Driver's Guide

How to Tell if Catalytic Converter is Stolen

Howdy, driver? Catalytic converter theft is not new to the system, and some car owners suffer this loss. To confirm that you’re not a victim, this article reveals how to tell if catalytic converter is stolen.

To steal a catalytic converter requires a mere cordless reciprocating saw or wrench. Sometimes, a thief can use mechanics dollies to get under the vehicle and collect the cat converter more comfortably.

The catalytic converter is part of the vehicle exhaust system, and although you can drive without it, it is not legal in some states. To steal a cat converter, a thief gets under the target car with a saw and cuts the pipe on either side. So, your car is left with a short piece of pipe.

Can I drive my car if the catalytic converter has been stolen?

Yes, you can drive your car if the catalytic converter has been stolen, but it may be unacceptable in your state. First, file a police report and contact your insurer. When a catalytic converter is stolen from your car, the muffler is disconnected, causing your car sound to become louder.

How to Tell if Catalytic Converter is Stolen

To know whether your catalytic converter has been stolen is not rocket science. Below, this section reveals how to tell if the catalytic converter is stolen:

  1. Loud Engine

After the catalytic converter is stolen, your car only has a short piece of pipe attached. When you turn on the engine, you will notice an unusual loudness. Most car owners do not consider the possibility of a stolen catalytic converter.

Furthermore, most thieves do not install anything to prevent the excessive exhaust leak after removing the cat converter. Well, you would not blame their inconsideration since the act is theft and punishable.

  1. Check Engine Light

Depending on your vehicle, you may have the annoying check engine light turn on. In a typical modern vehicle, a malfunctioning or non-functional catalytic converter will enable the check engine code. Most vintage or older cars may not offer this feature. Nonetheless, you can assess underneath the vehicle. And if your catalytic converter has been stolen, you would notice a missing component in your exhaust system.

  1. An Open Pipe

Regarding how to tell when a catalytic converter is stolen, when a thief removes the cat converter, they would not bother about inserting a pipe for you. It’s theft, after all, and you do not want to expect any good deed from a thief. So, a stolen catalytic converter leaves you with an open pipe.

Also, you would notice unusual toxic fumes from the car. If you are not convinced, perhaps because your car was smoking already, ensure to inspect underneath the car.

  1. Uneven or sputtering acceleration

When your catalytic converter is stolen, the driving and acceleration get rough due to lack of exhaust regulation, according to Allstate.

The vehicle engine is made to force exhaust through the catalytic converter, which results in jarring, uneven acceleration.

Does Insurance Cover Stolen Catalytic Converters?

Yes, an insurance cover may cover catalytic converter theft, but you must have comprehensive policy coverage. Typically, comprehensive coverage can cover catalytic converter replacement and even the repair damage on the car. However, it covers up to the limits that your policy mentions, minus your deductible.

Meanwhile, catalytic converter theft is quite common. One of the reasons criminals are after your catalytic converter is palladium, a valuable metal. You can always keep your cat converter safe by installing dash cams or have muffler shops weld anti-theft plates over the catalytic converter.

How can I prevent my catalytic converter from being stolen?

Following reports, catalytic converter theft is on the rise recently, and the trend does not seem to halt, especially due to the scrap value of the palladium in the core. Below are useful tips to keep your cat converter from being stolen:

Park in Public Areas

It is not okay to park in desolate areas, especially with no one to keep watch on your car. Regardless of where you park the car, make sure you have a functional dashcam and alarm system.

Read also: my car won’t reverse but drives front, what?

In areas with a fleet of cars, makes sure to park a low clearance car to obstruct a high clearance car, which blocks underneath access to the cat converter.

Weld Anti-Theft

At the muffler shop, you can weld an anti-theft plate over your catalytic converter to discourage thieves. The welded material is usually a thick piece of steel positioned over the catalytic converter. It can also be a flexible cable cage placed around the cat converter.

Park Next to a Fence

When parking your car, park next to a fence with the exhaust facing the fence or wall to discourage a thief.

Head-in Parking

Head-in parking is recommended to protect your cat converter. In some cars, there are single catalytic converters, but some cars feature two cat converters, and one is installed in the exhaust manifold.

Don’t Park Half Road, Half Pavement

When you park the car, half on the road and half on the pavement, it raises one part of the car, giving easy access to cat converter thieves.

Why is Catalytic Converter Stolen?

A catalytic converter is stolen for recycling, typically by an unscrupulous dealer. Moreover, stealing catalytic converter is easy, even for beginners. Most of the time, catalytic converter thefts occur because of the valuable palladium. At recycling centers, the worth of catalytic converter is well above $150.

What encourages a thief to target a catalytic converter is that it takes place underneath the car, keeping the criminal out of public sight. Moreover, it takes a few minutes to remove the cat converter, and a thief needs a portable cutting tool, sometimes battery-powered. It takes just two cuts for the converter to be detached from the car. Unfortunately, it might cost about $600 to get a catalytic converter replacement.

Will Your Car Work Without Cat Converter?

Typically, your car would work without a catalytic converter. However, it depends on your car model. Most common vehicles feature a lambda sensor on the exhaust collector. On a modern vehicle, you would find an additional lambda sensor placed after the catalytic converter, which the computer uses to track the final results.

If your car spots a single sensor, the computer may not know when the catalytic converter is taken off, which means the car will work. But if your car features a sensor after converter, the computer can read the data, which may stop your car from functioning without a cat converter.

How much do thieves get for a catalytic converter?

Depending on the size, a thief can make at least $150 selling a stolen catalytic converter.

Final Thoughts

This article revealed the major signs that your catalytic converter is stolen. You have also seen the recommended tips to keep your cat converter from being stolen, especially considering the rise in theft.

Ultimately, the major sign that helps to tell when the catalytic converter is stolen is the loud noise. The best option is to inspect underneath your vehicle if you suspect a missing cat converter. If you spot a wide space in the catalytic converter location, it is missing. Make sure to follow the tips mentioned in this article to discourage your cat converter theft.

Bernard Juchli

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Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres. Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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