that their catalytic converters are probably safe. If you were a victim of catalytic converter theft, try to understand how the thief got away with it.
See if you can take any of these steps to prevent it from happening again in the future.