Driver's Guide

How To Tell if Your Catalytic Converter is Stolen [6 Ways]

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

You can’t tell if your catalytic converter is stolen by looking under your car, but symptoms like increased sound engine, loud noise, and increased fuel consumption are pointers that your catalytic converter is no more in your car.

But before concluding, there are also these symptoms are also similar with other issues asides from missing catalytic inverters. Like when your radiator is wired directly to the fan, bypassing the thermostat, this can also make your engine loud and louder when you step on the gas pedal.

So to confirm if your catalytic converter is stolen, it is best to confirm if all the symptoms are present, not just one or two. Individually, the symptoms of a missing catalytic converter are like other issues within your car.

Ways To Tell if Your 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:

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.

Check Engine Light

check engine light to tell if your catalytic converter is stolen
Check Engine light with O2 code errors

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.

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.

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.

Increased Fuel Consumption

This is one of the best signs that can tell if your catalytic converter has been stolen. Fuel consumption doesn’t increase automatically as a car ages, so if after just one year and the fuel consumption of your car has increased, coupled with the other symptoms mentioned above, then it is clear your catalytic converter is gone.

Ask a Mechanic

When all your options are out and you still can’t come to terms that your catalytic converter might be missing despite all symptoms mentioned above, then you should ask a mechanic to tell if your catalytic converter is stolen.

In modern vehicles, there are two places where the catalytic converter are positioned: one is around the engine area, and the other is under the car hood.

Engine based catalytic converter
A catalytic converter located in the engine

The converter in the engine is rarely stolen, but the one under the car is frequently stolen.

So it’s no news if you discover that the catalytic converter under the car is gone.

Catalytic converter under car

If you have two converters, then this shouldn’t be a problem. But if your car comes with just one, then you should seek a solution.

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.

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.

Why is Catalytic Converter Stolen?

An unscrupulous dealer steals for recycling, typically a catalytic converter. 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

So, regarding how to tell if 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. Follow the tips mentioned in this article to discourage your cat converter theft.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

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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