Don’t be a victim: How to protect your car’s catalytic converter

As more and more car owners are falling victim to catalytic converter theft, law enforcement and insurance companies are offering ways to make sure your vehicle’s exhaust system remains intact.

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What is a catalytic converter?

According to CARFAX, a catalytic converter cuts back on the pollution that the vehicle creates, changing hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. They may resemble a muffler and are located between the engine and the actual muffler, but typically close to the engine block.

They are found on all traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, but not electric vehicles since there is no exhaust produced. Catalytic converters have been required on new cars since 1975.

Why are catalytic converters targeted by thieves?

Thieves remove catalytic converters because of the precious metals — palladium, rhodium and platinum — that are used to help scrub the dangerous gases into something more environmentally friendly.

CARFAX said that the three metals create a chemical reaction to reduce the amount of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide that is released.

There are approximately 2 to 7 grams of palladium in a catalytic converter, along with 3 to 7 grams of platinum and 1 to 2 grams of rhodium, according to Waste Advantage Magazine and Road & Track.

A gram of palladium is worth about $65 depending on the market, while a gram of platinum is worth about $29 and a gram of rhodium is worth about $445.

What cars are the most targeted by catalytic converter thieves?

CARFAX has developed a list of vehicles that are targeted the most by catalytic converter thieves nationwide.

The top 10, according to the website are:

  • 1985-2021 Ford F-Series
  • 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  • 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  • 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  • 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  • 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  • 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  • 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  • 2001-21 Toyota Prius

The list may change depending on the region — for example in the western part of the U.S., the 2001-2021 Toyota Prius is the most targeted, CARFAX found.

In the Northeast and South, 1985-2021 Ford F-Series have their converters stolen the most.

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How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter after it has been stolen?

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute and Allstate, it can cost as much as $3,000 to replace a stolen catalytic converter. In 2020, insurance claims ranged from $500 to $3,000. Comprehensive vehicle insurance may cover the cost, but you should check with your insurance company before falling victim to theft.

How can you prevent catalytic converter theft?

There are several easy ways to protect your vehicle. First, park in a well-lit area, or inside a garage, CARFAX suggests.

Allstate suggests installing an anti-theft device over the catalytic converter. Farmers Insurance says the devices can be made as a shield or a cage. They can be purchased and installed on your own if you can get enough space under the car, but it may be easier to take your car, truck or SUV to a shop where mechanics can lift the vehicle.

Police departments may also offer etching, where they carve an identification number into the device such as the vehicle identification number, WRIC reported.

They are also using heat-resistant paint to mark converters, WBBM reported.

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