Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device

Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device update

Prius catalytic converter thefts are still a thing in Berkeley, unfortunately. We’ve installed over 300 Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device and so far, no thieves have been able to get away with the converter. Of course, there’s no way to “theft proof” a converter. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but so far our “theft proofing” has the thieves beat 300 to 0. Here’s the thing, they still do some damage. In a few cases we’ve seen them cut the pipe, hangers, and O2 sensor wires before realizing they’re not going to get the converter. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the repairs are usually around $100, instead of $3000. Who knows, maybe the car will fall on him while he’s struggling. (I know. It’s mean to wish that on someone for a property crime, but it’s hard not to feel bitter after you wake up in the middle of a recession to find you are now $3000 poorer than you were when you went to sleep. Especially true if you don’t have comprehensive insurance and are out of work due to COVID-19.)

So far we’ve seen a few with the converter cut, but the thief wasn’t able to take the converter. The most common sign of a theft attempt is cut O2 sensor wires, a check engine light, and a code P0037 (B1S2 O2 sensor heater). And we’ve seen a couple of attempts where the car’s owner notices a big lump in the passenger’s or driver’s floor where the thief jacked the car up using a non-approved jacking point. 


Exhaust pipe cut during attempted Prius converter theft
Prius catalyst interuptus

The good news is that we’re now seeing a lot of the cars that we’ve installed our prius catalytic converter anti-theft device on come back, with the converters still under the car. Why would we see them again if the converter isn’t stolen? Well, thieves aren’t the brightest, and they often don’t notice the anti-theft until after they’ve done some damage. They may cut the O2 sensor wires, cut the pipe, and unbolt flanges, but when they try to remove the converter, they find they can’t.

The thieves are still plying their trade and we’re still seeing 1 -5 per per day. A person or two is arrested here and there. A man was crushed to death in Berkeley. Still, the problem continues.

15 replacement Prius catalytic converters hanging neatly on the wall

The O2 sensor wiring on this converter was cut. The sensor is a $184 part, and removing the connector under the passenger side carpet takes a bit of time. However, we can repair the wires to avoid replacing the sensor, saving some money.

Repairing Prius O2 sensor wires damaged during attempted theft

Unfortunately the wires in the O2 sensor pigtail are marine-grade nickel plated stranded wire, which is hard to solder, even with flux.

Prius O2 sensor wires after repair

Crimp connectors work just as well, but standard insulated crimp connectors will let water in and even with marine grade wire, water and salt isn’t great for connections, so we’ll need to seal these up.

Double wall heat shrink tubing forms a watertight seal and will protect the connectors from the elements.

O2 sensor wires with heat shrink installed

If a thief tries to cut the O2 sensor wires again, he’s in for a surprise. We’ve zip-tied a piece of hardened cable along side the wires. The wires may still be damaged, but his side cutters will be damaged as well. And if this is his first step, maybe he’ll realize the converter won’t be coming off very easily.



Some flexible conduit will help protect the wires from abrasion and hide our little surprise. Orange is the color code for high voltage, maybe that’ll deter some of the more knowledgeable dirtbags, probably not many of those though. Perhaps just the fact that it looks different will give them pause. One can only hope.

Prius converter with anti theft cables installed and repaired O2 sensor harness

Our Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device has proven effective so far. With so many installed on cars in Berkeley, news may eventually spread around the tweaker campfire, and perhaps they’ll retool and come up with a way to get the cables off. But for the time being, this seems to be the best way to prevent catalytic converter theft. 

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