Stolen Catalytic Converter

Catalytic converter theft comes in waves, affecting various types of vehicles at random. Unlucky victims will start their engines and hear a loud, “motorcycle-like” vroom from their cars. Or, you may have heard coworkers or neighbors complain nearly as loudly about experiencing a stolen catalytic converter themselves! It’s even in the Bay Area news:

So why is this happening?
This is an interesting question with sociopolitical intersections beyond the scope of this article. For our purposes, catalytic converter theft occurs because the catalyst material is valuable recycling, and on many vehicles it is quick and easy to remove the catalytic converter. Once removed, the stolen converter is taken to an auto dismantler (junk yard), or a recycling center who pays cash for the scrap. Each catalyst is valued dependent upon the density of rare earth materials, but a thief can expect to fence a stolen cat for a few hundred dollars. The Toyota Prius catalytic converter is worth more due to the PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicle) classification that requires more efficient catalyst performance.

A graph showing a huge increase in the popularity of the search frequency of the term "catalytic converter theft" from Google search trends.
Google search trends for stolen catalytic converters peak during times of economic trouble.

How are they stealing my catalytic converter?
Thieves will use a battery-powered saw to cut through the exhaust piping and escape after only a few minutes. In their haste, they cut through oxygen sensor wiring, exhaust hangers, and other exhaust pipes forward and/or behind the catalytic converter.

Reciprocating saw for sale on Amazon
The SawzAll is a handy tool for cutting through pipes at any angle. Just like those on your car’s exhaust before and after the catalytic converter!

For lower clearance vehicles like the Toyota Prius, they will use a floor jack — typically used to change tires — to quickly hoist the car up for better access. Catalytic converter theft is common on some vehicles like the Honda Element and Toyota Tacoma due to sufficient clearance and access to the converter without a floor jack.
While the stolen converter itself is costly to replace, the collateral damage caused can double the repair estimate! We find that most customers invoke their comprehensive insurance coverage to pay for the stolen catalytic converter and extra damage.

What is the solution to stolen catalytic converters?
There is no way to guarantee total theft prevention for anything in this world. However, you can increase the theft deterrence factor significantly. If your catalytic converter is harder to steal, then the thief will look elsewhere.

Prius catalytic converter with braided steel cable welded
By welding a length of braided steel cable on either side of the catalytic converter, we can defeat the reciprocating saw blade method of theft.

At Art’s Automotive, we can provide catalytic converter theft prevention measures by appointment. The reciprocating saw blade cannot cut through and will become dull when attempting to sever braided steel cable. We weld this heavy gauge braided cabling to either side of the exhaust piping surrounding the catalytic converter. While it may complicate legitimate repairs in the future, it will certainly deter most catalytic converter thieves!

braided steel cable being cut through
What if you had to replace your catalytic converter or do exhaust work in the future? In a legitimate setting, the converter can still be removed with some additional labor

Give us a call to inquire about catalytic converter theft prevention measures here in Berkeley! 510-540-7093